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I quoted this in a post a long time ago, and its source – Truman State University’s newspaper – no longer has it online.

I’ve always been moved – angered – by what that student found it necessary to plead. Her Teach us something! haunts me. It’s so easy to put away the PowerPoints and the laptops and smartphones and the rest of the other barrier technologies and just turn the lights back on and look at people and talk to them. Assuming you have something to say beyond a verbal data dump. The PowerPointed plus laptopped classroom is what UD has long called, on this blog, The Morgue Classroom, where everyone ‘s dead – instructor and students.

We can expect more outbursts like this one in our secondary schools and colleges – more Teach Us Somethings – as teachers and professors continue their dance with death in the classroom. The outburst has gone way viral; Jeff Bliss’s statement (“They need to learn face to face.”) is getting national and international attention.

It’s icing on the cake that this happened in Texas, one of our most ignorant states. What are they up to in Texas high schools that’s making the news? A one million dollar football scoreboard.


(UD thanks JND and UD‘s sister.).

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5 Responses to “‘I took an art history class at Truman in which we spent endless hours flipping through PowerPoint slides of paintings while the professor read, one by one, the title of each work. We received mountains of information, but toward the end of the semester, one student sitting next to me actually pleaded under her breath, “Teach us something!”’”

  1. Jonathan Shewchuk Says:

    I made the mistake of teaching one class (a graduate class) with transparencies (back in the days when overhead projectors were still available in the classrooms). I soon regretted it, because I could sense that the students weren’t really following everything as well as they could.

    Through experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the most important elements of classroom teaching is good pacing. And the easiest way to pace well is to write the most important information on the blackboard/whiteboard/tablet computer. It forces you to naturally match your pacing to that of the students (at least those who are wise enough to take notes).

    P.S. My essay on speaking: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~jrs/speaking.html

    P.P.S. PowerPoint sucks.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Jonathan: Wonderful essay (plus wonderful cartoons); and your point about pacing really made me think. Most of my courses are smallish (18 – 20) seminars. Ideally there, the pacing emerges naturally, each class session, as a lively discussion develops. My function then, I think, is to keep the ball in the air – to maintain a focus on the point of that particular session even as I let the natural polemical energy of students express itself. When the pacing of a class like that has worked, you know it afterwards by the (sometimes mild, sometimes intense) brain-euphoria you feel.

  3. Jeremy Bangs Says:

    Jonathan: your essay refers to teaching computer science or mathematics. The student at Truman State University was complaining about a course in art history. It may be more difficult to communicate information about art history by omitting slides and writing on the blackboard, whatever the pace.

  4. david foster Says:

    Concern has been raised recently about the US military’s heavy use of Chinese communications satellites for overseas links. The reason/excuse given for this is the very high bandwidths required.

    I wonder what % of the bandwidth is being chewed up by P/P presentations…

  5. Ian Says:

    What the student describes (decries?) could readily have been achieved in a pre-PowerPoint art history lecture using a slide projector. Don’t get me wrong – I spend a good deal of my working life combatting unthinking use of Power Point. But this particular example seems to be less about the evils of PowerPoint than about the evils of bad art history instruction.

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