The Rise of Power Point
It’s increasingly common for professors to lecture with the help of Power Point slides. Whether or not this is a good development is an argument for another time. What is clear, however, is that the modern student needs to know how to best take notes on this style of lecture.
In this post, I describe simple rules for taking effective notes in a Power Point lecture. I also describe how to later use these notes to study as efficiently as possible.
Don’t Print the Slides Before Lecture
Professors will often post their Power Point slides before the lecture. Many students assume they should print the slides and bring them with them to class.
Don’t do this…
Instead, load the files on your laptop. While the professor lectures, follow along with the slides on your laptop. Take notes in the notes window that appears at the bottom of your screen in Power Point. This is demonstrated in the following screen shot:
When the class is over, you can then print out your slides in notes view — which will show, on each page, the slide along with the notes you recorded. The notes view can be selected from the print menu as shown below:
If You Don’t Have the Slides in Advance, Mark the Page Numbers
Sometimes the professor makes the slides available only after the lecture. In this case, take notes in a word processor on your laptop as usual. This time, however, whenever the professor changes the slides mark the new page number in your notes.
Later, when you get your hands on the slide files, load them up in Power Point. Use the page numbers in your notes to copy and paste the text right into Power Point in the notes window under the appropriate slides. You can now print out the two together in notes view as before.
Studying Power Point Slides
The alert reader will remark that some professors use a huge number of slides. The thought of having to review every single slide presented during the semester is enough to drive many to despair. In this case, you might considering cleaning up your notes in Power Point before printing them for review. Even after you’ve done some cleaning, it’s still not obvious how best to study from this material. Here are some tips to help you out:
- Throw Out Unnecessary Slides. Some slides don’t really add much to the content of lecture — maybe they represent a minor tweak on a different slide, a digression, or some administrative details — erase these from the slide show file. The less slides you print, the quicker you’ll be able to study later on.
- Consolidate notes for sequences of slides. If a several slides in a row expand on the same basic point, consolidate your notes onto the first of these slides. This reduces the number of pages of notes you have to review even if you can’t throw out all the slides.
- Study by Replicating the Lecture. Print the slides in notes view. Go through the printouts one by one. For each page, start by covering over the notes section so you can’t cheat. Try to lecture, as if talking to an imaginary class, about what’s important about the slides. Check the notes to see if you hit the high points. If not, mark it to return to in the next pass (this is classic Quiz-and-Recall studying.)
Think of Power Point slides as a handy visual aid to augment your studying. They might make the lectures stilted, but having slides printed along with your notes will make your life easier when it comes time to review.