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September 8, 2015 Archives

This is a cross-post from Talking Teaching.

   The author of this article certainly thinks so. Under that header, he continues:

Do you really believe that watching a lecturer read hundreds of PowerPoint slides is making you smarter? I asked this of a class of 105 computer science and software engineering students last semester.

Well, first up, that's a leading (& loaded) question. And secondly, I'd be surprised if anyone really believed that. Yes, I'm sure that there are lecturers who simply read off their powerpoint slides (which really is a no-no!). And what did we use in the days Before Powerpoint (BP)? Quite likely overhead transparencies, either printed or handwritten, and yes, some of us certainly had lecturers who simply read all the information off the transparency. (I know I did!)

In other words, the header ignores the fact that Powerpoint is simply a tool. Nothing more, and nothing less. It cannot make anyone boring. That's done by the person using it; similarly, the way the tool is used will have a flow-on effect on learners. Indeed, this was the focus of a post I wrote some time ago, and if you haven't already read the 2008 paper by Yiannis Gabriel that I discussed therein, you should do so now.

A better question would be: how do we help professors to use powerpoint (& other technologies) in ways that better support student learning?

That, of course, requires that we are able to measure student learning in meaningful ways. And here I definitely agree with the author of the article: 

Any university can deploy similar testing to measure student learning. Doing so would facilitate rigorous evaluations of different teaching methods. We would be able to quantify the relationship between PowerPoint use and learning. We would be able to investigate dozens of learning correlates and eventually establish what works and what doesn't.

Perhaps we should start thinking about this.

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