Our Wednesday blog posts are a smattering of ideas from a wider variety of sources than we cover on the other days of the week. Today, visual presentations. On a personal note, I love it when a colleague asks for my powerpoints and I explain that it will happen . . . never.
The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator. Performed by Patrick N. Allitt. U.S.A.: The Teaching Company, 2010. DVD. Lecture 8, “Teaching with PowerPoint.”
In this lecture, Allitt speaks about use of technology in teaching. Specifically, here he addresses the use of PowerPoint, a useful tool for showing illustrations, rather the way teachers in former days used slide projectors. Unfortunately, the tool can be overused and misused in such a way as to damage the effectiveness of a teacher.
If there is an undeniable gain involved in use of the technology it should be used. Before the mid-1800s it was relatively unusual to see pictures. The development of the magic lantern, an early slide projector, created a great deal of interest as it was possible to show pictures of items to large numbers of people. PowerPoint, developed in the 1990s, allowed presenters to have highly visual presentations easily. Unfortunately, it is easy to overwhelm the student with content and visuals, leaving a lecture cluttered and confusing. Simple graphics and very brief text makes a more helpful visual aid. The visual presentation can divide attention between the teacher and the presentation.
Removing the slide from a screen after using it is important. As long as the slide is on the screen, attention will be divided between the teacher and the slide. Further, since lights are often dimmed when a projection is in use, students tend to relax and be less alert. The slides, when used, must do something more than what you are doing yourself. Allitt illustrates useful slides which he uses, pictures from various historical periods. He gives examples of the discussions which can be prompted by a vivid visual image.
Allitt also draws a distinction between a presentation which bears the whole content of the class and one which does not. Because he wishes his students to be in class he purposely avoids having essential content in any presentation he makes available outside of class. Other instructors would like to have a presentation which does provide all the necessary content.
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