Many of us were probably taught by rote learning at some stage during our school days. Whether learning the phonetics of the alphabet and word patterns, a piece of mathematical or scientific formula, or even a musical script, rote learning is a natural way to reinforce the shape and patterns of new things in our minds using repetition.

I remember the joys of standing en masse facing a huge blackboard while our first primary teacher used a giant wooden pointer to hit out the phonetics and patterns of our first words: "eep, eep, eep; sheep, sheep, sheep", we would chant out much like baaing lambs as she hit the syllables on the board. It was a bit like the carrot and stick reward style of learning, but without the carrot. And with the added threat of worrying about where the stick might land if any of us fell out of rhythm, or stopped concentrating on those word patterns, there was always an underlying reason to keep up.

Although teaching styles have changed, rote learning still has a justifiable place in some situations. Think of those periodical tables. And rote learning music is crucial where notation isn't sufficient to portray how a piece should be played (for example, in polymetric music). The technique is commonly used in jazz style as a method to get the musician to think about the musical patterns in another way.

Rote learning has many critics, especially those who believe leaning from memory, rather than by understanding, is ineffective for mastering a complex subject at an advanced level. Today, thankfully, there are many other teaching aids available as an alternative to the blackboard and stick method for anyone who wants to use a more creative and colourful means of coaxing connections from willing learners. Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, for example, is a tool which is widely used in many educational environments from primary to university.

If were think about leaning a language, for example, we can really understand how PowerPoint can put the accent on how to enjoy delivering and learning. Rote learning has long been used to memorise verb structures, or even swathes of vocabulary. When learning the conjugation of foreign irregular verbs, the morphology is often too subtle to be learned explicitly in a short time. However, just think how much easier and fun it could be for pupils to learn from a PowerPoint presentation with all its visual and verbal glory.

PowerPoint can employ animation with verbs to illustrate meanings more clearly: pupils can see the picture of someone running while looking at the name of the verb to run on screen. With PowerPoint, animation can bring life to a subject that may otherwise be quite dry. Suddenly your presentation becomes interactive rather than just a slide show.

How about grouping nouns into colour coded backgrounds - blue for masculine, red for feminine, yellow for neuter, and purple for plural, etc? Even showing words and relationships with simple text animation can lead to more advanced learning.

There are other strategies that you can apply and develop to use with PowerPoint to great effect.

According to the Dual Coding Theory, we can process words and pictures or animation simultaneously quite effectively. By tapping into the Dual Coding Theory, learning can be enhanced if your presentation uses both visual and verbal format. Humans can absorb information quite easily if shown an image and told about the image at the same time. Our mind naturally creates both visual and verbal representations in our memory.

But remember, it is difficult for any audience to process two amounts of information such as text and speech - and it can be overwhelming, as the audience struggles to understand what you are saying and what's on screen. Most people end up jumping between what you are saying and what is on the slide, but don't do either of these things very well.

We are used to a lot of visual images passing before us - just think about how many frames a 30 second advertisement on TV combines to make it visually stimulating. Images are not distracting if they tell the story well.

With text, reveal one bullet point at a time; this is known as Progressive Disclosure. Four to five words per bullet point is best. This minimises the amount of time people spend reading the information and maximises the amount of time they spend listening.

If it is crucial to present a lot of text on a slide, stop talking for some of the time to allow the audience to read the text and then proceed. Try to pause to give the audience time to absorb the information and then allow them to focus on what you say next.

If your PowerPoint slide contains complex information such as a graph, always take extra time to explain the contents of that slide.

To enhance your understanding of using PowerPoint to aid better learning and communication, don't just use the templates, or rely on other's work from a previous lesson plan, create your own. Get some professional training in PowerPoint and then you can really put the fun into learning, no matter the age or ability of your audience.