Psychologically sound PowerPoints

PowerPoint® presentations can be a challenge to put together. It can be even more difficult teaching someone else how to do a presentation well. There are literally thousands sites offering to show you how to make beautiful and effective slides. Unfortunately, none of that advice is backed by evidence.

A new study was published in July 17th of this year that finally provides evidence based recommendations for making an excellent presentation. The goal was to look at PowerPoint design in light of good brain science. To properly conduct the study, a list of best practices was drawn up and written as negatives. Instead of saying “speak clearly”, for example the study listed “mumbled” as one way a presentation could fail. I was tempted to copy and paste their “List of rules for each principal” (Table 1) and then translate back into a list of best practices, but even with proper citation, I thought it would be too close to plagiarism for my comfort.

There really isn’t anything surprising in that list. In fact, most of us follow these without without thinking about it. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most relevant or interesting:

1) Remember that your goal is to convey a message, not to be as creative as possible. Use standard fonts, bullets and terminology. Also use colors conventionally (red indicates a warning for example).
2) Keep your audience in mind. Your words should have all the connotations the audience expects them to have.
3) Use graphs properly:

a) Graphs should be used for making comparisons.
b) Line graphs show trends.
c) Bar graphs show differences between specific values.
*If the labels are very long, a bar graph should be horizontal, not vertical.
d) Pie graphs show proportional differences.
e) Label your graphs and mark any axes clearly.
4) Keep pointless creativity out of your slides. If you’re presenting on the Olympics, don’t throw in pictures of kitties just because you think they’re cute.
5) Don’t use deep blue for fonts or to underline.
6) Keep red and blue from touching.
7) Only animate something if it helps convey your message.
8) Use decent sound and pictures. Grainy pics and low-fidelity sound is a bad idea.
9) Sudden changes in visuals or sound should only be used when you’re changing topics or to signal the end of your presentation.
10) Have an obvious end for the show.
11) Reveal bullet points one at a time.
12) Use 4 or less items per slide: (4 items in a list, 4 graphical units, etc.)
13) Your audience should be able to read every slide in under a minute.
14) Use grid lines on your tables.
15) If you’re going to use color to indicate numerical value, that’s fine. Never use hue, saturation or tone, though.
16) Be clear about what your presentation is actually about.
17) Explain complex graphics during your presentation.
18) If a slide element is important, make it prominent. If something is prominent, make sure it’s important to your presentation.
19) Center your illustrations.
20) Use warm colors to define the foreground.
21) If you’re providing geographical information (directions, locations, etc...) a map is usually necessary.

Like I said, there should be nothing shocking in this list. Still, it’s interesting to see best practices as defined by psychologists.


Effects of Internet Search on Learning Things

(Originally posted here.)

Google and Memory
Research and Design by: Online Colleges Site

Edit Docs Offline

Originally Posted by Google: 24 Jul 2012 07:56 PM PDT
Scheduled Google Docs Update for July 31st

By the beginning of the school year, you'll be able to edit your Google docs without an internet connection. All you'll need is the latest version of Chrome and the Google Drive app from the Chrome store.

Another nice feature is the ability to preserve previous versions of documents. As you may or may not know, Google deletes any revisions older than 30 days or when there are more than 100 previous versions of the same document. By August, you'll be able to indicate that you want certain versions saved. This could be useful when curriculum mapping.


Google Power Search class, A-

Google has just launched a class on using Google search to it's full potential. Titled "Power Searching with Google", the promise is to make you a Google search guru. I have thus far gone through the first two classes and am fairly pleased with what I see. They've decided to go with the traditional classroom format of lecture-activity-repeat. In addition to the video lectures, they also provide text versions and slides containing the same information.

While Google could have done a better job with lesson delivery, the content is great. Every student body is going to be mixed and I think they've done a great job of providing beginner and more advanced search techniques in the classes. Daniel Russell, the lecturer, is clear, understandable, and easy to listen to.  Overall, I'd have to give the class an A-. I'm interested in hearing what you all think!