Jake Goldbas, in the North Carolina State University …

… newspaper, talks about some of the professors he’s had.

His writing is a bit awkward, but UD admires his stress on real encounters between human beings in university classrooms.

[Some] professors … are impersonal. Perhaps this is best seen in the voice of reason. If the professor poses some voice of cool logic, then they are probably ignoring your question for the sake of convenience. These are the types to stay close to their scripts, reading their power points as if power points were the last say on knowledge. Generally speaking, the bigger the class size, the more impersonal it gets.

What a rush of joy it is for these people not to have to answer real problems, real questions, real intelligence.

… Real relationships, real exchange of teaching and learning are hard to come by. The problem is facilitated by the sleeping student, the texting student and the student on Facebook during class. No one can know the authority is corrupt when they know nothing about the authority…

“Remind us of the convincing power of good oration.”

Hillary Reinsberg, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, reminds us that you can be highly selected, and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still get a cheesy education.

Huffington Post:

The lights go dim, eyes begin to shut and the room gets quiet. Sorry kids, if you’re looking for a story about the bedroom, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Welcome to a college lecture hall in 2010.

Too many classes begin the same way: with an often cheesy PowerPoint presentation. The professor hooks up a projector to a computer and spends ninety minutes clicking through a series of slides. In order to best see the projection, the lights are usually dimmed or shut off entirely. Blinds are closed to trap out the sunlight, making the room feel like a claustrophobic cave.

And on a Monday afternoon in a beautiful old lecture hall, I feel like I’m being pitched a product in a cheesy office sitcom. Oh, and the dark room makes me sleepy. Get me out of here!

… [P]rofessors should think of the future of the students they should hope to inspire. A generation of students accustomed to lackluster and lazy slides on a projector will enter the workforce with the idea that this is a good way to do things…

The only way these professors are going to change (it’s not a matter of their learning that what they’re doing is cheesy; they already know that) is for all of us to keep complaining. Loudly.

PowerPoint Pissoff

From a student opinion piece at Sam Houston State University:

One summer, I took a class with an especially dry subject matter. Sitting through lecture after lecture taken nearly verbatim from the chapter we were just quizzed on was absolutely numbing. What are we paying professors for if all they do is put the textbook up on PowerPoint and read it to us? Ten hours a week, wasted.

PowerPoint Pissoff in Saskatchewan

A student writes in the University of Saskatchewan newspaper:

… Think about what you’re paying for each class. In Term 2 there are approximately 24 lectures per course. With the course costing approximately $600 and the text at, oh say $100, that’s nearly $30 per class. For about an hour long lecture, is it really worth the money? For 30 bucks you could go see two movies … and even get snacks for each! Even if one of the movies sucks, you’re still getting more entertainment value than a prof reading some PowerPoint slides.

Oh, sure, sure, but school isn’t about entertainment. It’s about learning and education. Let’s not lie to ourselves; there’s not much of that going on. So if we aren’t learning we should at least be entertained. And as fun as it is watching documentaries when the prof is too lazy to give a lecture; it’s just not worth the moolah…

Lazy Professors and PowerPoint

From a University of Texas student’s opinion piece about his junior year there:

The structure of [one] class was a bit difficult to deal with at times, as the professor often put a ridiculously large amount of information on each of his powerpoint slides, filling up each slide and making it look almost like a wall of text

A Returning University Student from Canada…

… notices something.

At 55, I’ve recently returned to university (undergraduate BScN) after graduating from my second undergraduate degree in 1990.

Many lectures now consist of someone simply reading what is on a PowerPoint presentation, and expanding on the points with whatever comes into their head. In the past, what I valued was the lecturer sharing what they knew about the topic from their own research or real world experience. To have someone reiterate what I’ve already read in the text is a waste of my time.

My vote would be to get rid of PowerPoint presentations. That would force lecturers to prepare to lecture rather than provide McEducation.


Here’s a blog post, plus a long comment thread, on the glories of PowerPoint use in the classroom.


I get nothing out of [one particular] class. The instructor uses Web CT for grading, submissions, and announcements.

His lectures are all Powerpoint presentations. He didn’t write the presentations. He downloaded them from the same place I did, the textbook publisher’s website. No new material that is not in the book or on the Powerpoints is introduced. The only reason I go to class is because he will display a screen shot of what he wants done in the programming assignments.

As a tuition paying student I should get more out of class than what I would get if I just phoned in … my assignment.

The irresponsibility and cynicism of the professor described here is so flagrant that the student ends up looking like a dupe. Do you let scam artists into your home? No – the minute you see them slithering down the street, you lock your door. You should know, after one class session with a professor of this type, to drop the course.

The post has fifty-one comments so far. Take a look. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from the post itself — more explanation from a student as to why Powerpoint is designed for lazy professors.

…[M]any textbooks now come with ready-made PowerPoint lectures for each chapter. The problem is that when the professor does not make the presentation, they run the risk of sounding like they don’t know what they’re talking about. My current Operating Systems professor suffers from this. As each new slide comes up, he takes a second to read it and then starts with, “Okay, what this slide is talking about is …” or “What they mean by this is …” As opposed to explaining the material himself, it sounds like he just expects us to read the slides, and then let him elaborate. The primary instruction comes from the slides, and he just backs it up…

Could these two comments be any sadder? Any more scandalous? What are they saying? They’re saying that these professors aren’t teaching at all. A disgusting situation, for so many reasons. Here’s a pragmatic one: It can’t go on. Universities full of assholes who don’t teach will go out of business. Students will catch on to the scam. Simple as that.

Speaking Outward

Central Michigan University’s newspaper says many important things about PowerPoint use in the classroom. The article is very strong, but the student comment AFTER the article is even stronger.

Let’s take a look.

For Robert Bailey, using PowerPoint slides for his class lectures hinder a student’s learning capabilities.

Bailey, a professor of biology, teaches three entry-level biology courses and said he tries to keep PowerPoint use to a minimum.

“I used anywhere from 30 to 50 slides per class when I first started teaching and would give students print versions of the slides, but it didn’t take long for attendance to come down,” he said. “Before Thanksgiving break one year, only 10 students showed up for our final unit on human genetics. I knew I had to do something.”   [Point One, among many obvious points: Provide the same information online and students won’t come to class. UD is absolutely certain there are professors who welcome this outcome. Most do not.]

Bailey said students cannot seem to decide what is important from a PowerPoint presentation and think everything posted is golden.

“It’s convenient to use PowerPoint slides for large lecture classes, but students get caught up in trying to write everything down and spend their time writing instead of listening,” he said.   [Point Two, equally obvious: Too much information. The student who comments below will elaborate on the point.]

It can be useful, however.

“We just need to remember that less is more. Slides should contain the most useful information. I try not showing more than 10 slides per class. I believe active, not passive, learning is the most beneficial,” Bailey said. “By active learning, I mean group interaction, where we all can get a better understanding of what the issues are and solve them.”   [Point Three, yet more obvious. Turn people into confused sheeplike herds and they’re unlikely to learn anything.]

… [S]ophomore Brett McMahon said he does not like when PowerPoint slides are used in his classes.

“I like when teachers physically write on the board what they feel we need to know. PowerPoint presentations don’t make classes harder, just confusing. I never know what to write down and how much,” he said… [Point Four: Not only some discussion is crucial; clear signals about what the professor considers important to know are crucial. The things we go to the trouble of writing on the board with our very own fingers are the important things, not the twelve bullet points some book has provided for your slide. Physically writing on the board is also letting the students watch the professor’s brain operate right there in front of them. PowerPoint of course makes professors just as passive as it makes students.  Everyone reads off of a nice neat packaged page. Writing on the board is messy, human, dynamic — thought in motion. Active.]

[F]reshman Erika Schrand said knowing what to copy is easier when professors write directly on the board.

“Sometimes teachers put too much information on the slides and I can’t sort what is important from all the other excess information,” she said.

[Now to the comment.]

One Response to “Some CMU faculty moving away from PowerPoint presentations in classroom”

Antonio says:

Professors trying to use Powerpoint for their lectures has been my biggest pet-peeve while attending CMU. It’s a waste of paper, ink, and time, and only increases tuition to cover the cost of the paper and ink wasted when students print out full slides of black background presentations.

No offense to the professors, as I’ve had many great ones over the years, but I’ve never had a professor who provided notes correctly by use of a computer. (Ok, maybe one). Most of the time, the idea of outline organization has been non-existent.

I do realize professional seminars and events such as TED seminars often use Powerpoints, but the environments there are completely different than a classroom.

To the professors: Anyone can remember and regurgitate information given to us on pre-made Powerpoint presentations, but if it’s information we could have critically and actively filtered through while simply listening to you speak, why make a Powerpoint for it? Why not just give us the ideas and concepts you want us to understand without dividing our attention away from listening to instead focusing on a big projector with the SAME thing you just said, just in different wording?

This makes even less sense when you take into account how much professors usually dislike all the new technology, anyway. Why give us Powerpoint notes, base exams solely on those notes, and then mark us down for not coming to class? What do you honestly expect to come of that?

The only bigger interest killer I’ve seen is when professors spend 5-10 minutes trying to project a piece of paper that everyone already has. Why do we need to see it in two different places? We know how to follow along.

Contrary to popular belief, it is very possible to give a lecture without all these external visual aids. Every time a new semester begins, or there is some problem with the computer network, up to 5-10 minutes or more is wasted trying to figure out the technology, and if it doesn’t work, the professor acts like he/she doesn’t know what to do. For some reason, it seems academic administrations have forgotten the simple tool of speaking outward to a classroom without all this technology mumbo jumbo.

Conclusion: Step away from trying to fumble with the technology and tell us what you want us to know. If the technology is absolutely necessary for your lecture, figure it out beforehand instead of during class time.


Teach us something.

Speak to us.





A Fond Farewell to UC Irvine…

… by a graduating senior.

Everyone [has] told me to stop thinking [negative thoughts] and to enjoy what should be the best time of my life. I never understood what is meant by that, ‘the best time of my life.’ I couldn’t understand how sitting in a lecture hall day after day listening to professors read off PowerPoint slides to rooms full of half-asleep students was ‘the best time of my life.’

Season’s Greetings from PowerPoint

A Boston University student ponders PowerPoint vs. the old ways.

What we potentially lose in our tech-laden classrooms is the explanation of slide-simplified concepts, the engagement of figuring out your professor’s handwriting and scribbling down whatever he/she just wrote, and even the need, and more importantly will, to go to class and learn. Hark! The herald angels chalked.

The essay’s an intriguing riff on boredom… UD has already encountered in her reading about universities speculation that professors and students are drawn to classroom technology because many of them have come to enjoy being bored…

Or is it, UD wonders, that the classroom session has morphed into the classroom sesshin — a Zen sitting with soft lights, muttering monks, and the white noise of heating systems? The dharma was downloaded last Wednesday, so you don’t have to listen… The hour and ten minutes devotes itself to the most radical revision of university education in our time: Empty your head.

A quickie on a piece in Newsweek.

Starts like this.

When it comes to using technology to foster education, the prevailing wisdom has been that more is better. Over the past decade, universities around the globe have invested heavily in the wired classroom, adding everything from external laptop connections to Blu-ray DVD players. But there is little evidence that these gadgets enhance learning–and, critics argue, they might actually hinder it, making both students and teachers passive. What if classrooms were restored to the pre-Internet days of wooden tables and chalk?

Then there’s this bit about José Bowen, Mr Teach Naked.

Then it concludes.

Technology has a place in education, but it should be used independently by students outside the classroom. That gives them more time to absorb lectures via podcast or video, and frees teachers to spend class time coaching students in how to apply the material rather than simply absorb it.


There’ll Always Be a PowerPoint.

PowerPoint in England, from The Times:

Bertan Budak, [a student at Durham University, says]: “Lecturers are not interesting while teaching in class because they only say things rather than teaching. A lecturer spends more of lecturing time concentrating on PowerPoint presentations rather than focusing on the students.”

From the article’s comment thread:

A common tale amongst many graduates, myself included. A few weeks into the second year I realised… lectures will always be a case of reiterating bullet points on the PowerPoint presentation…

For the latter half of my uni education I, along with many of my classmates, brought in other material so we spent the time wisely, instead of listening to a balding guy repeating what was said on the screen.

Anti-PowerPoint Guy Makes National Public Radio…

… which knows an important trend when it sees one.

A certain theme recurs…

… in this Newsweek article featuring a group of great university professors.

Let’s look at how the reporter introduces the subject. Beginning of first paragraph:

There are few better fixes for insomnia than listening to a professor read her PowerPoint to you, slide by slide. And that can be a good thing, especially if you’ve been up all night playing Rock Band. But discovering a teacher who wakes you up instead of putting you to sleep is one of the most rewarding college experiences you can have…

Hey. I didn’t write it. Turns out I’m not the only one who knows most classroom PowerPoint use sucks.

The first featured professor has a fifty-student class. It’s a discussion class.

[Bob Goldberg] says the key is to let students know you notice them and keep them actively engaged at all times. For him, teaching is a lot like his chosen field of study. “It is really about experimentation,” says Goldberg, 65. He is constantly trying new things to get students involved: asking them to swab their cheeks for DNA analysis, tossing them heads of lettuce and asking, “Is this lettuce in its original form? What about this one?!” …Despite the class size, he wants all his students to know each other and feel comfortable participating in discussions. … Eden Maloney, class of 2012, was intimidated when Goldberg called her up to the front of the class to summarize a previous lecture (a Goldberg classroom staple), but, she says, “I learned not only critical analysis but also how to think clearly under pressure. Those skills are invaluable and go far beyond the classroom.”

This high-energy professor, a lad of 65, puts students on the spot. He calls them up to the front of the room to make presentations.


[William Flesch’s] goal in the classroom: to get students to argue with him. “If you agree with everything I’m saying, I’ve failed,” he says. He takes that philosophy to heart, baiting his students to get them to debate among themselves and asking them to design their papers in the same manner…

Yet another:

Every week [Kathleen] Canning lectures for an hour, then steps back to allow discussion. “It’s key to listen, to let the students grab the material, work with it, and get as far as they can,” she says.

Small sample, I know. And not all of these people have big classes. None of them have enormous classes, etc.

But what keeps coming across to UD is the human drama of their classrooms — a combination of eager passion on the part of the professor for the subject; an equally eager passion on his or her part for discussion and debate; an ability to set intelligent terms for the discussion through some lecturing; and, finally, what I’d call an instinctive sympathetic interest in the professor’s students.

It’s not that these professors are hams, grabbing people by the lapels; they’re simply energetic organized minds attracted to other minds. They’re sincerely interested in an intellectual connection with their students. They take their students seriously as intellects, that is; they’re not condescending, but rather provocative, demanding, leading them on…


People want to be awakened.

PowerPoint is the opiate of the classes.

Kimberly Miller, at the Palm Beach Post…

… interviews Florida Atlantic University professors on the subject of PowerPoint, and gets some fascinating responses:

… One FAU professor said PowerPoint can be a crutch for “lousy” teachers who drag out the same old lectures, or, um, PPT’s (PowerPoint Presentations) each year.

Another has gone as far as to request a room change when he was put in a techie FAU business college classroom where he had to write on a small computer pad to have words projected on a screen.

“I said, ‘Oh forget this, just give me some chalk,'” said FAU history professor Stephen Engle, who advocates teaching through telling stories. “I want the oldest classroom on the campus.”

Might make a good rallying cry for the growing PowerPoint Pissoff brigade.


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