Over the last few weeks I had an intersection of needs. I needed to prepare a presentation for a professional conference in addition to my usual work load and study requirements. In an ordinary week reading texts and secondary material for 4 advanced courses can sometimes feel a bit daunting. There is sometimes an uneasy feelings that I am not reading enough, or retaining information. I often wonder if I will met my study goals in January and later on if I am not on target now. Ironically, the extra work of researching, writing, and preparing a power point presentation for this conference provided an interesting, productive study exercise and tool.
My conference presentation involved sharing information on a broad topic that is really best discussed in multiple coaching sessions for small groups. We had the opposite of that, a large group with one just hour to talk. I really had a lot of summarizing, selecting, and editing to do, just like studying. While searching for pictures to highlight my presentation it occurred to me that I was learning a lot through the power point process. At one point, very late at night, it seemed like a good idea to build power point presentations for the my texts and courses.
Reading for 4 courses means reading about 132 texts this year. I like to read something for every unit every day, though a text for one unit might get priority because of its length or complexity. For example, right now I am reading 2 texts by Henry Fielding; ‘Tom Jones’ is eight hundred pages and ‘Amelia’ is six hundred pages. It is a psychological boost to finish something, so I read shorter texts for the other 3 courses, maybe some sonnets or an act of a play. With so much complex work and higher expectations I feel like I need to retain more precise information from my efforts. Then I realized that preparing a power point for study purposes might be a solution. As it turns out, building Power Points is an excellent study tool and a lot of fun too.
Its fun to search for images that reflect the important points about texts, and it is a great way to summarize. Making a Power Point for each book of ‘Tom Jones’ helps me remember details and makes cross referencing criticism much easier. It might include slides on close analysis, conventions and themes. In addition to individual texts I have started making Power Points for larger questions that I need to settle, like literary conventions in Augustan texts, themes in Literature of the Later Middle Ages, or how Shakespeare’s history plays reflect political realities in Early Modern society. So far, revising with these presentations is really fun, easy, and productive.
For me, ‘Power Point Power’ is the process of researching, assembling, and editing information. It encourages learning and engagement. I especially like feeling so engaged with the material. Making the Power Point presentations helps me to concentrate, and lowers the stress that can come through being distracted by other responsibilities. The immersion gives me more confidence in my knowledge of the texts, especially the eight hundred page ones.
In addition to those immediate benefits, the Power Point material I assembled is flexible, easily edited, portable, and exports to PDF’s. Perfect. If you would like to try it, I highly recommend it! If you need some software, try the open source version at Libre Office called IMPRESS. It is free, incredibly productive, and liberating all at once.