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'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' is a PowerPoint presentation that has been created as part of an introduction to ancient Egyptian society. It has been specifically designed for NSW Year 7 History students in accordance with the syllabus requirements (Board of Studies NSW, 2003). The PowerPoint display is to be used as a tool to familiarise students with one particular aspect of ancient Egyptian civilisation and also to facilitate and guide class discussion. Although PowerPoint itself does not wield the power to enhance student learning outcomes, effective use has the potential increase student engagement and successfully cater for various learning styles (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003; Rankin & Hoaas, 2001; University of Oregon, 2011). Some considerations for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations will be outlined and a reflection with reference to 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' will also be provided.
Used appropriately in the classroom context, Power Point may be an efficacious tool for facilitating learning provided basic design and presentation principles are adhered to (McDonald, 2004). Of particular note, it warrants mention that up to three quarters of remembered material is absorbed visually, such visual material is capable of doubling memory timeframe, and text becomes up to six times more effective when it is supported by images (Civiello & Matthews, 2008, p.131). Pictures serve to assist comprehension by clarifying presentation content (University of Queensland, 2001). As such, images need to be selected carefully to ensure their relevance, especially in learning contexts, where impertinence has the potential to detract from the intended message (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003). Similarly, irrelevant sound effects, busy animations, superfluous text and overly-dramatic slide transitions can also derail learning, thus they should be avoided (McDonald, 2004; Moreno & Mayer, 2000; Schraw, 1998). Irrelevant material not only hinders learning
enjoyment, but may also cause confusion leading to poor educational outcomes (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003).
It is imperative that PowerPoint is employed with the aim of enhancing presentation of learning material and not as an alternative to effective communication (McDonald, 2004). Attention, therefore, must be focussed upon the basic aspects of slide layout. Font, of particular importance, needs to be large enough to be received by students seated at the rear of the room. Use of a sans serif font and reserving capitalisation for headings only, ensures ease of readability during presentations (Holzl, 1997; Provan, 2009). By limiting font styles to a maximum of three per PowerPoint presentation and using bold colour in contrast with the background, a professional, uniform look, devoid of the potential to distract is achieved (University of Oregon, 2011). A handy guide for incorporating text is that no more than six words per line and six points per slide should be included, thus maintaining an uncluttered and easily understood format (Booth, Shames & Desberg, 2010; Holzl, 1997). Additionally, when text amount is limited, the surrounding free space serves to emphasise and draw attention to the existent points (Booth, Shames & Desberg, 2010).
For ease of understanding, only one principal issue should be the focus of each PowerPoint slide with bullet points representing directly related ideas. Learners seek logical connections as they process information and this system of organisation establishes a clear format for drawing attention to certain points and expanding upon them (Craig & Amernic, 2006; Farkas, 2005). PowerPoint slides should be simple rather than detailed to support and enhance oral presentations- they should not constitute the bulk of the learning material (University of Queensland, 2001). Most importantly, slides should be organised so that information is presented through a cogent hierarchy of ideas that are expanded upon during the corresponding oral presentation (Farkas, 2005). Failure to observe this basic principle
may result in problematic presentation delivery, lack of clarity and subsequent impaired student comprehension (Farkas, 2005).
Colour may be used to complement the material being presented but care must be taken so that overly busy schemes do not overshadow the purpose of the PowerPoint (Holzl, 1997). The use of bright text over dull backgrounds or vice versa generally lends readability, as does the utilisation of bolded font (University of Oregon, 2011). Generally, cool colours such as green and blue make suitable backgrounds and the avoidance of colour combinations such as red and green is beneficial for colour-blind individuals (University of Oregon, 2011). PowerPoint design- templates assist to keep colours uniform and provide a simple, coordinated structure (Holzl, 1997). Additions such as arrows, text boxes and graphics should be used sparingly and only when they serve to enhance a pertinent point. Overuse of such items has the potential to distract learners (University of Oregon, 2011).
Despite the importance of adherence to formatting and design principles, it may be argued that the effectiveness of PowerPoint as a presentation device is largely determined by the quality of the oral component it drives. The information that is presented orally must be enhanced by the PowerPoint display rather than operating in competition (Booth, Shames & Desberg, 2010). Hence, basic presentation skills and principles need to be observed to facilitate the efficacious use of PowerPoint. Perhaps the most crucial standard relates to the delivery of information. It is imperative that slide information is used sequentially as a launching point to be embellished and not merely read verbatim (Farkas, 2005; Provan, 2009). Failure to regard this convention undermines presentation efficacy and leads to student tedium and disengagement (McDonald, 2004; Voss, 2004).
When delivering a PowerPoint presentation, it is judicious to limit the session to approximately twenty minutes and to advance the slides at roughly two minute intervals to
maintain audience engagement and focus (University of Queensland, 2001). It is important to pre-decipher the requirements of the learners and to pitch the presentation in accordance (University of Queensland, 2001). To maintain focus, it is useful to establish answers to the following questions and use this knowledge to drive the presentation: "What does my audience need to know? What point am I trying to make? How do I make that point clearly, thoroughly, transparently? And is the organization of information effective for making my point clear and understandable?" (Shwom & Keller, 2003, p.4)
An informal, conversational style and demonstrated passion for the subject matter works well to captivate and involve learners. Using this approach, learners are drawn into the topic and invited to contribute ideas and to give and receive feedback (Mahin, 2004). Learners, therefore, are transformed from passive knowledge recipients into active participants, thinking critically, building upon knowledge and creating and sharing meaning (Craig & Amernic, 2006; McDonald 2004). This effect is heightened when the presenter purposefully interacts with the learners, uses expressiveness, demonstrates enthusiasm, provides sufficient but not extraneous information and invites contributions (Mahin, 2004). PowerPoint presentations, as a learning tool, are further enhanced when the presenter incorporates congruent non-verbal immediacy behaviours such as smiling, open body posture, eye-contact, gestures and ample movement (Craig & Amernic, 2006). Finalising presentations with a brief summary of key points also assists learners to synthesize and retain new information, and this may be consolidated by providing access to further references (University of Queensland, 2001).
In 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' relevant images have been carefully selected to clarify and support the presentation information, assist with student comprehension, engagement and information retention and to ensure that any potential for distraction is
minimised (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003; Civiello & Matthews, 2008; University of Queensland, 2001). The use of impertinent sound effects, animations, graphics and extraneous text has been avoided in the interest of maintaining learner focus and eliminating confusing competitors for attention. For similar reasons, slide transitions have also been formatted to occur with simplicity (McDonald, 2004; Moreno & Mayer, 2000; Schraw, 1998). The slides have been formatted with clarity by using uniform layout, contrasting background and font colours, limited use of sans serif font that is large enough to be read by all students and an uncluttered, attention-grabbing composition (Booth, Shames & Desberg, 2010; Holzl, 1997; Provan, 2009; University of Oregon, 2011).
The 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' PowerPoint presentation introduces one primary issue per slide that is supported by relevant bullet points. This enables learners to draw on existent knowledge and form connections as they process any new information. Additionally, the slides are logically organised so that attention may be focussed on particular points as they are expanded upon during the corresponding oral presentation (Craig & Amernic, 2006; Farkas, 2005). The slide presentation is created with the intention of augmenting learning material and as a guide for effective presenter and group communication McDonald, 2004). 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' has been created with brevity in mind so that the potential for engaging the adolescent learners for whom it is intended is heightened. It is anticipated that the presentation would take under thirty minutes to deliver with slide advancement occurring at approximately two minute intervals. During the construction of 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification,' the learner characteristics, capacities, needs engagement, enjoyment and focus have all been considered (University of Queensland, 2001).
Aside from the critical design principles, the most crucial aspect for determining the
efficiency of the 'Ancient Egyptian Mummification' PowerPoint lies in the delivery of the corresponding oral presentation (Booth, Shames & Desberg, 2010). To aggrandize the potential for efficacy, it is vital that the slide information is not merely narrated but is used as a springboard for presenting expanded information and facilitating group interaction (McDonald, 2004; Voss, 2004). Furthermore, a welcoming, enthusiastic conversational style should be adopted in order to encourage student involvement. This may be further enhanced by employing congruent verbal and non-verbal behaviours and providing opportunities for students to think critically, contribute, share information and to give and receive feedback (Craig & Amernic, 2006; Mahin, 2004; McDonald 2004). Additionally, concluding by summarising key points and providing further references assists learners to synthesize, retain and consolidate new information (University of Queensland, 2001). Used in this manner, PowerPoint is, indeed, a formidable presentation tool.