PowerPoint Tips for Group Scripture Discussions

Teaching adult Sunday School and other classes for ten years, while also designing projectors and AV systems at work, gave me the chance to try out techniques for teaching the Bible more effectively using technology. In particular, there are some nice PowerPoint features that can be used when a projector is driven as an extended desktop. These relatively simple tricks can make presentation and discussion of Scripture more effective and engaging. Although these techniques are useful, they are not commonly known. I work with a variety of technical professionals who regularly present materials, and generally find that these basic techniques are not familiar.

The goal is to move from just presenting to interacting, in order to get students to engage more actively with the Word. These techniques can be used for other materials as well, but consideration of Scripture in a group is a special circumstance. Anything that causes people to look more closely at the Word is a really good thing.

Actually, one of the nice things about using projectors period when teaching the Bible is that it allows everyone to see the same translation. It’s common for people to read Scripture in class, and it’s good when everyone reads along. However, the Bible presents a particular challenge because students may have a variety of translations. It’s distracting to read along with someone who is using a different translation. By projecting the passage to be read, everyone sees the same thing and can read along with less distraction, enhancing focus on the Scripture itself. But there are more possibilities when the projector is operated separately.

The first step is to recognize that whenever a laptop drives a projector, the combination is a multiple-monitor system similar to the way some people have two monitors on their desktop PC. Most people don’t think of it that way, and most people aren’t accustomed to multiple monitors, so don’t realize what’s possible. Turns out that it’s very easy to display different content on the projector than is displayed on the laptop. The particulars vary between operating systems and applications. I’m not going to try explaining all possibilities here; a simple Google search should turn up the steps for your situation. (Or ask me, and I’ll try to give you specific pointers.)

Once the monitors and PowerPoint are configured, the students will see each slide while the teacher can do what they want on the second screen. The most obvious choice is to have the presentation control on that screen, but any other application can be run as well.

When using multiple monitors, the teacher can use the presentation control screen to control the slides and read presenter notes. In addition, that screen offers some basic markup tools such as a pen and highlighter. These can be particularly useful for drawing attention to something in the text. Attention can be drawn to certain words or phrases by highlighting them, or lines drawn to illustrate relationships much more effectively than a laser pointer. Since Bible study often focuses on details of text, this sort of thing can be very valuable.

One capability that many don’t know about is that it is possible to edit a slide while showing it in presentation mode. This can be done by presenting the slide as described above, but then noting that the editing window is still available on the main screen. (It’s different than the presentation control window.) Changes made in the edit window appear immediately on the screen. This can be useful for making lists, collaborating on text, etc. Similar to the way whiteboards are often used, but using PowerPoint is more legible, can be saved, and is often faster. The pen can be used as above to provide even richer experiences. The end result is enhanced interactivity with the students.

Some teachers bring prayer into class as part of the discussion, perhaps to give the Spirit a chance to touch hearts while in the lesson. In this case, it can be very helpful to show a common prayer, or at least topic, for the whole class to see. In some cases this won’t be known ahead of time, so being able to modify a slide in real time is helpful here, too.

In addition to PowerPoint, other applications can be run on the second screen. For example, the teacher could play music to make some point. Or have a Bible study application up in order to answer questions from the students. Even a simple web browser can sometimes be useful. In some cases, if the information might be useful to the class, it’s easy to move the application by dragging the window to the other screen.

I think these techniques allow the teacher to bring students into a deeper encounter with the Word, and enrich the lesson in other ways.

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