The subtitle is "Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely."
"Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something."
Now I think Tufte has a point, (a huge pointed pointy point) but I will raise a small defense of Powerpoint as a tool in developing a thorough writing style for children like my high-functioning autistic son, aged 13, who has large verbal challenges and is strongly visual-information oriented. This is an approach I've taken with him since he was about 9.
Typically, I make him read several encyclopaedia articles before getting on the web, we do a Google search together and find a few other information sites for him to read, and I get him to write down the dreaded bullet points in a text document as he reads the source material.
Then I get him to set those points up in a Powerpoint presentation, grouping the points together in logical progression 3 or 4 to a slide, and reward him for having done that work by allowing him to choose an illustration for each side (simple animations were allowed when he was 9 and 10, but are now strictly verboten). He loves this visual representation part of the assignment. Does it waste time? Sure, a little bit, but it keeps him engaged with the task.
Then, for the essay/speech he's been assigned, I tell him to write a paragraph expanding each bullet point on the Powerpoint slides.
The last, tricky part that he's still coming to grips with: make sure that the logical link between one paragraph and another is clear. If it's not, then a short linking paragraph needs to be written. This is the only point in the process where I'll actually help him put his sentences together (I do give him broad editorial advice at earlier stages, and I do sub-edit the final product for obvious howlers).
At the end of this process, he usually has a reasonably well put together essay or speech, at least for a 13 year old. It's certainly not the way I learnt to write essays, but it seems to work for him. Thoughts?
Hat-tip: An Anachronistic Mom, who hatessssess Powerpointsss, yessss she doesss.