Slide-Based presentations (like Microsoft PowerPoint) hinder EMS instruction! Many EMS Instructors have developed a dependence on the use of canned-presentations to show the information rather than actually teaching the students.
I has seen instructors asked to teach a portion of a class and typically hear them ask in return,“Do you have a PowerPoint for that?” This is a sure sign of a poor-quality instructor.
Most EMS text publishers include a set of prepared presentations with their “teaching / curriculum packages”. Typically these presentations are nothing more than a topic outline with some graphic included on the individual slides that the
instructor presenter will read (word-for-word) to the class. A teachers makes the lessons come alive, they must be capable of taking information contained in the textbook and connecting it to the student’s life through the use of different teaching techniques.
Teaching occurs when an instructor engages students using all the available means of persuasion.
I do not mean to imply that there is no use for Slide-Based Presentations in EMS instruction. When used correctly as part of an over-all teaching system, presentations can aid in quality of instruction.
- Presentations offer an easy method to employ more than one teaching method – Visual with the use of the presentation and Auditory while the instructor “discusses” the visual information.
- Presentations allow for easy integration of visual material to a lesson. A good picture can help students make connections to the information being discussed by the instructor.
“PowerPoint is a convenient prop for poor speakers, it can reduce complicated messages to simple bullet points and it elevates style over substance; and that these three things contribute to its popularity.” – J.Wright, Author, Nursing Management magazine
The abusive over-use of slide-based presentations has a detrimental effect on the quality of instruction given during EMS classes (and the future performance of pre-hospital providers). EMT and Paramedic students must be taught and encouraged to use “critical-thinking” skills during class, the heavy of presentation lessons reduces the volume of information taught to a few bullet-points (that fit on a slide) thereby limiting the student’s ability to synthesis information and develop a comprehensive understanding of subject material
The critical failures of slide-based presentations for EMS instruction can be categorized into several key points:
- The use of slide-based presentations can trap the presenter to an area where they can control the presentation and still see the on-scene presentation. Instructors NEED to be active in the classroom, moving about the entire space and interacting with all students. EMS providers are required to be interactive with patients and people they encounter while performing various life-saving skills. A good instructor demonstrates this ability to be interactive and focused in the classroom.
- Presentation style instruction reduces hands-on-contact. I hear EMS students consistently complaint that the course did not allow adequate hands-on time. Watching on-scene presentations becomes the focus of the class instead of performance based teaching. How many times have you seen a class delayed because of technical difficulties with the audio-visual equipment? Instructors that are dependent on slide-based presentations are unable to perform without them while a good teacher can present the lesson without relying on any one particular visual aid.
- Presentation lessons are too heavily scripted, a good instructor / lesson will allow for more open discussion and interaction as a lesson progresses based on the needs and abilities of the students. Slide-based presentations are structured rigidly and do not easily allow the expansion of topics the particular class is finding difficult – the entire class and all similar classes are expected to learn the same way at the same pace. During an emergency event the EMS provider should be constantly sizing-up the situation and making response changes as the incident progress. EMS instructors should be doing the same thing with their students and lesson – changing the presentation based on the response of the students to the materials.
- Slide-based presentations become replacements for the instructor instead of being a reinforcement tool. The instructor often becomes little more than a voice-track for the slides themselves. The instructor fails to deliver a dynamic lesson because they stick to (read) the slide presentation which makes message less memorable to the student. The slide should be a visual-aid that is used in conjunction with the other teaching techniques of repetition, real-life examples (stories), and metaphors to reinforce points of the lesson. .
I challenge you as an EMS instructor to teach a lesson without the use of a slide-based presentation.
Slide-based presentations should be nothing more than a visual aid to your “live-interactive” lesson. Students learn when they make connections, the effective use of visuals aids in the classroom can help make connections between parts and the whole, between cause and effect, between problem and solution, between principle and practice. The visual aid (no matter what type it is) should never become the center piece of the lesson!
To help maintain the slide-based presentation material as a visual aid and not the entire lesson follow these simple guidelines.
- Use slides sparingly, use them for key graphics or illustrations.
- Avoid text slides. If you need to show specific text show students where in the textbook the material is located, this will help them student more effective later.
- Use different types of visual aids instead of just pictures. Don’t show a picture of a traction splint, pass the actual splint around the class room because tactile interaction improves retention.
- Teach what you need to, just because the publisher (or someone else) put the information on a slide does not mean you need to show it.
Remember the slide-based presentation is a learning tool, a visual aid for the lesson – it should NEVER be the lesson.