“The worst is when the class consists of the professor lecturing students from a PowerPoint, word for word, that they are going to post on BlackBoard. Then they allow students to take the test on blackboard as well. What is the point of the class? I might as well be taking it online. There is no point for me to go to that class, yet the professor insists on sending around the attendance sheet, every single time.”

This Quinnipiac University student has a point. It makes no sense for professors to have strict attendance policies in classes where attendance is pointless.

But of course precisely classes in which attendance is useless tend to be those with the strictest attendance policies. After all, the entire class – not just this student – can reason their way to non-attendance of a class in which attendance is pointless. And they do; they do.

Which leaves the professor in an embarrassing position. She comes to class to turn out the lights, put her head down, and read aloud her prepared PowerPoint script. She seems to think that’s what Quinnipiac is paying her for: She is to appear twice a week, set up a PowerPoint, and read the slides out loud.

But if there are no students in the room, she not only enters, twice a week, a theater of the absurd; she also worries that word will get around that although her enrollments look fine, the reality is that no one attends any of her classes.

No one is going to be more frantic about mandatory attendance than this woman; it’s the only way she can maintain the fiction that she’s a professor and not a robotic data dumper. Of course she’ll encourage her students to use their laptops during class (she’s way tech-friendly; it’s so cutting-edge… So much better than turning on the lights and looking at people and talking to them … ), which will soften the blow for them… Give them something to do while she’s reciting the alphabet.

Passion, and cans.

“PowerPoint is not very interactive and (presentations) tend to be very canned,” DeLoach said. “Students are more engaged when a professor is passionate, and it’s hard to be passionate (with a canned presentation).”

All you have to do is ask.

Beier further demonstrates his deference by welcoming feedback mid-way through each term. Sometimes the feedback leads to big changes, like the time he ditched PowerPoint presentations.

An award-winning teacher is interviewed.

The Dead Zone

The professor only talked about things on the PowerPoint, and after class he posted the PowerPoints on Blackboard.

After we figured that out, no one took notes.

We didn’t have a single homework assignment due in the class. We only had six papers, and in all of those papers, we were allowed to use the PowerPoints as sources. So each day, I showed up physically, but not mentally, ultimately wasting both my own time and the professor’s. And I still received an A in the class… If you’re worried about students not showing up, it’s time to up your game.

This University of Nebraska student notes the latest trend in the morgue classroom: Mandatory attendance policies. No one wants to be in a morgue, so no one shows up. The coroner, glancing up from his slides, takes umbrage: I will not be left alone in the dark! To stand here in blackness listening to the sound of my own voice reading a textbook – it is too terrible! So he forces the students to sit – formaldehyded row after row – or they flunk the course.

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Really – if you don’t make the morgue mandatory, no one will show up. A student at the University of Texas Arlington thinks his psych and algebra classes have around fifty students in them, but

it’s hard to tell when no one comes.

… Attendance isn’t mandatory, and my instructor posts all of the PowerPoint presentations to Blackboard. So rather than have a PowerPoint read to me, which I can find online, I’d much rather meet with my Freshman Leaders on Campus group or get some actual work done.

My math class runs on a similar dynamic.

Is dynamic quite the word?

From the Steve Jobs Biography

In the recently published Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, Jobs discusses how he re-invented Apple during the iMac phase by abolishing the use of presentation software in meetings. He felt that people were relying on the creation and presentation of a slide deck instead of actually thinking about the business problem and how to solve it. On page 337 of the telling biography, Jobs says, “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

How much more dispiriting to see its constant use in university classrooms.

The second year at the University of York is better than the first.

Moving from first year I’ve seen nothing but improvement – as a fresher my lectures were about as dynamic as a turnip. The endless PowerPoint slides after PowerPoint slides, each one a glutton for the fashionable use amongst lecturers of bullet points as sentence connectives, sucked the life out of the subject and students faster than the love-child of a Dementor and a Dyson until our fruits of knowledge were all but jaded, shrivelled little raisins.

…So starting my second year it is a wonderful surprise to find that my new set of didactic pedagogues do not endeavour to make the phrase “death by PowerPoint” a reality, but I feel that they are talking to me and engaging me in the discipline, arousing such strange sentiments as an actual desire to do the wider reading.

Kind of all over the place writing, but I think you pick up on the fact that he didn’t like PowerPoint.

Good writing…

… from a Northern Illinois University student. It’s about classroom PowerPoint use.

[W]hen we graduate from this prison of perpetual PowerPoints, the information we will have to learn is not going to be presented to us in slide form…

Prison of perpetual PowerPoints is excellent.

The only reason why I can think you, professors, rely on PowerPoint presentation is because you are lazy. Why require students to know the material before class when you can just read it to them? Why spend time formulating an intriguing lecture when you can copy and paste from the book? Especially, why put in extra effort when you get paid either way?

… I pay to be taught. What is the point of paying a professor’s salary if the knowledge I gain in class is no greater than what I could have [gotten] from buying the book? If a subject is best taught strictly via PowerPoint, then I say it is time to start laying off professors. Cut costs by making it an online class, or install text-to-speech software on classroom computers and have an undergraduate click through slides and collect Scantron homework assignments and tests.

He’s seen the future, for sure.

Anticipatory PowerPoint Syndrome

As I look at the many faces in front of me as the school year begins, I see not only worry [about] enduring yet another PowerPoint presentation, but I also see eyes hungry for the dazzle of exploring and conquering new topics.

An American professor in Turkey notes the characteristic fear and misery on the faces of first-day-of-the-semester students as they anticipate PowerPoint use.

Anti PowerPoint Party…

… making big strides and getting big attention.

Next up: US of A.

How to identify a useless class at Sacramento State.

From the campus newspaper at Sacramento State University.

The classes where students can text on their iPhones the entire class because they are not missing anything by not paying attention [are] a waste of time. Professors who stare at text, recite, and never bother to look up, are a sign the class is going to be useless.

“The (professors) that are there for the [pay]check just run PowerPoint or read out of the book,” said senior business major Anita Yaroshuk. “I could read out of the book at home.”

Yaroshuk said she thinks about 75 percent of her professors care about their students.

Meaning 25%…?

Another PowerPoint testimonial.

Julie Bindel, The Guardian.

On leaving academia seven years ago I vowed that I would never use PowerPoint again. I still speak at conferences, though, and have been known to rant at organisers when asked in advance for my PPT presentation. I inform them that I will be turning up with a set of index cards on which I have jotted down key points, but will not be boring my audience to tears with fiddly slides consisting of flying text, fussy fonts or photo montages.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in having a real discussion about ideas as opposed to force-feeding an increasingly sleepy crowd with numerous graphs and bullet points projected on to the nearest wall. Sometimes I wonder why we even bother showing up to hear a colleague elucidate on their thesis, when we are helpfully posted an advance printout of the presentation. As the speaker is building to a crucial statistic, delegates have long finished and are doing the crossword instead.

PowerPoint / CounterPowerPoint

UD‘s friend Philip alerts her to the emergence of a Swiss political party whose platform is simply the effort to eliminate psychologically crushing, time and money wasting, PowerPoint use as much as possible around the world.

Turns out “anyone in the world can become a member of a Swiss party.” Who knew?

Here’s where you can join (the page features Horror Slides of the Month).

Many university students are brutalized by PowerPoint on a daily basis.

PowerPoint-abusing professors tend to be described by students as boring lazy tyrants.

Other abusers may not be tyrannical so much as cowardly. They may be people who have allowed themselves to be intimidated into hauling PowerPoint into class by the tech weenies in administration.

Join the Anti PowerPoint Party. Be the change.

“Do not teach in a darkened classroom.”

From an interview with Julian Young, in Figure/Ground.

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What makes a good teacher today? How do you manage to command attention in an age of interruption characterized by attention deficit and information overflow?

It is very difficult to give a general answer to this question, for teaching, like love, is an intuitive business that cannot properly be articulate[d] in rules and procedures. (That is why one should never go to a ‘teaching-improvement workshop’.) One thing to do is to stop complaining about students. Sure, they suffer from ADD but one needs to get into the habit of liking them, of not regarding them as the enemy, patients, cannon fodder, or a necessary evil. Students tend to respond well to someone they sense wishes them well. Never let students think that your real life is research – work that happens out of the classroom – try to make it the case, so far as possible, that (as in the nineteenth-century) your research and teaching are one and the same. Do not pander too much to the demand for ‘visual aids’. Do not teach in a darkened classroom and, especially, do not structure you[r] lecture around a set of ‘bullet points’ projected onto a screen. Remember that bullet points are discrete while thought is continuous so that what bullet points represent is, in fact, the death of thought…

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UD thanks Dirk for the link.

Take note of the photo…

… of Tufts University’s award-winning computer science professor Ben Hescott.

He is writing. His very own writing he is writing on a blackboard! What happened to his bullet points??

Q. Did you experience an “aha’’ teaching moment?

A. My first time teaching, I was using PowerPoint slides. One student kept saying, “I don’t see it.’’ So I turned off the computer, grabbed a piece of chalk, and went through the material slowly on the blackboard, without notes. Afterward, the kid said, “You’re a really good teacher when you’re not using PowerPoint.’’ That changed everything.

Q. And now?

A. I let material tell its own story. It’s like an improv show where the actors know they have a few plot elements to get out, but who cares how the rest gets filled in?

Let us slowly – and, since I’ve said it a hundred times – redundantly review the main ideas.

BULLET POINT NUMBER ONE: When you plop all the answers down on dead screens in front of students, they don’t see it. What does this mean?

BULLET POINT NUMBER TWO: It means that teachers exist to animate thought processes, to improvisationally, humanly, walk students through how you get to certain ideas, hypotheses, answers, argumentative positions, points of view. If students could see it just by looking at a list of points and a final point, you wouldn’t need human teachers. (And of course the growing ranks of lucky all-distance-ed students get to enjoy the lack of human teachers for the rest of their lives.)

BULLET POINT NUMBER THREE: When you teach humanly, loosely, improvisationally, you exhibit an intellectual ethos that has to do with autonomy, flexibility, humor, unexpectedness, and above all the implicit promise that, like their teacher, students have the capacity to assume a creator’sa shaper’s – attitude toward knowledge. Knowledge in the university – the real university – is a richness with which all fortunate enough to enter the campus generatively, intensely, play. This is why we refer to the play of ideas. Ben Hescott is talking about the play of ideas.

Pity the PowerPointed.

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UD thanks Andre.

And just think:

All over the country, professors teach with it.

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