the (lack of) rhetorical literacy in powerpoint presentations

Tonight, after realizing that there was no humanly possible way I was going to actually finish grading my students’ individual portfolios tonight in order to return them to my students tomorrow, I decided to have dinner with a few friends. One of them is an undergraduate and is taking a class that teaches students how to use Microsoft Powerpoint, Word, and Excel. She had taken a “quiz” and had to create their own PowerPoint presentation about themselves. My friend showed me hers, and it looked pretty nice, but I found myself being a rhetorical snob and asking “What purpose did they give for presenting this?” And when she said they just had to follow some directions and explain some specific things about themselves, I found myself indignant about who the audience and what the situation was supposed to be. This was especially true because I hate how PowerPoint is so often misused and if students are being taught how to use PowerPoint but not taught how to use it situationally, then they have a skill set that’s not transferable to different situations. Also, I found myself perturbed that students in the class were asked to incorporate clip art instead of incorporating images and learning the importance of using and incorporating images ethically through researching and citing images. Plus, clip art is cliché.

But as I returned home, I began to think: perhaps I’m being too haughty. Perhaps the disciplining of my field has blinded me to the fact that some classes need to be very introductory and skills based. I’m not sure. It would be nice if this class had a more rhetorical lens to it, but then again, maybe that’s not the intention of that class. It’d be nice, though, if the class did incorporate more than how to use proprietary software in its most basic form. I think, though, that I need to eat some humble pie and be less indignant about things.

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2 Responses to the (lack of) rhetorical literacy in powerpoint presentations

  1. M-H says:

    Maintain the rage! I completely agree that knowledge is better given in context, and the context of powerpoint is presentations which, presumably, are given to some purpose. I had a workmate once who used to exclaim “What power? what point?” when ever anyone mentioned powerpoint. On the other hand, you can’t teach creativity, only give people the tools.

  2. Luke says:

    Bleh. Where do we find the balance between cattle-call classes where you learn a specific skill because, well, that’s what the business world operates under, and when do we just say “fuck this, you need to know how to turn all this shit into creativity and art and life and constantly changing and somanythingswedon’teverlearn.”

    I’ve worked with some absolutely brilliant people, who end up turning themselves into computers. I don’t wanna turn myself into something that can be replaced with an upgrade to a program!

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