Sing it, sister.

It’s a common experience – a dimly lit classroom, the low hum of the projector, and the soft glow of yet another bulleted list on the screen.

Eyes grow heavy. The professor stands motionless, ensconced behind a podium and laptop. Attention fades.

Across our great University, PowerPoint has become a crutch for teaching rather than a tool for learning. With more and more technology migrating into classrooms and students seeking an easy lecture crib sheet, these presentations have come to lead lectures rather than augment them.

Students recognize that the best professors make subjects come alive with interesting lectures, open discussion, and critical questioning. No teacher has ever derived effectiveness solely from sleek slides with cheesy fade effects. At its heart, much of education needs little more than a teacher, some chairs, and perhaps a book.

The New York Times recently covered a conference earlier this month in North Carolina where military leaders spoke openly of the hazard posed by dependence on the ubiquitous PowerPoints. Brigadier General H.R. McMaster warned that “it’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding, the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

And therein lays the crux of the problem. When lectures are molded to fit the constraints of PowerPoint, learning is compromised and subjects become pasteurized, homogenized, and intellectually boring. Abandoning this crutch will enhance learning and create more opportunities to practice extemporaneous public speaking with probing questions and answers. These skills challenge students to become better listeners and thinkers — qualities that are of critical importance in today’s increasingly complex world.

Extemporaneous public speaking with probing questions and answers
. Sounds like teaching!

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One Response to “A University Diaries Shout-Out to the Editorial Board of the University of Minnesota Daily”

  1. david foster Says:

    Extemporaneous speaking without good preparation and practice can easily become random rambling, as painful for the audience as a bad P/P presentation. It’s great for those who are willing to learn how to do it, but shouldn’t be an excuse for walking into the classroom or the meeting room unprepared.

    The core problem here is that there are too many people whose jobs involve speaking who either don’t care enough to learn how to do it well, or have themselves been exposed to so many awful presenters that they don’t even understand what is possible.

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