Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Prof. PowerPoint

Laura of 11D has been trying out PowerPoint in her classes lately despite some initial reluctance to do so. I have to say I’m generally in the anti-slideshow† camp, with a few exceptions:

  • I always do my job talks with a presentation if I can. It keeps me organized, it avoids handouts and fiddling with overheads, and (with a remote) I can wander around more freely.
  • I do the “math” part of methods with presentations; I can’t draw most Greek letters to save my life, and overheads are just too fiddly for me.

The big downsides are the lack of spontaneity, which affects all classes, and showing steps in figuring out a problem—the “here’s one I baked earlier” problem—that I think detracts from student learning in methods if you don’t structure the presentation right (usually I break from the presentation to work out problems on the board).

I couldn’t see using a presentation in a seminar; anything I’d write on the board in the seminar would be too hard to predict in advance anyway. But if I end up at a place with large introductory classes, I’ll probably use more presentations for the self-interested reason that “PowerPoint = good evaluations” and the more practical reason that I’ll probably end up teaching multiple sections of the introductory course at such a place anyway.

† Even when I use presentations, I normally don’t use PowerPoint, OpenOffice, or Keynote; instead, I use the über-secret slideshow features of PDF viewers like Adobe Reader or xpdf with LaTeX.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. Steven Taylor wrote @ Tue, 6 Mar 2007, 7:55 pm CST:

I have long like to have overheads for class (the old-fashioned kind), as I have long felt that having visuals (especially maps, tables, figures, etc.) were an enhancement to class. I even have used, to varying degrees, outlines and such as overheads—although I do like to use the board as well.

In the last year or so I finally decided to give PowerPoints a whirl, and have actually found them to be pretty useful as a skeleton around which to build class—especially in the General Studies World Politics class I currently am teaching.

Of course, I rarely do anything quantitative, so that’s an issue as well.

Now, in my seminars I have no use for it. Although I did put together one summary presentation for a grad class last semester.

I guess it depends on the class material and the instructor.

I may post more on this later.

[Permalink] 2. Greg Weeks wrote @ Wed, 7 Mar 2007, 12:01 pm CST:

I was actually going to write something very similar to Steven. I still have spontaneity, but I think it is important to use Power Point as a “skeleton” to keep the lecture on track, without overdoing it. Then the presentation enhances the lecture without replacing it.

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