Crooked Timber has an interesting exchange about the uses and abuses of PowerPoint and similar presentation software in teaching.
Let me see if I can make some sense of my thoughts on the subject:
PP instead of Blackboard/Whiteboard
- The cons: The good thing about a blackboard is that a) it slows down your presentation and b) it allows you to improvise and elaborate parts of your argument. Also, no-one expects that you write all of your presentation on a blackboard – only the essential or most difficult parts.
- The pros: If you have a handwriting like mine, writing on a blackboard yields an illegible pattern of … something. And unless you’re Michelangelo, you still need some kind of media to show figures and pictures.
PP instead of OH slides
- The cons: I must admit that I have a hard time finding an argument for using OH slides. I suspect that they are cheaper to produce, though: You need a laptop and a projector to use PP. Perhaps OHs are useful if you only have to produce the odd slide.
- The pros: PP is more flexible and you can edit your presentation without having to throw out a whole series of slides.
PP instead of talking. Or whatever
- The cons: A PP presentation freezes the presentation. Especially in more advanced courses, you want to encourage reflection and different perspectives – not promote an ex-cathedra interpretation.
- The pros: Students want hand-outs. PowerPoint handouts. Before the lecture, if you don’t mind. Which of cause begs the question: Why not record the whole thing and have someone play it for the students on a TV-set?
Hmm – I’m not sure that this really adds up to a set of didactic principles.
I should also declare myself guilty of all sorts of PP-abuse in classrooms.
While we’re at it: Don’t miss this!