PowerPoint as learning tool

PowerPoint is the program we love to hate. In the wrong hands, it can create sustained boredom. Used wisely, it’s a get authoring environment.


In one of his first staff meetings after joining IBM, Lou Gerstner flipped off the Powerpoint projector and said, “Let’s just talk about business.” Candor replaced puffery.


Slide after slide of bulleted sentence fragments is an awful thing to endure. If the speaker giving the presentation reads them to you word for word, it makes a bad spectacle even worse. Regardless of these unpleasantries, PowerPoint has become the language of business.

PowerPoint also happens to be learning’s most popular authoring tool. Many software packages enable learning and development leaders to narrate a PowerPoint presentation and upload it to the Web. The problem is that if live lectures are ineffective, prerecorded ones online are going to be even more ineffective. Unfortunately, being a subject-matter expert doesn’t necessarily make someone an expert public speaker. Sadly, many experts think the purpose of a PowerPoint presentation is to expose the audience to content and pure information–as if emotion plays no part in getting a message across.

However, it makes no more sense to blame PowerPoint for boring presentations than to blame fountain pens for forgery.

Steve Denning, the author of several books on storytelling, recalls not being able to get fully engaged into someone’s PowerPoint presentation. He recognized that PowerPoint can be too concrete, and therefore, he abandoned PowerPoint in his own presentations in favor of telling stories. No one missed it. When you hear a powerful story, you internalize it. Your imagination makes it your story, and that’s something that will stick with you.

It makes no more sense to blame PowerPoint for boring prsentations than to blame fountain pens for forgery.

Cliff Atkinson‘s book Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate and Inspire shows how to use Hollywood’s script-writing techniques to focus your ideas, how to use storyboards to establish clarity and how to properly produce the script so that it best engages the audience.

Atkinson recently told me the story of a presentation that made a $250 million difference. Attorney Mark Lanier pled the case against Merck in the first Vioxx-related death trial, brought by the widow of a man who died of a heart attack that she believed was caused by the painkiller. Before preparing his presentation, he read Beyond Bullet Points, and invited Atkinson to Houston to lend a hand in putting his presentation together.

“We used the three-step approach from the book,” Atkinson said. “Then (Lanier’s) flawless delivery took the experience beyond what I imagined possible. He masterfully framed his argument with an even flow of projected images and blended it with personal stories, physical props, a flip chart, a tablet PC, a document projector and a deeply personal connection with his audience.”

Fortune magazine’s coverage of the trial describing Lanier’s presentation said, “The attorney for the plaintiff presented simple and emotional stories that strongly contrasted with Merck’s appeals to colorless reason. Fortune reported that Lanier ‘gave a frighteningly powerful and skillful opening statement. Speaking, without notes and in gloriously plain English, and accompanying nearly every point with imaginative, easily understood (if often hokey) slides and overhead projections, Lanier, a part-time Baptist preacher, took on Merck and its former CEO Ray Gilmartin with merciless, spellbinding savagery.”

Lanier’s technique was persuasive and aimed to get the jurors to believe in his “simple, alluring and emotionally cathartic stories, versus Merck’s appeals to colorless, heavy-going, soporific reason. Lanier is inviting the jurors to join him on a bracing mission to catch a wrongdoer and bring him to justice.” The Texas jury awarded the widow $253.4 million.

You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to do something that elaborate.” Put that in perspective: If you spend months on a complex project, isn’t it worth a few days to wrap up the results into an effective presentation? If you’re using PowerPoint as an authoring system, remember this: A presentation and self-directed learning are two totally different experiences, and the fact that they both may be in PowerPoint doesn’t change that. For compelling presentations, follow the advice in Beyond Bullet Points. And for training that works, follow the tenets of sound instructional design.


Dave Snowden’s story of planning a girl’s birthday party captures the essence of why informal learning trumps corporate claptrap every time:

Imagine organising a birthday party for a group of young children. Would you agree a set of learning objectives with their parents in advance of the party? Would those objectives be aligned with the mission statement for education in the society to which you belong

Would you create a project plan for the party with clear milestones associated with empirical measures of achievement? Would you start the party with a motivational video so that the children did not waste time in play not aligned with the learning objectives? Would you use PowerPoint to demonstrate to the children that their pocket money is linked to achievement of the empirical measures at each milestone? Would you conduct an after action review at the end of the party, update your best practice database and revise standard operation procedures for party management?

No, instead like most parents you would create barriers to prevent certain types of behaviour, you would use attractors (party games, a football, a videotape) to encourage the formation of beneficial largely self organising identities; you would disrupt negative patterns early, to prevent the party becoming chaotic, or necessitating the draconian imposition of authority. At the end of the party you would know whether it had been a success, but you could not define (in other than the most general terms) what that success would look like in advance.


In April 2007, I took part in a panel discussion on The Future of Rapid eLearning Tools. As rapid eLearning (the rapidity is development time, not learning time) had not been on my radar; I approached the topic with beginner’s mind. Usually the approach is to run PowerPoint decks through a software app for display on the web.

How did this approach come about? I trace the genesis back to the late nineties. A training manager who wasn’t going to develop content around a topic from a meeting would make the PowerPoint deck available. Ninety percent had neither sound nor notes. I learn about as much from looking at someone else’s silent PowerPoint presentation as I do from looking at inkblots, yet training directors included this crap in their listings of courses and workshops to bulk up the appearance of what they had to offer.

When is it appropriate to use rapid eLearning development tools? For procedural, how-topics. For things you have to get out the door right away. And I see e-information applications in addition to eLearning. “Information is not instruction,” but sometimes information is all you need.

While no one came out and said it, rapid eLearning can cut the instructional designer out of the process. One member of the audience cautioned against letting the rapid tools fall into the wrong hands. Another said it would be disastrous if content were developed outside of the watchful eye of an instructional designer. It wouldn’t be “real training.” You betcha.

We are learn from one another. In communities. Peer learning. Why deny people tools for formatting and consistency? Clive Shepherd pointed out that this would be a marketing bonanza for the vendors. Get everyone creating content. Millions upon millions of potential customers….

My major ah-ha’s were that Articulate, Adobe Contribute, and Qarbon can play a major role in sharing knowledge and democratizing content. My wish list would include easy assignment of tags. I’d also like to see a content rating system that kicks in automatically. As Wayne Hodgins has said, there’s no excuse not to associate a rating with every scrap of digital content. Another person wanted to be able to pluck (or add) one slide at a time from an existing presentation.

People were concerned about keeping track of swarms of small rapid eLearning chunks. Chris Willis brought up the good old days of Authorware, when everything was right there in one package. Unfortunately, those monoliths were difficult to update and required skilled programmers/designers.

My picture of the future mimics the loose coupling of the web. “Small pieces, loosely bound.” Today’s rapid eLearning tools may evolve into the platform where the small pieces are made.


Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte’s online resources. (Think Al Gore’s eco presentation)
Pecha Kucha Night
Presentations consisting of 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds
http://www.pecha-kucha.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecha_Kucha
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/15-09/st_pechakucha

PowerPoint Karaoke
“The person in front of the room launches into a completely impromptu talk from a PowerPoint slide deck she has never seen before. The results are openly, gleefully absurd.”
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/03/02/slide_show/
http://www.zentrale-intelligenz-agentur.de/powerpointkaraoke.html

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science
(aka Did PowerPoint Crash the Space Shuttle?)
Edward Tufte addresses the question, “Does PowerPoint’s cognitive style affect the quality of engineering analysis?” REQUIRED READING.
http://ur1.ca/0y3
also see: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_pp

OSCON 2005 Keynote – Identity 2.0
Dick Hardt’s original rapid-fire visual/spoken presentation, emulated later by many.
http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint
Guy Kawasaki’s advice for pitching VCs via PowerPoint. More about VC pitches than PowerPoint, but the 10/20/30 rule is a good one.
http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html

Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information
David Byrne’s PowerPoint Art
http://www.davidbyrne.com/art/eeei/
http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/03/08_byrne.shtml

In Defense of PowerPoint
Don Norman’s essay. “… don’t blame the tool for a poorly prepared, poorly presented talk.”
http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/in_defense_of_p.html

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Tools for Learning

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Keeping the Mobile Sales Force Informed

What would you do if you had to keep 150 sales people around the world up to date on healthcare and IT?

Intel Digital Health had been posting cell phone recordings to a traditional website. Busy sales people couldn’t be counted on to check them out and the medium lacked pizzazz.

A general manager/VP knew that Cisco, IHOP, and others were distributing information via podcasts. He listened to a sample podcast put together by his staff and gave the project a green light.

Intel instructional designer Marc Porter took on the project. He purchased a video iPod for every member of the sales force. The iPods remain the property of Intel. When someone leaves the company, they return the iPod, just as they do with their cell phone and laptop.

On the content front, Marc began by converting the firm’s library into 20 QuickTime videos that were distributed with the machines. Employees were permitted to keep music on the iPods as well as the Intel videos.

Intel next produced an “The Expert Series” of customer interviews that highlight best practices. These were professionally produced, and the sales force loved them, especially the anecdotal information. 84% were satisfied.

To develop a podcast, Marc would meet with a subject matter expert to identify a topic, offer a method for producing it, and select the level of presentation.

Early on, Intel discovered that PowerPoint was the wrong medium for the iPod. They also determined that the iPod is not appropriate for restricted information: iPods have no passive security on board; a lost iPod causes no collateral damage.

Marc Porter won Intel’s 2007 innovation award for setting up and running the iPod program for Intel Digital Health’s community of practice.

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Tools for Learning

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Innovation at Eaton

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Communities of practice

A Community of Practice (or CoP) doesn’t require computers. If you have a group with a shared identity who give back to the group, who uphold and refine its practices, and who nurture new people entering the group, you have a community of practice. Communities grow to advance the greater good of their members.

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Organizations & community

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IBM Lotus Connections

…or you could do the same thing with free, open-source software.

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CEO Blog

You must do this. Go read Jonathan’s Blog.

Jonathan on the MySQL acquisition.

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Cisco Presence

Certain Cisco customers find meeting in person so vital that they pay $350,000 – $450,000 for the next best thing. 

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Company Command

Speak like a human. Don’t filter.

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Sofas, not cubes

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CGI Internet Inside

Three years ago, Knowledge Management at Canada’s CGI was the proverbial black hole that sucked in information and energy but never let it out. The staff who fed the beast were well-meaning but weren’t equipped to provide CGI’s 25,000 employees the up-to-the-moment technical savvy they needed. This is not sustainable in a firm that relies on its wits to outperform its competitors in a fast-moving global field. Executive management made raising staff satisfaction with KM a top priority.

Ross Button was tapped to head a project to raise collective intelligence. Ross and his staff of two, with in-sourced assistance from specialist groups within the firm, assembled what Ross and I have dubbed Internet Inside. Imagine having your own, custom version of the internet running behind your firewall.

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Business
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Tools for Learning

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SAP Community Network

In 2003, Shai Agassi asked my pal Etay Gafni to help build a developer network to host the e-learning programs that Etay’s team, then based in Ra’anana, had developed. Initially called DevNet, SDN debuted at SAP TechEd 2003

Within three months, the community had more than 30,000 members. A year later, in the fall of 2004, SDN was 100,000 members strong.More importantly, says Etay, the community reached the “tipping point” for member contributions.

Now 650,000 members

Etay is happy to forge new ground with his family in Silicon Valley, and at SAP. “Web 2.0 is not about technologies – it’s about users treated as people, communication, self expression and content,” he says.

“We have a great opportunity to bring these values to SAP as well as into our ecosystem,” Etay continues. “A new generation is entering the work force, bringing with them new expectations, ideas, and new ways of doing things. I am pleased to be working on these topics and will continue working on bridging these worlds.”


Here are SAP’s current network guidelines

If you want to go deep inside how it’s done, this is the Rosetta Stone for setting up a strategically important $XX million development network.

Look at the amount of learning and connecting appear on the community home page.

Corporate karma. By the way, I hope we can start sharing discoveries like this with one other as a comment on whatever page we’re on. Imagine we’re partners in a learnscaping community. Give once and receive many times over.

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CIA

 

Intellipedia has begun to foster change within the organizational cultures of the intelligence community. It promotes greater information sharing, collaboration, and transparency. 

From October 2006 to January 2007, the site has continued to see substantial growth in users (now more than 5,000) and has seen a rapid increase in pages (60,000). To date, Intellipedia administrators have distributed nearly 100 “Intellipedia shovels” and numerous Exceptional Performance Awards to individuals for exceptionally strong contributions toward sharing good practices and furthering the business of the ODNI and broader USG government in protection and the pursuit of our national interests. 

The classified Intellipedia also contain a lot of information on projects, or even military operations, underway. The idea is not just to allow a lot of people to contribute to subjects of interest to a large audience, but to also get different opinions on intel subjects, and get them out in the open as well. The intelligence community has long been known for consisting of many different, and rather isolated, communities. Email, and classified Internet message boards, have broken down some of that isolation. “Intellipedia” not only breaks down the isolation further, but builds new relationships through shared work on subjects of common interest. So far, the classified version has 28,000 pages and 3,600 contributors. 

Two national, heart-wrenching events have cast the spotlight on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s dire need for an agile, networking-based, deftly coordinating, and flat (a la Thomas Friedman) operational structure. 

9/11 Commission’s July 2004 Public Statement:

“Our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies did not manage or share information, or effectively follow leads, to keep pace with a nimble enemy. …”

“The Intelligence Community needs a shift in mindset and organization, so that intelligence agencies operate under the principle of joint command, with information-sharing as the norm …”

“… ‘Need to share’ must replace ‘Need to know.’”

 

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Cisco virtual teams

CoP, trust, participation, experts on the line. virtual teams of systems engineers in a dozen strategically important technical specializations
593, 93% like vSearch. Less time searching, more time dealing with customers

“We traditionally delivered new product introduction training to our field sales and support staff through live classroom seminars conducted in various parts of the country and the world,” stated one training manager. “This was a logistical nightmare to organize and very expensive to conduct. It’s tough for our key product marketing and engineering staff to take time out of their crazy schedules to travel around to teach these seminars, and it’s equally inconvenient for our field staff to attend multi-day training events in person. We wanted a vendor who could streamline our new product introduction training with a fast, cost-effective web-delivered solution.”

. “We selected Altus Learning Systems to produce a pilot program in 1998 to help launch the AS5800 product. They did everything back then from video recording the presenters and synchronizing the encoded video with slides and transcripts to providing the user interface and setting up our streaming servers. That program was a big success, and we have used turn-key technology and production services from Altus to transfer knowledge to the field for every major product launch and product update ever since-which now totals hundreds of programs and thousands of hours of content.”
As this function grew in popularity, Cisco faced the difficult challenge of producing and delivering more than a thousand hours of content per year. So, working with Altus, the company introduced a dedicated on-site service center, reducing production costs, meeting Cisco’s demanding delivery deadlines and significantly reducing internal staff involvement.

Implementation of the initial service center worked so well that Cisco expanded its outsourcing contract to support the technical readiness of their large sales engineering group. Altus replaced three separate vendors, supplemented existing video equipment with its new production system and took complete control over the facility’s operation and maintenance. Altus now records, produces, broadcasts and webcasts more than 20 weeklong meetings each year for on-demand training and performance support.

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Intelpedia DIY


John G. Miner, a senior Intel product support engineer, stating: “Wouldn’t it be cool to have something like Wikipedia inside of Intel?” 

Initial reaction to the post was pessimistic, Bancroft said. A long project approval process and internal resistance was expected for such an undertaking. So Bancroft downloaded MediaWiki — the open-source application package that runs Wikipedia.org, and other internal wiki sites — and put the site up himself. 

By March ’07 Intelpedia.intel.com 5,000 pages of content and garnered 13.5 million page views.

 

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TRowePrice

 

Manages $350 billion in assets

Hires 1,500 temporary workers during tax season

Group blog and wiki capture
rules of thumb

Savings = two minutes/call
at $20/minute

= $15,000,000 annual savings

 

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