December 22, 2009, 12:20 pm
Hiding Text in PowerPoint
By Lisa Agustin
I stumbled on this odd post about the use of PowerPoint in the college classroom. The basic question is this: How do you help students who rely on your PowerPoint slides as a study aid, especially if they missed the class? Some academics are aware of PowerPoint best practices, but Julianne Dalcanton suggests the following as a way to help students without breaking the rules:
My trick for [giving students the key points without cluttering the slide] is using black text on a black background. The text doesn’t show on the screen, but it does show up when printed as a handout, since the black background defaults back to white. Thus, you get the following:
Dalcanton should rethink her approach. Hiding the bulleted text so it will appear when printed wrongly assumes everyone will want (or remember) to print it, and using a black background with red text results in poor legibility (not to mention encouraging a nice nap if the lecture takes place in a dark room). In short, she’s sacrificing a good presentation for the sake of printability. Other problems with this slide:
- The graph is key to the slide and should be bigger. Remove the box that surrounds the question, since this is visually distracting. If the question itself is a key point, hopefully a subsequent slide answers the question.
- The language in the bottom-right comment needs the speaker to provide context. What does “This” refer to–the graph? If it’s important to connect energy loss with calculating the age of the universe, spell this out explicitly.
- The bullet points are better placed in the Notes area, but Dalcanton isn’t a fan of this feature (see comments following her post). If the bulleted text must be kept in the slide, it shouldn’t be sized for presentation, since this is a waste of slide real estate. Instead, use a smaller font, and move the bullets to the bottom of the page. Then use a color other than black for the font and matching background color (we used white, and this prints fine).
Our quick redo shows the presentation version on the left, and the printed version on the right. The bulleted text is in ten-point font, and legible when printed.
One more improvement: Remove the thick black border from the chart in the final version. It’s all I can see, I can’t focus on the chart’s data.
Posted by Jon Peltier on December 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm
Posted by g on September 9, 2010 at 2:30 pm