We have all seen horrific examples of presentation software abuse, I am sure, but I don't think there is anything inherently evil about presentation software. I think that if used with care and thought, it can be a force for good (learning).
Consider these comments from my teaching evaluations from students who took my Huge Intro Science Class this past term:
Created great presentations
Had a well prepared powerpoint
Her powerpoints were great
Power point worked well!
Presented the material clearly through the slides
Provided great visuals.
Really great powerpoints
She had great powerpoints
She had really great powerpoints
She had very well written powerpoints
her powerpoints helped me learn a lot.
She used power points that were easy to take notes from
She used powerpoints during lecture
Spoke effectively and used powerpoints
The Power Point slides were very easy to follow
The Powerpoint presentations were very well done
The power points were very helpful
The prepared slides were really helpful
The slides were great.
great visual aids
Etc.. you get the picture that they liked the pictures. Those comments were not prompted by any sort of directed question, but were part of the general comments section of the course evaluation.
I was pretty sure that the course had gone well overall, but I was stunned by the overwhelming positive comments about the presentations. I have taught this course many times but I have never gotten comments like these on the presentation aspect of the class. What was different this time?
Although I have taught this course many times, I don't teach it so often that I can just walk into the lecture hall and automatically emit coherent words of great wisdom. I also change the course a bit each time in terms of materials and emphasis and examples. The re-thinking that I do before every class to make sure that I have a good idea of what I want to say and how I want to say it is accompanied by tinkering with the visual aids (The Powerpoints).
This past term I did in fact spend a lot of time working on the presentation part of the class. I think the presentations are good, but I don't think there is anything extraordinary about them, despite the raves in the evaluations. I think that what mostly improved was how I used The Powerpoints.
Or, at least, I like to think that it wasn't The Powerpoints alone that the students found useful. I don't use text slides (I write on the board and talk as I go along) and I used the images as one component of the class. My hope is that the students found the combination of teaching methods effective, and not just The Powerpoints -- that is, the images and what I said and how I said it and the pace that I went and the amount of material I covered in a certain combination of depth : breadth and the jokes that I told and maybe also the interpretive dances that I did on the table at the front of the room.
9 months ago