Can we please go back to Powerpoint?
by Gavin Steven
Remember overhead projectors? If you’re my age, your answer is probably, “hardly”. They were the big grey boxes used only by the most old-school of teachers. You placed a transparent plastic sheet under a powerful light, and – like magic – the sheet would appear on the wall. These guys were a testament to simplicity. All you could broadcast was what you could fit on a sheet of paper, either handwritten or printed. I have many a memory of reading hymns from them at my “definitely secular” primary school. No animations, no videos, no weird bubble things. Sadly, by the time I went to high school, they were well on their way out, replaced by Bill Gates’ PowerPoint. Our school’s overhead projectors were relegated to the back of the store cupboard, next to the chalkboards, the collection of belts, and Latin. Today, with Bill Gates old, frail and focusing on boring stuff like philanthropy, we have a new kid on the block: Prezi.
When you head over to Prezi’s homepage, you’re welcomed with a slick animation of a brain overlaid with the suspiciously Orwellian: “PERSUADE”, “EFFECT”, and “ENGAGE” - apparently words used by some equally brainy Harvard researchers to describe the software. Although it smacks of the tenuous science that brought you the fidget spinner craze, I will admit – it’s tempting. Why wouldn’t I want my presentations to be endorsed by the nerds at Harvard? So, apparently, do a bunch of my lecturers. Unfortunately as with every small technological step in the classroom comes on giant leap back in productivity. This isn’t meant to be a cool millennial dig at our boring old teachers who don’t get our new technology - it just takes time to learn how to use new things. But, for students, we have to go through the pain of watching them learn. It’s excruciating watching someone click back and forward over and over, struggling with the rigid linearity of the software. I get the compulsion to stand up and commandeer the mouse or just leave in insignificant frustration.
And for what? According to Prezi’s “Why Prezi” page, it’s for 16.4% more engagement, 21.9% more persuasion or 12.5% more organisation. Maybe these statistics are true. Honestly, the difference is so minuscule that it barely even matters. The drawbacks, however, are much more pronounced. For one, Prezi is useless for studying. If you want to search through a presentation you can’t just hit the classic CTRL+F shortcut and type in what you want. No, you need to click ‘Show Transcript’, be presented with a text version of the presentation – made largely incoherent without bubbles and pictures – and then, finally, you can do a search. If you want to find the pictures that went along with the text, then you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way. We might as well go back to the aforementioned plastic slides. The website looks terrible, the presentations are laggy to click through, and there’s no way to look at them when you’re offline. If you want to catch up on the lecturer’s notes on the move, you’re flat out of luck; copying and pasting on mobile doesn’t work, and just trying to read through a presentation will regularly make my relatively powerful phone to crash.
Lecturers, I get it. It’s fun to try the new stuff. Prezi looks neat. But, simply put, PowerPoint is better. Let’s go back to ol’ Bill Gates, clip art, the “peel off” transition; they weren’t so bad. And Amy, if you’re reading this, please consider this my SCEF for the semester.