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Attack of the PowerPoint-Wielding Professors 467

theodp writes "A CS student blogger named Carolyn offers an interesting take on why learning from PowerPoint lectures is frustrating. Unlike an old-school chalk talk, professors who use PowerPoint tend to present topics very quickly, leaving little time to digest the visuals or to take learning-reinforcing notes. Also, profs who use the ready-made PowerPoint lectures that ship with many textbooks tend to come across as, shall we say, less than connected with their material. Then there are professors who just don't know how to use PowerPoint, a problem that is by no means limited to college classes."
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Attack of the PowerPoint-Wielding Professors

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @09:55AM (#30044878) Homepage Journal

    Are all college professors doing this? I think there are always in every generation going to be professors who don't want to put much effort into teaching classes. They are either there for doing research and thus don't care about learning or they aren't sure what they are doing there and just needed a job. There are a few annoying classes I took (in computer science even) where the professor would simply read from the book.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:07AM (#30044984)
      Even before powerpoint, there was the notorious professor who had a bunch of overhead transparencies that he'd been using for 20 years. Thankfully, he was the exception, not the rule. But, as you pointed out, any professor who doesn't care about the material or know how to teach is going to suck in pretty much ANY medium.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by skgrey ( 1412883 )
        Yes, but in this case it sounds like the PowerPoint slides are also included with the text (probably on a CD or DVD). I remember when I was a student; if the professor would have just been putting up the slides and talking I probably would have skipped class, thus missing out on the comments made by the teacher about the materials.

        At least with overheads you had to listen to the professor and write the information down and thus commit it to memory to a certain extent.

        PowerPoint could either be a compl
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ByOhTek ( 1181381 )

          I've never seen powerpoint slides come with a student's copy of the book. I suspect they are referring to the teacher's copy or the extra material a teacher might purchase.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

            My wife and I (she's Math, I'm...well, the "humanities") always include a set of annotated powerpoint slides, converted to PDF, to our students.

            For our sins, we also have access to Blackboard, which makes it easy to provide all of our content to our students.

            I think the takeaway from this story is that some teachers suck ass. I'm sure that was true when the only technology available was chalk and slate.

            By the way, "suck ass" is a term of art, often used in tenure conferences.

          • by xaxa ( 988988 )

            I've never seen powerpoint slides come with a student's copy of the book.

            Here's [ic.ac.uk] one example I know of. (Although since Jeff Magee was the lecturer when I took the course I was still seeing slides written by the lecturer.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 )

            They do - I run several labs at a community college, and for some reason students want to print everything they get their hands on. Anyhow I saw some A&P slides in the recycle bin with a publisher trademark on them.

        • Material from books (Score:3, Informative)

          by bradley13 ( 1118935 )

          As a prof, I get to see the lovely material that comes with books. It generally sucks. The publisher takes the illustrations out of the book, has someone who clearly doesn't understand the material copy in a few bullet points, and that's it.

          Anyway, the students don't need the book to be read to them. The prof needs to present a different explanation with different examples - to give a different viewpoint. Any prof who uses the slides provided with the book is not doing the job.

          • by cream wobbly ( 1102689 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:50PM (#30047296)

            This is really the crux of the whole issue, isn't it?

            Any kind of teacher shouldn't be teaching from a book: they should be teaching from their own understanding of the matter at hand. A set of textbooks is just some supporting material.

            Do the research, pull together the resources, and present them as a whole. It's nice if you can propose that one book covers pretty much everything, but teaching exclusively from that one book is insane and produces cultists, not graduates. (And yes, I'm aware that that point of view brands all religion as insane and producing cultists. That was kinda my point.)

      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:31AM (#30045274)

        At least you can print PowerPoints. I had numerous good teachers print out all the slides in the 'notes' layout. Where 1/2 the page was the slide and the other half was blank. 3 hole punch it and toss it in your folder.

        1) It kept you from wasting time replicating something that already existed
        2) You could still mark it up in your own words so that you knew what it meant.

        Some even had tablet PCs that they would write on the presentation and send out that marked up version after class.

        PowerPoint, Whiteboards, Chalk, etc are just tools. Professors have been good and bad at implementing tools since the beginning of time.

        One of the best professors I knew came to class with only 4 color markers. No prepared notes, no book, no equation sheet. The school rewarded him with a semester off because too many of my idiotic classmates failed his class one semester. (Where as classes in the previous 20 semesters he taught seemed to muster up at least 80% passing).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gander666 ( 723553 )
          My PDE prof was like that. He would walk in, open the text to see where he left off, and then spend 90 minutes filling board after board with mathematical derivations, and practical, real world examples. He was a monster, and he graded very very hard. I learned a lot in that class.

          Of course, I was in college before Powerpoint was really in existence, and we used chalk on black boards, no white boards.

          Years later, I was helping a friend get her masters degree in economics, and it was amazing how much no
        • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @11:34AM (#30046054)

          At least you can print PowerPoints. I had numerous good teachers print out all the slides in the 'notes' layout. Where 1/2 the page was the slide and the other half was blank. 3 hole punch it and toss it in your folder.

          1) It kept you from wasting time replicating something that already existed 2) You could still mark it up in your own words so that you knew what it meant.

          I've been guest lecturing in a couple of grad level classes for the past 4.5 years while working on my PhD and I used to do what you indicate here. However, I found that students would skip class, space out while I was speaking, and fail to ask questions when I wasn't being clear enough for them. By the 2nd class no one was taking any notes. Even when I went off script and indicated that they needed to take notes on what I was saying.

          The last couple of times I've used PPT, but refused to print out the slides in any form (Except for a student who missed a bunch of time while sick, but I made sure to impress upon her the importance of getting the notes from someone else). By doing this grades have gone up despite me using the same basic slides and covering the same material. Forcing them to actually take handwritten notes means they get the experiential learning of writing the material down at least once.

          One of the best professors I knew came to class with only 4 color markers. No prepared notes, no book, no equation sheet. The school rewarded him with a semester off because too many of my idiotic classmates failed his class one semester. (Where as classes in the previous 20 semesters he taught seemed to muster up at least 80% passing).

          My advisor teaches this way. I always thought it was just him being too behind the times, but now I know that forcing us to take handwritten notes as he writes out the material on the overhead helps them learn the material and stay focused on what's going on in class.

      • by Narpak ( 961733 )

        there was the notorious professor who had a bunch of overhead transparencies that he'd been using for 20 years.

        During the last two years of elementary my biology/science education consisted almost entirely of copying down into our notebooks from overhead transparencies; and it was pretty much the same material as what we were assigned to read in our textbooks. Our teacher (who had no relevant education) felt that writing things down by hand were the best way to ensure that we learned the material. We got very good at copying stuff down without letting what we wrote be processed by whatever faculties of reason we mig

      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @11:04AM (#30045676) Journal

        The problem is when you have talented researchers spending their time teaching instead of researching. They don't want to do it, they're not any good at it, and the students are just as well off learning from the book. Send the prof back to the lab where his valuable skills won't go to waste.

        • by arethuza ( 737069 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:14PM (#30046662)
          I was shocked when I started working in academia how most people did anything they could to avoid dealing with students. Of course, when you are a student you make the mistake of assuming that universities are there for the benefit of students - when at best they are regarded by most academics as a pool of potential slaves/grad students to assist with their own careers. Inevitably, after a few years I was behaving in exatly the same way.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TopherC ( 412335 )

            I taught for a while at a college where very few professors did any research. I struggled to do a little bit of research but ultimately did not have enough time to devote to it. But I did see some of the reasons why keeping current in the field (by doing research) is important for professors. It is very difficult to divide one's time appropriately into teaching and research.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        True. In high school I had teachers who would either use the same overhead slides for years or worse, write the same notes on the board and never explain anything. Currently I'm in college and I'm taking a programming course where the prof reads each slide quickly and goes to the next within seconds. Worse, while she fortunately takes questions, she unfortunately neither knows nor cares about the material. Luckily I already know C
    • by Potor ( 658520 )

      I'm not. I don't use PowerPoint. I only use chalk, the odd YouTube video, and once in a while images I put into small Web sites I design for particular lessons (when appropriate). I actually prefer using html to PowerPoint; on our classroom computers, Portable Firefox boots must faster than PP.

      That said, I use the computer very sparingly; perhaps once ever three weeks or so.

    • Not all, in my experience, but a lot outside of math and physics (chem is intermediate), most others use powerpoint or pre-made overhead slides.

      Which gets me to thinking, why pick on powerpoint - the pre-made overheads have the same exact problem.

    • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:26AM (#30045198)
      Yes, I had one professor who:
      • Required attendance at all lectures to pass the coursework element
      • Locked the door at the start of the lecturers, so that latecomers would fail
      • Required purchase of his textbook
      • Simply read a chapter from the textbook in each lecture
      • If asked a question, would simply re-read the relevant paragraph

      Apparently he was doing some highly lucrative and cutting-edge research, which is why he was kept on. The problem isn't powerpoint, the problem is professors who can't (or can't be bothered to) teach.

      • by hahiss ( 696716 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:44AM (#30045408) Homepage

        I think you should also add "won't be made to teach" to your list here. Remember, that a university professor's main job is research (at least at R1 institutions), and that teaching is generally viewed as a bit of a time-sink. If the prof is doing lucrative research (i.e, he's bringing in money) and cutting edge research (i.e., he's increasing the Uni/Department's status), then the university isn't going to trouble him over his teaching. After all, he wasn't trained to teach in grad school, and he wasn't hired by the university to teach.

        FWIW: I'm *not* endorsing the priorities of R1 faculty, I'm simply reporting them. I'm a prof at what is functionally as small, liberal arts college; I love teaching, and I think my teaching is important. (Well, some days.)

    • by Tyr_7BE ( 461429 )

      For sure they are. I went through University around the turn of the century, and the lecture method of choice were pdfs with lecture slides. Put up the slides, talk about them, let students download the pdf. Unfortunately, this was also used as a method of teaching for professors whose English skills weren't up to par. I recall one prof who spent most of the lecture pointing at equations on the projector. The upside of this method is that you do get to download the slides, and for cases like I just men

    • by xaxa ( 988988 )

      None of the lecturers I had ever simply read from a book -- I remember only one lecturer that based the course around what was in a book.

      The main CS lecture theatres at my university had two projectors, two computers (one Linux, one Windows), a VGA cable for a laptop, and a hi-resolution camera pointed at a white desk which you could write on (or put papers on). Each projector could be set to any input. There was also a whiteboard.

      The best lecturers (like this guy [ic.ac.uk]) set one projector to some slides, handed o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Atrox666 ( 957601 )

      Personally I'd like to see university courses trimmed down to just setting curriculum and evaluation. The university could then offer additional services if the student feels that they are necessary. Books, classes, labs, TAs could all be available but not manditory for the student.
      All those professors that gloat that they fail half their classes can get pushed out by professors with good success rates. If the useless ass at the front of the class is just going to read the book, fuck him I'll buy the book a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mbourgon ( 186257 )

      I used to work for a college textbook publisher. Give me pretty much ANY class and I could teach it - that's how many different teaching aids we produced. (Transparencies, Test Banks, Videos, Teacher's Guides, TA Handbooks...)

      It comes down to the prof, not the tool. Great profs would use them to assist their teaching style, lazy profs would use it instead of building their own lesson plans.

    • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @11:09AM (#30045728) Homepage

      They are either there for doing research and thus don't care about learning or they aren't sure what they are doing there and just needed a job.

      You're confusing "All University Professors" with the elusive and endangered "Tenure Track Faculty". Most professors nowadays are employed as sessional instructors. That means that they are working part time on a contract which only lasts for a single semester, have no job security, no benefits of any kind, limited access to resources such as office space or the library, and are typically paid next to nothing.

      Any illusions they may have had about doing actual research in their field should have disappeared after their first semester of being exploited, and if they really "just needed a job" they would have been better off serving drinks or flipping burgers. The hours and pay are a lot better and at least there would be some possibility of career advancement that way.

      This is nothing new, but it's getting worse every year. Consider Allison Dube, at the University of Calgary [macleans.ca]. Despite teaching at the same school since before many of his students were born, working full time hours and winning numerous awards for excellence in teaching, he can barely afford to continue working.

      All this, and you're pissed about your professors having the temerity to not prepare elaborate Broadway productions for every single lecture? Try this: Dig around in your pockets for all the loose change you can find and put that on the table along with five pieces of paper and a broken pencil. Now, quit your job and using only the resources in front of you design and teach three full year courses on microprocessor design, quantum theory, and the history of art in the Spanish Netherlands. When you are done you may treat yourself to a cheese sandwich.

      Those are the conditions that your professors are working under. They're not lazy, they're not there just for the money, they're working as teachers because they really want to. Only a complete idiot would subject themselves to that kind of job if they didn't. If you want to be annoyed at anyone for the poor quality of lectures you have been forced to sit through, get annoyed at the University administration for treating their staff like dogs.

      Worse than dogs, really. At least the dog gets fed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Makes you wonder where all that tuition money is going. The average student graduates something like $100k in debt it seems - probably a lot more these days. That is an incredible amount of money to spend on an eduction, and for the life of me I can't figure out where it is all going.

      • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:11PM (#30048788)
        One of my professors once said (in lecture) that students are probably the only consumer group that mostly wants less for their money. Its sad but true that most students these days care more about the piece of paper they receive at the "end" of their "education" than they do about actually learning anything. The universities exploit that by making sure that they get less while charging top dollar in tuition and paying the professors squat. Surely this cannot continue forever before the corporations figure out that degrees from "prestigious" universities do not live up to their mythical reputations.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jafac ( 1449 )

        If this is the case - then why are university tuition costs skyrocketing at multiples of inflation for the past several decades? Where the fuck, exactly is all this money going? Football scholarships?

  • What I find really scary is the stories I've seen of grade-school kids being required to submit their report as a powerpoint presentation....
    (sorry, no link, but I'm not kidding)
    • We did this in 5th grade 13 years ago...

      Nothing new, get off my damn lawn!

    • by Skater ( 41976 )

      I work for the federal government, and we have a contractor that I swear cannot communicate in any way BUT PowerPoint. It's really annoying. In addition to meetings that actually are presentations of their work (and thus reasonably suitable grounds for a presentation), almost every meeting we had with them involved a PowerPoint presentation. In meetings where we're trying to resolve an issue, this setup is especially bad since it sets up a "speaker/audience" dynamic instead of a group discussion dynamic.

    • by xaxa ( 988988 )

      I had to do assessed presentations at school for GCSE English (14-16). There was no requirement for PowerPoint but IIRC marks were awarded for using slides appropriately (i.e. still engaging with the audience and not just reading them out).

      (A few marks were also awarded for listening.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      They are just going with the flow. Most knowledge workers I know have already lost the art of writing good documents, reports, or even a well-structured email. All written communication is dumbed down to lists of bullet points. Sometimes managers demand it (sometimes they even specify the required number of bullets), but it has become the default form of communication for most.

      In college we did a course on effective communications... one of the things they drilled into us is that the slides are not th
  • Career preparation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by belthize ( 990217 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:01AM (#30044926)

    Wow, I'm old. I never really stopped and thought about just how horrid modern class rooms have become, I certainly never pictured some twit droning on from a canned Power Point.

      On the upside you'll be properly prepared for any number of meetings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plague3106 ( 71849 )

      As opposed to mountains of overheads?

      I don't get the powerpoint bashing... most classes I've been in used the overhead projector, seems like PP is just a replacement for that (at least its more visually appealing than boring black text on white).

    • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:29AM (#30045236)

      Wow, I'm old. I never really stopped and thought about just how horrid modern class rooms have become, I certainly never pictured some twit droning on from a canned Power Point.

        On the upside you'll be properly prepared for any number of meetings.

      Wow, you are old. You didn't have books when you went to school? I can tell you that a teacher reading from a book is even worse. The problem is not books nor powerpoint, the problem is teachers or professors that couldn't care less.

  • Actually (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:03AM (#30044948)

    There's a RIGHT way to use a computerized slides, and a WRONG way. MOST people do it the wrong way - trying to cram as much text as possible onto a single slide, then reading the slides to the audience. I won't even mention those that think their presentation isn't complete without AT LEAST 100 slides filled with, after everyone's brain has switched off, gibberish.

          Slides are meant to ENHANCE and SUPPORT a presentation, not BE the presentation. They will NOT turn a mediocre teacher into a great one. I have a doctorate, so I've probably been in more years of classes than the author of the article (3rd year of college). I have been in some excellent world class courses that relied heavily on power point presentations (my microbiology teacher was just a GOOD teacher). And I have attended mind blisteringly dull lectures done on chalk (or whiteboard) in such varied topics as biochemistry and physiology (that cardiologist who will remain nameless - she simply doesn't know how to teach!). It's not the medium, it's the teacher.

          Being a leader in your field or winning awards and prizes does NOT necessarily qualify you to teach well - that is an art in itself. And any number of audio-visual aids will not hide the fact that you're just a boring person that has no idea how to get your message across.

    • Re:Actually (Score:4, Informative)

      by lapsed ( 1610061 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:09AM (#30045022)
      I posted a comment about this below, but I think the point is important enough for me to make it here too. ESL students find it easier to read than to listen. The more written material there is on the slide, the more they understand.
      • Re:Actually (Score:4, Insightful)

        by matlhDam ( 149229 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:27AM (#30045214) Homepage

        In certain contexts -- actual ESL classes being an obvious one -- what you say makes sense. But in the broader context of this discussion (IT/science classes and anything similar), I disagree; if a student's going to study at a university that teaches in English, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to follow a presentation, even if said presentation is simply a talk around a set of blackboard examples and doesn't feature notes at all.

        At any rate, lecture notes shouldn't really be primary written sources anyway. Some people simply learn better from a written text regardless of language: that's why there are textbooks and online references, and a student who's struggling with lectures should probably be looking at those rather than a collection of slides skimming over the material. The lecture notes should really be, at most, an adjunct to what's being said, and that's where the less is more mentality (rightly, IMHO) comes in.

        • Re:Actually (Score:4, Informative)

          by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:54AM (#30045562)

          In certain contexts -- actual ESL classes being an obvious one -- what you say makes sense. But in the broader context of this discussion (IT/science classes and anything similar), I disagree; if a student's going to study at a university that teaches in English, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to follow a presentation, even if said presentation is simply a talk around a set of blackboard examples and doesn't feature notes at all.

          No it's not unreasonable to expect students to be able to keep up, but that doesn't make the point any less valid. As someone who's taken classes not in my native tongue, I can tell you it definitely makes a huge difference, especially with technical subjects or new subject matter, to have written (clearly--some people just don't have good handwriting) materials.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joiseybill ( 788712 )

      True -

      working in IT support, I see so many professors who are frustrated by students who are playing solitaire, chatting, or even doing homework for another class during a lecture. The most insecure want some kind of technology solution to shut down all the student wi-fi during classes. These tend to be the same professors reading the text copied from the publisher's PowerPoint pack in a monotone drone.

      Anyone contemplating using PP or any other class presentation software/s should be forced to sit throu

    • Re:Actually (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:17AM (#30045120)
      Learn the difference between a PowerPoint presentation and a presentation using PowerPoint
    • Re:Actually (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:23AM (#30045166)

      The only advantage that power point has vs. the old ways is the fact you can Download the Slides for further studying so you are not franticly trying to get all the information as notes. (which for some people) Distract them from actually listening and learning the material, and getting any of the tangents where the real stuff is learned. However even back in my day professors often had pre printed overhead transparencies, which were made by the publisher which made things just as bad as with powerpoint. Or worse the professor who kept the transparencies when he use to care about his class and just put up the hand written notes and put a piece of paper on top of it so you wouldn't get ahead of them.

      Any Media can be used for good or for evil.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      We can take this further: if you're lecturing the whole time, you've already failed. Lecturing. Doesn't. Work.

      (And the blogger's cited study not withstanding, I've also seen studies that show that sitting in lecture furiously taking notes is *not* an effective way of learning. It may be better than sitting in lecture and zoning, but it's far better not to lecture.)

      I'm a professor and I do use PowerPoint. For the 10-20 minutes of each period (70 min) that I actually am in lecture mode, anyway. It lets

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by digitig ( 1056110 )

      There's a RIGHT way to use a computerized slides, and a WRONG way.

      I once attended a presentation at which the presenter had been ordered by the organisers to use a Powerpoint presentation. The powerpoint presentation he used was just a slideshow of classic artworks (unrelated to the presentation) which went on in the background while he gave an excellent talk on the actual subject. I file that under "RIGHT way".

    • by vvaduva ( 859950 )

      You are probably right, but there is value to having static information on one area of the board and having the freedom to erase anything at will/change anything. You'd have to put a lot of work into PP slides to make that happen.

      I homeschool and I use a whiteboard for my kids and they are absolutely loving it. They are not college-age, byt I can easily see how powerpoint would take away from the experience if done the wrong way.

      Perhaps the kind of information being presented is important too. Poetry is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by engun ( 1234934 )
      Having taken a fair amount of classes as well as having taught a couple of years myself, I can definitely agree with the parent's post.

      Neither chalk, power point nor even 3D animations can magically transform a boring lecturer into a fascinating one, if he/she simply does not perceive how receptive the audience is.

      It really isn't that hard to tell. If everything is whooshing over their heads, their confused faces will tell you that you need to change your tack.
      If they are yawning, then you're dronin
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I work as a technology specialist for distance learning in a community college, and when instructors want to put their courses online, a good number of them will simply ask us to convert their PPT presentations to a web-ready format, and they'll do a voice-over which consists of little more than a reading of the slides. Then, they'll post an announcement at the beginning of each week saying, "Read Chapter x, watch the PPT, and take the quiz" and think they're done. This happens with some of our finest ins
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xtracto ( 837672 )

      Agreed. CS PhD here.

      I have been reading the "Power Presenter" ( http://www.amazon.com/Power-Presenter-Technique-Strategy-Americas/dp/0470376481 [amazon.com] ) to improve my presentation skills.

      I was surprised in the wrong way when preparing y first demonstration course during my PhD years in the UK. It seems everyone uses overhead slides for *all* lectures (every single day).

      Having studied my undergraduate courses in a public university in Mexico, I was raised by chalkboard and (if you were lucky to get the room) white

  • Back in the days (appr. the seventies) we (the students) thought that it would be about time to abolish lectures, given that there were other means to get aquainted with the material (then mainly books). But today?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kamokazi ( 1080091 )
      This is why I actually *LIKED* Power Points when I was in college. I could download them, and in most cases skip the lecture and just study off the Power Point.
  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:04AM (#30044954)
    Speaking as a former professor who has written two entire semesters of Powerpoint lectures in Java [google.com], I think the medium is especially effective if the professor knows the material. I gave away my lectures and posted them online forever, so my students loved them. I also do not use powerpoint as just static slides. I use the animation feature to simulate the execution of code, showing (not telling) how variables are handled, how pass by value versus pass by reference works--things like that. It is really valuable if the professor is not a lazy sack of shit. That's the real problem--lazy professors. Profs who write their own lectures are anything but lazy.
  • by PHPNerd ( 1039992 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:06AM (#30044968) Homepage
    I went to undergrad from 2002-2006. I had profs who used PowerPoint daily and I learned a ton from them. I had profs who used a "good old chalk talk" and they were awful. When it comes down to it, it's the prof. If he's a gifted teacher, it will shine through no matter which medium he chooses. Do yourself a favor and look up reviews [ratemyprofessors.com] for your profs before you sign up for their class.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ratemyprofessors.com contains utter bullshit

      The "easy" profs get the good ratings.

      The excellent teachers, but heavy in terms or assigned workload are deemed mediocre.

      The "hard" profs are deemed poor.

      ratemyprofessors.com is for lazy students looking to avoid real work.

      Choose courses by word of mouth by meeting people in person - you can judge whether someone thinks a prof is "awesome" because the course is an auto-A+ or whether they actually learned something.

  • by lapsed ( 1610061 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:06AM (#30044972)
    Until recently, I was a vocal opponent of PowerPoint. I had read Tufte's essay [edwardtufte.com] and applied the assertion-evidence structure [psu.edu] to my slides. When presenting certain types of data to an english audience, these measures are effective.
    But when a relevant percentage of the audience does not understand English, or when the presenter does not speak English, writing the entire presentation down on the slides and reading off the slides is a more effective way of communicating. ESL students are more able to comprehend what they read than what they hear. What 'using powerpoint well' means is a function of the audience and the material.
    • by srussia ( 884021 )

      But when a relevant percentage of the audience does not understand English, or when the presenter does not speak English, writing the entire presentation down on the slides and reading off the slides is a more effective way of communicating.

      I know what you mean. I studied Greek Philosophy, using the Greek texts, while learning ancient Greek, which was being taught in Spanish, which in turn I was still learning as a third language (STL?). Oh, and the professors barely touched the board at all, mostly just holding forth while smoking. I am now a linguist by profession.

  • Chalk talk rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dynetrekk ( 1607735 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:06AM (#30044976)
    I've got a masters degree in physics, and I'm now teaching as part of my duties as a PhD studies. At my university, most professors give "chalk talks", and some use presentation software. In my experience, presentation software lets the lecturer skip quickly ahead before the students have time to make up their mind about "what just happened", and don't have time to take notes. During a chalk talk, the speed of progress is limited by the time it takes to write up that big nasty equation, and the lecture proceeds at a natural pace. Most importantly, the students more easily see how you think while doing a calculation; if using a powerpoint slide, forget that.

    Conclusion? Chalk Talk rules for fundamental science teaching. Powerpoint is probably OK for management theory classes.

  • by BigBlueOx ( 1201587 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:07AM (#30044988)
    Today we're talking about what's wrong with Powerpoint.

    o And Why It Should Be Banned

    And why its use should be banned.

    o Speakers just put up bullet list and then read from it.

    The biggest problem is that speakers put up a Powerpoint bullet list and then just read from it.

    o Like their audience is illiterate or sumpin.

    Like they think their audience is a bunch of illiterates or sumpin.

    o Powerpoint presenters also say things like "actionizing our solutioning".

    Also, Powerpoint seems to encourage speakers to say things like "actionizing our solutioning".

    SLIDE 1

    Let's move to slide 2.
    • The biggest problem is that speakers put up a Powerpoint bullet list and then just read from it.

      Yes, rule one of PowerPoint presentations: Never use bullet points.

      Rule 2: Limit the use of words as much as possible.

      PowerPoint is a wonderful way to use pictures and graphics to present material. Unfortunately, nobody does this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Your post advocates a

      (X) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting PowerPoint. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work.
      (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may
      have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal
      law was passed.)

      ( ) Professors can easily use it to harvest email addresses
      (X) Boardroom presentations and other legitimate PowerPoint uses would be affected
      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy

  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:09AM (#30045026)
    There are various reasons why power point should be banned from schools. There's nothing wrong with power point, per se, but professors who use it, tend to abuse it and use it in ways that are counter to a learning environment.

    I took a biology class a few years back where the professor provided a powerpoint presentation for every class. We were supposed to print it out before class and then in class, he would read through the power point presentation. Literally, word for word, reading the presentation, with little or no additional information. Obviously, once I figured out this was his modus operandi, I stopped going to the clas, as I'm quite capable of reading a power point presentation myself.

    The problem with power point is that it's presenter (teacher) centric. This is fine in some forums, but in a classroom, a class lesson should be student centric. Students should interact and ask questions. The lesson should go at the pace that the students can absorb it, not at the pace the teacher can present it.

    If all that's required to learn the information is to read, then why even have a class? Just give the kids a book and send them on their way...
  • Overheads Rock (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nessak ( 9218 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:10AM (#30045044) Homepage

    The rise of PowerPoint for teaching is something I've been annoyed with for years. Honestly the best teaching tool my Professors ever used was the overhead transparency projector -- the type where the transparency was on a spool that the professor cranked to get a clean surface. This was far more legible then chalk, plus you could go crank the transparency spool in the opposite direction after class if you missed something. Not chalk dust either.

    Powerpoint is annoying as professors tend to only put meaningless bullet points and skip working out the equations in real time, explaining as they go along. A good professor is interactive with the class, not just someone who reads from a script pointed at the screen. Sadly, this is way most (but not all) PowerPoint professors operate.

  • by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:11AM (#30045052) Journal

    .....is certainly not demonstrated in this video. However, I do see more and more of this style these days

    How NOT to use Powerpoint [youtube.com]

  • Be careful what you wish for.

    I had a professor that DID know what he was talking about, he decided that he wanted us to learn so much in a single course that this was a common occurance.

    Professor arrives in class. 3 seconds later he has an overhead projector up and is now talking and writing directly on blank transparancy paper. The rate at which he was writing was near stream-of-consciousness. I typically took 20-30 PAGES of notes in a single lecture, and these notes were basically a transcription of h

    • I occasionally do something similar, but instead of hand writing I'll use a text file or OOo document - and then post in our LMS for later access.

  • Well, I teach an undergraduate course and avoid using presentation software -which, anyway, would have been Lyx [lyx.org] plus Beamer [sourceforge.net] for me-, for largely the kind of reasons advanced in TFA. Most of my colleagues use PowerPoint or something similar this days.

    And I'm starting to notice that many students actually prefer the PP-teachers. They want to have the information delivered in formulaic pills, "Concept A stands for blah; Concept B stands for bleh", and this is more easily achieved if the formulae in question
  • One of the problems we have is that making a powerpoint presentation is a lot like making a web page when it comes to newbies. "Oooh, I can make a black background, blinking red text, and add a bunch of cupids shooting hearts!!!" We have profs here that use different backgrounds and transitions for every slide, add sounds, etc. They think it looks very sophisticated, when in fact, it creates a barrier to learning. When we review their slides for online use, we try to come up with some guidelines, like "Use
  • Airline food, isn't it terrible? And the lines! Also some people are bad at driving. I mean...gratz on a well constructed criticism of powerpoint in the classroom, but you aren't really breaking new ground.
  • Powerpoint is the worst thing to ever happen to higher education. It lets these professors, whose teaching abilities are minimal to begin with, just coast through their responsibilities to the students. They think they don't have to do any real teaching anymore.
  • Bad teaching is not new - but since the powerpoint thingy is new, they teach badly in a new way.

    "Any questions?"
    "So, you must have understood everything!" (-- wrong conclusion

  • The blog is nice. But it is large block of text, para after para after. So to make it easier to understand, break the blog post into something like 20 sections.

    Give each section a title. Then write just two or three points for each section.

    Do not make the mistake of writing a fully correct grammatical sentence for each point. Make it short and pithy. Just a sentence fragment or phrase preceded by a small filled circle will do.

    Arrange these sections in a landscape format. Use a large 28 point font for

  • by khchung ( 462899 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:21AM (#30045154) Journal

    The interesting thing for me is I am old enough to remember when students complain that some professors actually still writes on the board instead of using powerpoint! Because (1) their handwriting is poor, (2) professors write too fast anyway, trying to copy and listen at the same time is too much for many students, (3) professors could send out the powerpoint if they used it, so students don't have to copy them down!

    Now, cue a decade later, professors used powerpoints and student complained they do not write on the board.

    Yeah, right.

    Newsflash! Learning is hard work. Unlike watching movies where you just sit in stupor for 2 hours and be entertained, when you attend a lecture you work hard to absorb and understand the materials presented by the professor. Most professor don't have $100M movie budget and 2 years to prepare a 2 hour lecture to entertain you.

    If the presentation is lacking, then you take the effort to understand the content from it. If you cannot find any content in the lecture, then the course is probably not for you, either too easy or too hard, go enroll in another course, or read the textbooks yourself if you think the lectures are too easy.

    You are responsible for your own learning. And if you are good, you might have understood this already before you leave school.

    • No, it's school (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NoYob ( 1630681 )
      School is hard work.

      Learning is easy because it's an innate human ability. Humans learn best when it's trial and error, through discovery and at their own pace. Unfortunately, that doesn't fit in with the structured classroom where everyone is forced to learn at a minimum pace and using the same materials.

      Formal education is backwards and was designed for the ease of the teacher.

  • by Enry ( 630 )

    I see not much has changed:

    - we used to have a prof who had chalk in the right hand, and an eraser in the left. He'd start writing and erasing almost simultaneously, so you had to be really quick to write down notes. At least a powerpoint can be downloaded and viewed later.

    - Am I the only one that had the slide projectors in grade school? That had a record or cassette along with it that would ding when you went to the next slide? Or am I just showing my age?

  • Just my personal opinion, but I think a reliance on technology for technologies sake can be an impediment to great education. Human interaction is an important part of communication and teaching.

    Not only powerpoint, but some classes at my alma matter began having so-called laptop classes. I had one for calculus II. It was basically an excuse for kids to goof off. People were instant messaging each other or going on the internet. Laptop classes are a waste in most cases in my opinion, unless it is graduat
  • The lectures are exactly as Carolyn described - rushed and poorly delivered. Both of my professors are smart and knowledgeable, but the teaching method is easy for them and hard on the students. Also - practically anyone could stand up in front of a class of students and walk through a PPT. If you read slowly enough an entire class period can be wasted with a single presentation.

    In both classes very little time is given towards class discussion or Q&A.

    Powerpoints are a win-win for colleg

    • by slim ( 1652 )

      Powerpoints are a win-win for colleges though -- less skilled teachers can be employed at lower wages.

      I don't know about where you live, but here in the UK schools, colleges and universities are measured on results. Whether it's by the authorities or by the markets, the institution will get punished for bad results.

      So anything that reduces the quality of teaching is not "win-win".

      (So why does this happen? Many reasons, including: a shortage of talented educators; universities' habit of having roles that are part-educator-part-researcher even when the individual is only interested in the research part)

  • I've given impromptu math lessons to my kids while hiking. Writing implement: stick. Medium: the ground. Very effective. Learning is not about technology. It is first about interest. A distant second is the teacher. When the student is ready to learn something, the teacher will become available.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      When the student is ready to learn something, the teacher will become available.

      If this were even remotely close to true, the world would be a much better place. We need more teachers, and as a society we're not promoting them. Everything from the way we pay actual teachers-by-trade to the way our society addresses founts of knowledge as "know-it-alls" and "smart-asses" blunts the urge to teach.

  • by Lemming Mark ( 849014 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:31AM (#30045270) Homepage

    "Unlike an old-school chalk talk, professors who use PowerPoint tend to present topics very quickly, leaving little time to digest the visuals or to take learning-reinforcing notes"

    Sounds like how my professors used to lecture with printed slides and, to a lesser extent, when writing slides by hand during the lecture. To cover the material, the lectures couldn't really have gone much slower but this can be addressed by providing students with decent printed notes, which all too often were missing or of extremely poor quality. The degree was very educational but to a large extent this was due to the hard work of students in their study time and due to the small group teaching that followed the lectures and attempted to pick up the pieces.

    Not fantastic value-for-money given how expensive these courses are - but to some extent, that's what's going to happen if you choose *teaching* roles based on how good at research a professor is. Or for that matter, based on how senior and entrenched in the department and university a professor is. If you're going to pay someone to do something, you ought to have some decent oversight and minimum standards they are required to meet. Universities are not good at this sort of thing in my experience.

  • ...it's clear that the person blogging this has only really experienced things on one side of the fence. I used to Head TA some large intro CS classes for an Ivy school, and currently work in Instructional Technology. I think her complaints are valid, but don't really have a lot to do with PowerPoint - it's just a fact of life that some professors are bad lecturers. Using PowerPoint as a lecture tool can go pretty badly - but guess what, so can using a chalkboard! I've read a lot of student evaluations in
  • The only benefit I ever found from this was the fact that all the professors who used powerpoint or something similar made all their class slides available for download either before or directly after the lecture. I stopped taking notes and just followed along ...

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:48AM (#30045468)

    Presentation software is just a tool. I had a professor who could actually handle it pretty well. He had his slides set up in a very simple but readable manner, they weren't cramped. They were to the point, short and very well planned. And he gave each of his students a miniature printout of the lectures slides, so that everybody could anotate each one by himself with whatever they needed.

    He'd use maybe 40 slides in a 90 minute lecture. His talk was educating, informative, sometimes quite humorous and you could actually understand what he was saying simply because he didn't have to hop around 3 chalkboards all the time but could stay put at the podium. He was allways well prepared and his lectures where a feast. And that even though it was a hard subject (IT-electronics subcurriculum in CS).

    Bottom line:
    Presentation software, just like chalkboards, are nothing but tools. Use them badly or in the wrong way and your results will be accordingly (like, f.i., cramped, braindead presentation-slides or crappy handwriting on chalkboards ... duh). Use them correctly and you will be able to utilise the benefits that they bring along. It's that simple.

  • PowerPoint presentations for class lectures makes outlining lectures virtually impossible. I tried one semester and found that I was having to leave blank spots all over the place and return to topics and subtopics from sometimes pages ahead.

    At least overhead transparencies were in some kind of outline format. I miss the days when thoughts were organized.

    Not to say there are not good PowerPoint presentations out there. I have had one professor use PowerPoint in an amazingly effective manner, but essentia

  • There were shitty overhead transparency packs from textbook publishers long before Powerpoint. And the worst professor I ever encountered was a Trig guy from Jamaica whose accent was so thick and handwriting so bad he invented a dozen new letters for the Greek alphabet. No, this is like blaming shitty writing on the computer, acting as if shitty writers never worked on typewriters. And before that I'm sure longhand enthusiasts were cursing the scourge of the typewriter for promoting lazy thinking and balder

  • As a student with ADD, a math related learning disability, and problems with fine motor coordination (which prevents lots of copious legible hand writing), I found math and sciences classes taught with Chalk talk to be almost unbearable.

    -- I could barely pay attention to the professor when two people behind me were discussing their previous night's experiences at the bar. I had nothing to refer to later when I was in the quiet of my own dorm room.

    -- I spent all my time reduplicating the teacher's efforts of

  • My favorite professors use slides very well. I've done college the old fashioned way (writing on the board) and the new fangled way in my graduate classes (10 years later) and I much prefer the slides. If they're sliding past too fast, raise your hand and ask a fucking question.
  • by Pigeon451 ( 958201 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:59AM (#30045608)

    Powerpoint is great for showing concepts through demonstration. Videos and animations can greatly enhance the student learning process. Of course there is a right way and wrong way to do this. I've come to prefer learning via Powerpoint instead of chalk boards (ugh) or transparencies. It's a bonus if we can get the slides ahead of time to print out and bring to class. That way we can write notes on our slides during the class.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @11:30AM (#30045990) Homepage

    Damn, I wish my school administration would read this. Every time a building is remodeled, the projector screens get larger and the boards get smaller. In the newest rooms, the whiteboard is about 70cm high and 140cm wide (30" by 60") - nearly useless. Meanwhile, the projection screen is huge, six or eight times that size. I am forced to put most of my material in the presentation. There ain't no other way to do it!

    While I'm venting: there are no blackboards anymore, only whiteboards. Why anyone think these abominations are progress is beyond me: the pens can't deliver ink fast enough - the first few words are nice, then they get faint and the pens don't recover until they sit for a good, long while. I suppose the suits didn't like chalk dust on their pinstripes, but give me a good quality blackboard any day.

    We're getting a new school building in two years. I will probably need a magnifying glass to find the whiteboards. Assuming they haven't been eliminated entirely...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

      I suggest considering the purchase of something like the Wacom tablets. You can handwrite wonderfully with those things. The best ones even have displays behind them, so you can see what you're drawing.

      You can make your presentation work just like a blackboard. And, they're much easier to clean than a blackboard!

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!