Default PowerPoint Templates – Presentation of the Past?

In the past, I strongly believed that a PowerPoint presentation is a plan for your presentation with a clearly defined template. Traditional single title slide followed by a bunch of other slides with elements listed out as bulleted points and a picture representing content in a slide is appreciated. You have a list of templates with text boxes, text fonts, and size adjusted, so just go ahead and add your content. However, it appeared that those default presentation templates and not as effective and as helpful as they seemed to be from the first sight.

However… The big motivator of successful learning for our brain is visual aids. Our brain is too lazy to accept any textual information when it can see an attractive image displayed on the same slide. But is that enough?

I must admit it isn’t that easy to create a good presentation design for everyone’s needs. “Simplicity is an important design principle. But simplicity in design is as much art (small “a”) as science.” According to the article about Presentation Zen, the essential factors of a successful presentation are full knowledge of the context and circumstances. It also depends on how much is the audience hungry for information.

What makes a presentation successful?

David JP Phillips in his TED talk How to avoid Death By PowerPoint emphasized six elements of the effective delivery of your content via presentation:

  • One message per slide
  • Contrasting elements by size
  • Contrasting elements by color
  • Avoid sentences
  • Dark background of the slide
  • No more than six elements per slide

More ideas on how to build a successful presentation can be found in the presentation by  Kery Lee Beasley. Her simple and great advice are the key to success of your presentation for your class (and not only class) and even more – for better communication of your ideas. Check it out – Presentation Design for Kids 

Presentation theme also matters – slidesgo and slidescarnival are amazing resources for an attractive theme of your presentation via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or even Keynote on your Mac.

I found the message from Mark Robinson meaningful – “Even with the great content you can destroy your message simply by the way you are presenting” (How to present to keep your audience’s attention – TEDxEindhoven). I wonder how many times I have done that with my presentations or other visual aid…  It’s time for some changes 🙂

I’m not using presentations in my classes very often, but still have some from this school year and therefore, I looked through my presentations and realized that most of them have to be changed according to the essential elements of a successful presentation that I’ve reviewed. However, my recent experience was a successful utilization of the educational material for a Digital Citizenship topic from Common Sence Media, which also contains lesson slides that include all the necessary teaching material. These presentations as well as videos and posters are really worth attention. Moreover, visual aid like that has significantly increased students’ understanding of the Digital Citizenship topic. Students from K-3 grade levels were attracted by images, videos, and the main characters while students from grades 4-5 got interested in relevant questions, raised in slides, and surely visuals that attract students’ attention as wells as increased motivation for learning.

Design Solutions

I’ve chosen a visual aid that I am using with my students  – a ChromeBook label/nametag. I think this is one of the most important visual aid since students can see it every time when they are using their devices. Here are some changes, that I’ve done to upgrade the label/nametag. First of all, I decided to slightly challenge myself and try a new digital design tool – Piktochart. I loved it very much, its interface is really well built and it took me less than 15 min to learn how to navigate it. The navigation menu has a similar structure to Canva. First of all, I’ve decreased the amount of text as well as the number of elements in the label and organized them in a clear order. The selection of matching colors supplements this visual aid even more by making it more attractive to students’ eyes. In addition, I’ve made the label look similar to a browser window by adding minimize, expand, and close icons in the corner in order to help students learn how to optimize the window on a device.


After that, I’ve shown both visual aids to my students, and the new one was a pleasant surprise to them 🙂 This raised their level of curiosity about online digital design tools. We had a short discussion about a variety of visual aids they get to see every day at school. This was a short brainstorm that led us to an activity during which I’ve implemented one of the protocols from the list – Chalk Talk to gather feedback from my students.

Grade 5 Students were split into groups and each group received a big piece of paper and color markers/pencils. While remaining silent, students had to write 1 thought about visual aids and how do they help learn on that piece of paper. After writing their own ideas, students had to check out their groupmates’ ideas and if they agreed with them – draw the line from their own idea to the groupmate’s idea. I have to be honest – this was a challenge to my students since they got used to working in groups using verbal communication for finding solutions in order to complete the task. I think that next time giving one huge piece of paper to all students to share might be a better solution than splitting them into groups, however, take a look at what they have come up with.

After the activity, we all looked at the results and had a short discussion. Students agreed that visual aid is always more appreciated than just a handout with plain text. Colors, pictures, favorite characters in the same visual aid encourage to pay better attention. This proves that any visual aid develops better communication as well as facilitates a more efficient understanding of the ideas while teaching and learning.