The PowerPoint Channel
Forthcoming, University of Massachusetts Law Review
27 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 8 Jun 2021
Date Written: 2021
This Article is the first to present a comprehensive theory and style for using PowerPoint to teach law. The theory is that presentation software adds a channel of communication that enables the use of images in combination with words. Studies have shown that combination to substantially enhance learning. The style is based on an extensive literature regarding the use of PowerPoint in teaching law and other higher education subjects as well as the author’s experimentation with PowerPoint over two decades. The Article states fourteen principles for slide or slide sequence design, provides the arguments from the literature for and against them, and explains the techniques by which the author implements them. It argues that PowerPoint is effective for eight kinds of presentation: (1) providing high-level overviews, (2) explaining concepts, (3) listing sets of rules or possibilities, (4) analyzing statutory or other language, (5) comparing statutes, rules, and concepts, (6) showing physical manifestations of the legal system such as documents or websites, (7) diagramming concepts, relationships, and transactions, and (8) supporting discussions by displaying the assumptions on which the discussions are based. The Article contains miniatures of fifteen slides that exemplify both these uses and the design principles. It concludes that a PowerPoint channel that is on all the time is inevitable. But before that happens, law teachers must design the imagery through which law will be taught.
Keywords: PowerPoint, teaching, education, images, visual channel, presentation software, slides
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