Do faculty rely too much upon PowerPoint and other technologies during their lectures? Have students become dependent upon PowerPoint handouts and are they now resistant to taking notes in class? These debates and concerns are often expressed here at the School and on campuses throughout the United States.
As a teaching device, PowerPoint was once a welcomed alternative to blurry overhead projectors. The flexibility provided by a PowerPoint presentation for printing, saving, and updating one’s material cannot be ignored. But after a decade of this technology, many students and professionals dread the idea of having to sit through one more PowerPoint presentation.
An article by Jeffrey R. Young in the current Chronicle of Higher Education considers alternatives to PowerPoint in a review of José A. Bowen’s web page about “Teaching Naked” or without technology: http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-Naked-Effort-Strips/47398/
Mr. Bowen is a dean at Southern Methodist University and has actually removed technology from the school’s classrooms. He contends “class time should be reserved for discussion, especially now that students can download lectures online and find libraries of information on the web.”
Here at the School of Public Health, some faculty are similarly asking students to listen to pre-recorded “lectures” before class and then using classroom time for discussion. Most report good results though there are some complaints about students not listening to the lecture as requested and thus being unprepared. However, is this any different than asking students to read an article before class? Both Bowen and others attempt to offset the preparation problem by issuing short quizzes at the beginning of every class. Alternatively, the faculty could start each class with a question and answer session. Faculty who have done this also suggest resisting the urge to re-lecture on that same content during classroom time to make up the lack of student preparation. This only reinforces the problem.
If you too decide to experiment, the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology (CTLT) has many tools that can support this strategy. You can pre-record your lectures, either on your own or in the studio, post them on your CoursePlus site, and use the Quiz Generator feature of CoursePlus for quizzes. The Instructional Designers will also work with you to brainstorm alternative classroom strategies for engaging the learners.
PowerPoint and other instructional technologies serve many good purposes. But anything can be overused. A bit of variety keeps everyone interested.