Tips for a Good PowerPoint Design

I am currently preparing a PowerPoint presentation for the Frontier in Education conference. My paper “What Computing Instructors Did Last Summer – Experiences and Lessons Learned” will be presented there. The paper is 8 pages long with a detailed description of the method used and a discussion of the validity of the results. My task now is to pick the most important parts of the paper to be included in the PowerPoint presentation, as I only have 15 minutes to present my work. The art of excluding text (or including only the most relevant text) is not as simple as one might think. I asked my supervisors and colleagues for advice on how to make a good PowerPoint Presentation and this is what I learned:

  1. Whenever it is suitable/possible, your title should be a summary or an assertion of what you want to convey with the particular slide.
  2. The body of the slide should support the summary/assertion
  3. Use pictures to aid your storytelling.
  4. Help your audience orient the information on the slide by considering the placement of your content. Arrows guide the audience’s reading direction and are good to include when you have a lot of information.
  5. Give the audience time to read the slide – don’t go too fast forward.
  6. Make sure to have some white space between your texts, this makes it easier for the audience to read.
  7. Consider the size of your text and pictures. The person sitting in the back of the room should be able to see them too.
  8.  Avoid long lists of text if possible. People’s memory is not built to remember long lists.

A good PowerPoint presentation makes a huge difference on the audience’s ability to recall. Whether you are a teacher or student (or whatever work role you have), presenting information is going to be part of your work. Who doesn’t want his/her audience to remember what was presented, or at least not falling asleep?

My list of tips is in no way conclusive and many of them might be obvious to some readers but it bears repeating. For additional reading on presentation design, please see:

Michael Alley, Madeline Schreiber, Katrina Ramsdell, and John Muffo, “How the Design of Headlines in Presentation Slides Affects Audience Retention,” Technical Communication, vol. 53, no. 4 (May 2006), pp. 225-234.


Outstanding DC paper at Koli Calling 2017

Two days ago I received the good news that my doctoral consortium paper “Digital Capital – A Platform for Computational Thinking” was one of the three selected for an outstanding paper! It is a great feeling to be recognized for the work that I have done 😀 The next step now is to rewrite the paper into a mini-position paper. I am still waiting for more information on what that means in practice.

More Thoughts from Programming Labs

I have now gained a bit more teaching experience from being a lab assistant in a programming course and this is what I have learned:

  • There were students who had a hard time understanding the description of the assignment. The students got frustrated before they could even start coding because they thought that the assignments were not clear enough.
  • Because of the students’ lack of experience, it was easy for them to get stuck on a (seemingly simple) problem for a long time. One of the common problems that would not make the code work as planned is indentation.
  • The display of different emotions in a programming lab is fascinating. It is always nice to hear the student cheering and high-fiving each other when they have managed to solve a programming problem. Seems to me like programming causes strong positive and negative emotions. This is probably because programming is difficult and it requires a lot of grit and effort to learn and understand programming.
  • There were quite some misunderstanding about the role of “import” – the students didn’t understand why it was necessary to use e.g. “import os”, and they didn’t understand what “os” stands for.
  • Lastly, I have noticed that it is hard to really understand local vs global variable when the names of the local and global variables are the same. This in combination with e.g. omitting return and/or print. I have experienced that it is easy for the students to forget that there must be a return value from a function, which is understandable as it is not exactly “natural” or could be easily associated with anything else they have done before.

Better Late Than Never

It has been way too long since my last blog post. I have been thinking that I should take some time to write but I have been very busy lately.

Good news: Our Frontier in Education paper “What Computing Instructors Did Last Summer: Experiences and Lessons Learned” has been accepted for publication 🙂 I will travel to Indianapolis between 18-21 October to present the paper at the conference. This will be my first presentation at a major international conference since I started my Ph.D. studies. I feel excited (and nervous) but I’m sure that with good preparation all will go well!

Before the summer holiday I have been working as a teaching assistant in a course called “Independent Project in Information Engineering”. My main responsibility in the course was to help to correct students’ project reports. It has truly been a valuable learning experience on how to give good feedback to the students, as well as how to encourage students to give constructive feedback to each other. I have also improved my knowledge on how to make a good poster, as well as how to present the poster in the best possible way with limited time at hand.

For me, the best part about being a teaching assistant is that I learn a lot of new things myself. I believe one can never stop learning, no matter how far you have come in your career. I really enjoyed working with the students as well. They were very ambitious and open to learning new things. I can tell that they have learned a lot during the course and their progress made me proud, and motivated me to become an even better educator.