A (somewhat trivial) PowerPoint issue.

28 02 2011

Despite the fact that its so easy to misuse, I still lecture with PowerPoint in my survey classes. I’ve defended that practice elsewhere, so I don’t feel like I need to do it now. I will say this again though: The illustrative power of pictures in a history class is so great that to me not using PowerPoint is a form of educational malpractice.

There is also great value to using PowerPoint for primary source quotes. In my pre-Power Point days, I remember reading out relatively long primary source quotes from my notes as if I was the narrator from a Ken Burns documentary. Now this strikes me as rather inefficient since I can now talk about the quote rather than read what students can read for themselves.

But thanks to a couple of conversations I’ve had lately, I’m beginning to wonder if that much multi-tasking is too much to ask from students. So professorial readers, the questions of the day are:

Do you ever read text (particularly quotations) from a PowerPoint lecture? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes, I know this whole line of questioning is somewhat trivial, but I still think there’s some interesting teaching philosophy issues under-girding this seemingly insignificant argument.

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4 responses

28 02 2011
livingdelilah

I used to, but after a few years of uni found that just listening ot the lecturer and taking it all in by listening, not even taking notes, I would get a greater understanding of the whole picture. Just depends how you learn.

1 03 2011
Leslie M-B

If I put a quote on a slide, I read it, as I never know if students can physically see the slide well enough to read it. It’s an accessibility issue.

2 03 2011
thatsnothistory

I pretty much use powerpoint for images and spelling – I teach world history so there are a lot of unfamiliar terms and names, those go on slides with relevant images. For the rare occasions when I read a longish quote as part of my lecture, I’ve started putting them on powerpoint. This was based on feedback from senior faculty who observed my class, and since they’re the ones who make tenure decisions, I do what they tell me. For now. My sense is that students get the point and the feel of the language better from just listening.

As to the obverse, I never put text on a slide I don’t read. My experience of going to talks where the speaker does that is that you either hear what they’re saying or read the slide, not both. It’s like asking your students to stop listening while they read. If text is worth putting on a slide, it’s worth taking the time to read.

3 03 2011
Western Dave

Although I don’t use powerpoint much, I (use Smartideas or Smartnotebook, depending on what I’m doing), I do put text that I am reading on the interactive white board all the time. I also give students a handout of said text and (because I am using an interactive white board) we annotate together. So I’ll beak down a quote into component parts, showing the students how I interpret the document, as well as providing the interpretation. But, I teach Upper School at a K-12 to rooms of 18 kids, not big lecture halls. But I bet you could do something similar.

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