Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Alex:
Hi! I know the difference between Power Point and Publisher. I focus on teaching Power Point, but maybe I should teach more of Publisher. My question is should I stop teaching Power Point and only focus on Publisher?
Publisher and PowerPoint have two different focuses for student learning. Publisher teaches desktop publishing where PowerPoint focuses on presentations. Publisher enables students to provide evidence that they have thoroughly learned a topic (using text, images, graphic organizers) but doesn’t include the distractions (or enrichments) of sound, movement, audio. PowerPoint can include these to enhance a message, but risks obfuscating the true meaning by the multitude of media. This can distract from the authenticity of learning, enabling students to hide behind the bling, wow viewers with their artistry rather than their knowledge. You as teacher must decide which course is best for your purposes.
I get 2nd graders on Publisher with greeting cards, 3rd graders with a simple magazine, 4th graders with a trifold, and 5th graders with a newsletter. PowerPoint is a crowd please, one I teach only in 2nd and 3rd grade, at which point students know the basics and I turn the skill over to the class teacher with the knowledge they can expect students to create an effective slideshow.