… [University students no longer know] how to take notes from research material. A dependency culture on teachers [has been] created, facilitated by PowerPoint and its non-Microsoft equivalents Keynote and Impress. When these students arrive at university, many academics perpetuate the problem. A lack of planning and preparation for a teaching session means too many walk into a lecture with a memory stick of PowerPoint slides. They have not written a lecture. They have written PowerPoint slides. They think these two things are the same. They are not. We see similar problems in conferences. Researchers are meant to present scholarship to colleagues. Instead they project PowerPoint slides.
… [For teachers] the default setting is [now] PowerPoint. …Think about the lectures, seminars and conferences you have attended in the past five years. Think about how many presenters used PowerPoint slides as notes for speaking. They either spent the entire session glued to the podium or looking back to the auditorium’s screen. Both systems perpetuated a single flaw: they read the text visible to the audience. Such an action is offensive to those who take the time to “listen” to a session.
This flaw in presentation and speaking leads to the final – and most serious – problem for our students. Such presenters have written their entire script on PowerPoint slides. Students recognised this strategy. Therefore, why should they attend a lecture or seminar when everything that is said is on the slides? That is not laziness on the part of a student. They are being logical. There is no benefit in attending the class.
The unfortunate consequence of this decision is that students lose – or do not gain – the ability to take notes. The decision by school teachers to present not only the key ideas from the curriculum, but notes from textbooks via PowerPoint slides is having an impact at universities…. [W]e have generations of students arriving at university unable to take notes from monographs and articles.
The writer concludes by touching on UD‘s PowerPoint-as-Burqa theory. UD argues that the burgeoning popularity of both the mobile person-hiding machine and the PowerPoint machine involves a growing terror of public interaction in itself. Not merely public speaking. Public anything.
Public speaking initiates fear. At conferences, I see experienced speakers shaking and sweating. I wonder why they put themselves through it. Similarly, preparation for a teaching session is stressful, time consuming and requires continual reflection. We as teachers are never good enough. We must improve. But PowerPoint creates a coma of conformity and a cap on student expectations of their learning environment.
Clifford Nass, a Stanford University professor, argued that PowerPoint “lifts the floor” of public speaking and at the same time “lowers the ceiling”. Students do not see appalling lectures, but neither do they see the brilliant. Journalist Francisco van Jole was even more definitive, describing PowerPoint as: “Viagra of the spoken word…a wonder pill for flabby lectures.” Like Viagra, PowerPoint only appears to benefit the user. The little blue pill triggers unfortunate side-effects such as light-headedness, indigestion, lower back pain and seeing an aura around objects. Similarly, PowerPoint medicates a nervous and ill-prepared speaker. What about the side-effects on students? For all the celebration of student-centred learning, PowerPointed teaching passes without comment.
All PowerPointers, like all burqa-wearers, look alike. They are asleep to the world, inside their coma of conformity.
UD thanks Bill.