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… 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.

UD thanks Andre.

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3 Responses to “Take note of the photo…”

  1. Pete Copeland Says:

    Today I had two croissants for breakfast. After I finished the second, I thought maybe I should have stopped after one. From this I concluded that croissants are bad. Upon reflection, perhaps all pastries are bad.

    Damn croissants and all who eat them!

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    If only the millions of people who abuse the croissant could stop themselves, Pete.

  3. Pete Copeland Says:

    But that’s just it, Margaret! it is the tool, not the craftsman that is responsible for the quality of the work. I was as powerless to stop at one croissant as we are are in using PowerPoint.

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