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Attack of the PowerPoint-Wielding Professors

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the all-power-corrupts-and-powerpoint-corrupts-absolutely dept.

Education 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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Most professors guilty? (4, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044878)

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.

Re:Most professors guilty? (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Most professors guilty? (3, Insightful)

skgrey (1412883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045122)

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 complete slacker medium, or could be part of a more-encompassing lecture. It's all in the way it is used.

Re:Most professors guilty? (1, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045158)

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:Most professors guilty? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045186)

When my wife was finishing up her Master's degree the textbook she had came with a DVD of extra materials, including slides for each lecture.

Re:Most professors guilty? (0)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045232)

I think I had something like that with my Biochemistry book. Except it only contained videos, pictures and a few 3D models. Maybe a couple PDFs.

Re:Most professors guilty? (3, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045320)

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.

Re:Most professors guilty? (4, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Most professors guilty? (3, Insightful)

gander666 (723553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045376)

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 non-linear PDE's were used, and they didn't have the rigorous mathematics background to support it. Wild...

Re:Most professors guilty? (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045116)

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.

Re:Most professors guilty? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045142)

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.

Re:Most professors guilty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045150)

I'm a Computer Science major at Michigan State University, and so far after three years of school, I have had almost *every* course in PowerPoint (including two semesters at Community College). The exceptions to these courses are have only been maths courses (Calculus and Statistics, although Discrete Math/Boolean Logic used PPT) since they don't lend themselves well to PPT. I also had one literature class like this. Those that do not use PPT use overhead projectors or, in the case of the Statistics guy, an array of chalkboards.

I would have to say that out of all of my classes, the favorite setup that I've encountered was my last Calculus class, in which the professor juggled between two overhead projectors -- hand-written -- and he gave you plenty of time to copy anything down that you'd like, if you needed extra time (Disclaimer: I hated the class anyway, but this setup was very conducive to my learning).

Not surprisingly, the most egregious use of PowerPoint was in a marketing class -- if you were to write a book about how NOT to use PowerPoint, you could just use his course material. Of course, attendance was required (or, depending on your point-of-view, a 20%-of-your-grade free pass) so you had no choice but to sit through all of the audio clips and horrible animations. I recall more than one occasion where a several-minute video clip was used for a single slide, which could have served no other purpose whatsoever other than to eat time.

Re:Most professors guilty? (1, Interesting)

Sox2 (785958) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045172)

i think the note taking skills (or lack there of) of the students is a contributing factor to the sub-optimal transmission of information during college level education.

Re:Most professors guilty? (5, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Most professors guilty? (3, Insightful)

hahiss (696716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045408)

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.)

Re:Most professors guilty? (1)

Tyr_7BE (461429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045292)

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 mentioned, you can more or less teach yourself the content.

Re:Most professors guilty? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045318)

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 [] ) set one projector to some slides, handed out copies of notes based on the slides before the lecture so no one had to spend time copying stuff, and set the other projector to the camera for explaining stuff and going through example problems (or to the other computer, if demonstrating the problem with real code was better). They would get the class to solve problems as we went through the lecture.

Re:Most professors guilty? (1)

jirka (1164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045358)

I don't do this. All my classroom talks are chalk talks. IMO it is easier to prepare and give chalk talks. In mathematics (my field) it is still the norm to give chalk talks. However, if class sizes continue to grow it will get harder and harder to give chalk talks. Unfortunately budgets for math and science departments are getting smaller and smaller. Especially when viewed as per student. Here at UIUC [] , 30 years ago there were over 90 math professors. Now there are a little more than 60, yet the number of students grew significantly. You get what you pay for. There's a lot less state funds going to universities. We (taxpayers) pay more for wars and banker bonuses than we ever did before. But we (taxpayers) pay a lot less today for education and science than we did 30 years ago.

Chalk talks themselves don't solve the "the professor read from the book" problem. But don't blame it all on professors, due to teaching evaluations being taken overly seriously, professors will simply do whatever the students want in order to get good evaluations so that they can get promoted. Don't expect such professors to be overly excited about teaching the class. Finally, spoiled students are also a problem. Lot of students expect to come to class and get knowledge poured into their brain without any effort on their part. They want powerpoint presentation they can print at home and hope that the easy test (due to grade inflation) will include some verbatim questions from the powerpoint slides.

Re:Most professors guilty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045398)

No, not all. I have one CS professor who is using the old chalktalk method and it is probably the best CS lecture I've ever had. I dualed in CS and Math as an undergrad and there was a remarkable difference in quality between math lectures and cs lectures on the whole. In fact I would say that any given math lecture I had was at least as good as any CS lecture. I don't think that this is entirely in the purview of the lecturer (I really don't expect that on the whole CS lecturers are worse than Math lecturers), I think it is mostly due to the choice in presentation medium. Exactly as the post says, chalk means that the lecturer is forced to go slowly because he/she has to write everything down and pause to explain. I can then write while they are writing and think while they are explaining. When the lecturer only has to explain there is not enough time for me to both think and write.

Also, often printed powerpoint slides are basically meaningless. It is like looking at someone else's shorthand for note-taking. The problem is that it is often unintuitive in the same way that my personal style of note-taking would be unreadable by you (more than likely.)

It is true that all generations have bad lecturers and there has always been the guy with overhead slides doing exactly the wrong kind of things that are now done in powerpoint. I think the difference now is that because CS is a technological field and deals with computers, otherwise good professors believe that they too need to use powerpoint. It isn't necessarily that they are bad lecturers or lazy, but that they feel that the "technologically advanced" way must be better so they'd better do it. They still put lots of work into their lectures and preparation for their lectures but it is just on the average harder for a student to absorb an entire lecture from powerpoint.

Anyone remember this:

Re:Most professors guilty? (2, Interesting)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045422)

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 and read it myself. He can do whatever he wants as long as I don't have to pay for it.

Barack Obama = Socialism (-1, Flamebait)

Reikk (534266) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044890)

This motherfucking non-American Islamic fuck is trying to turn us into a bunch of goddamned communist pinkos

Re:Barack Obama = Socialism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30044912)

Socialism != communism. Typical "it's either all or nothing" USAsians thinking.

Re:Barack Obama = Socialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045334)

And somebody from a country like Sweden would laugh uproariously at the thought of Obama being described as a "socialist."

The need for a well-rounded education (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30044896)

I'm concerned about the narrowm view of the world 'hard' science
students have these days. I think the problem starts at college -
There's a culture that somehow science is more rational and usefull
then the humanitities. Lecturers encourage students to joke about arts
students, and humilaite them whenever possible. This encourages
eliteism, and I for one am sick of it.

Let's tell it like it is. 'science' is just as much about opinion as
the humanities. Research simply follows the fad of the day. Take
dieticians for example. These men and woman believe that just because
they have degree in medical science that they are all knowing. Why,
what they recommend one day may kill you the next! (see the DDT story
for more information.) Science is 95% opinion then facts, lets face
it. What about astrology, the most rediculious of the sciences! But I

Another example is music. We know what sounds good. Everyone aggreed
that Valves for instance sound great. But knowitall engineers use
trensastors with inferious sound quality just to save a few bucks.
They argue with numbers. Hey, I don't want to do maths just to listen
to music. I know what I like. You cannot apply objective reasoning to
a subject which is intristically subjective. But try telling those
recent grads with their useless piece of paper that and they go all

The problem with you technical guys are that you are all so eliteist.
Whilst you want to trun collage into a trade school with yore narrow
minded views that collage should be a job training centre, humanities
are focused on making you a well rounded person who is auctually
interesting to be with, not a boring focuesed geek. Really, it makes
me so mad when people say "oh, he's doing a humanities degree, that's
easy". I have to read *3* *books* *a* *week* on average. Not picture
books either I assue you. It is a lot of work, but the upshot is
improved grammer and spelling skills that are lacking in the
technical. As for those that say "you will be working at mcdonalds" ,
I'm going on to so a PhD in socialolgy where I'll be line for tenure
where I have a much more rewarding job then beeing a science freak or
an engineer. Anyways, all I have to do to be a engineer wold be to get
my MSCE and how hard couyld that be? techincal stuff is simply
whatever fad the market thinks is hot at the moment, but all great
things were done by humanities.

You technical types are far to narrow minded and cynsical. You should
learn to enjoy life.

Relax, and make peace with god. He transcends all.

Re:The need for a well-rounded education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045082)

And your problem is that you learn nothing in life and are solely driven by hormones triggered by the opinion of others, or what you believe to be the opinion of others. You are truly pathetic. Try living for your own self instead of trying to "be fun to be around" you insecure zealot. In time you'll notice that your exchanged dialogues are much more satisfying than "oh my god I just love The Jonas Brothers", or "yeah how about that weather."
You should seriously rethink your life, I'm not joking. Oh and if you think intelligent people seem elitist it's because of your arrogance. You think you're open minded, but believing in bullshit is not being open minded. Being open minded means you're always prone to change your mind, which you obviously aren't. Idiot.

it's gonna get worse... (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044910)

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)

Re:it's gonna get worse... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044934)

We did this in 5th grade 13 years ago...

Nothing new, get off my damn lawn!

Re:it's gonna get worse... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045352)

5th grade 13 years ago?


You are not kidding (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045014)

I'm a third grade teacher, and my boss recently told me that my students need to be taught powerpoint so they can learn to make presentations. Mind you, my third graders are only now learning to touch type.

But then, my boss presents everything in PP, tends to read the slides aloud, and relies on cool whiz-bang effects a and graphics to tart up his presentations.

I guess if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Re:it's gonna get worse... (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045096)

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. Eventually I started seeing the humor of it and started collecting their slides, but that was after I discarded several reams worth of printed out slides... even with what's left, the pile is probably 6 inches thick.

I can't help but imagine their children get lectured by PowerPoint, too. "First slide: Ball through the window. Next slide: Damage caused. Next slide: Amount to repair.... Last slide: You won't do this again." This is probably how the stories of grade-school kids needing to do PowerPoint presentations came to be.

Re:it's gonna get worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045174)

Sadly, it's also extremely common (maybe almost ubiquitous) for students to be required to submit work in Microsoft Word format.

Captcha: profited.

Re:it's gonna get worse... (1)

tangelogee (1486597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045256)

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)

In the school system I work at, their idea of computer proficiency by 5th grade is basically knowing how to make a PowerPoint...and believe me, they are mostly just a bunch of pretty pictures, with a few (badly written and spelled) sentence fragments added to show they can write. They are more worried about them being able to take the online quarterly tests than actually know how to use the computers.

Re:it's gonna get worse... (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045372)

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.)

Career preparation (4, Insightful)

belthize (990217) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Career preparation (3, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045202)

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).

Re:Career preparation (3, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Lectures are a thing from the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30044938)

I prefer when professors use their powerpoint presentations because I can just download them from the web and spare going to the boring lectures.

Actually (4, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

matlhDam (149229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045214)

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 (2, Interesting)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045070)

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 through at least one Edward Tufte lecture.. some of his proposals are a little extreme, but I've seen the lectures and bought the library. []

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045088)

Many professors or would be professors have little to no skill or training as instructors and that is the fault of the research grant and publish or perish funding systems.

If you want great instructors then you have to fund instructors for what they do very well ... impart the material to the students in informative, interesting and reactive ways.

Re:Actually (2, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045184)

Many professors or would be professors have little to no skill or training as instructors.

Quite true. The university system rewards publications, not teaching. It's amusing that, to teach first grade, you have to take several years of classes and a couple of student teaching-assignments to get a certificate, but to teach college, you need to have only a good background in research.

Of course, as far as I can tell from talking to my friends who are teachers, 95% of the content of the educational curriculum is worthless. (I do occasionally hear praise for about 5% of it.)

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045118)

Agreed. It's just that - what if you're unlucky and _most_ of your teachers aren't good teachers? And what when you realize that the administration encourages and supports that - simply because they're inept themselves and don't really understand they're dumbing the students down through such negligence? FFS, I know people with doctorates who appear total idiots - and I'd guess it's because they are required to teach stuff they don't really know much about. Suddenly the 120 slides kindergarten.

Re:Actually (3, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045120)

Learn the difference between a PowerPoint presentation and a presentation using PowerPoint

Re:Actually (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Actually (2, Interesting)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045266)

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 me post notes ahead of time (something many students have thanked me for, both for saving them time and for when they've gotten sick), put extra notes at the end I don't intended to cover in class (but want to add for anyone interested) and include a lot of figures and images that wouldn't work well with the board or transparencies. (A slide projector would, at minimum, be required.)

Now, granted, I don't follow my slides slavishly. I frequently (too frequently, it feels like) diverge from them. And I don't expect my lecture to actually cover the entire material. That's daft. The students have to do the reading, even in a science class. The lecture is just there to highlight the important points, add anything I feel would help, or clarify a poorly explained bit of the text. (The latter happens rarely since I chose the textbook carefully.)

Re:Actually (2, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045294)

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".

Re:Actually (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045322)

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 different than organic chemistry, so presentation methods should be different too.

Re:Actually (3, Insightful)

engun (1234934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045328)

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 droning.
If they aren't interacting with you, then you haven't made them comfortable or interested enough.

The first step to becoming better is to actually notice that there's a problem.

Sadly, too many teachers seem oblivious to how their students receive them. Worse, they seem to have no intention to improve or to quit, much to the detriment of the hapless individuals who have to endure their classes.

Re:Actually (2, Interesting)

Math.sqrt(-1) (1574847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045394)

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 instructors. What they fail to understand is that a PowerPoint does not a lesson make. While it was once an innovative tool which could be used to enhance a presentation, PowerPoint has turned into a crutch for those who are too lazy to explore new alternatives. Of course, in education, we also find that many of the instructors are Luddites who are reluctant to use PowerPoint in the first place. But once they start using it, it's a real hard sell to get them to use any alternatives.

Amazing that Lectures Still Exist (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044950)

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:Amazing that Lectures Still Exist (1)

dvorakkeyboardrules (1652653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045244)

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?

We're in the land of Clayton Christensen's 'disruptive innovations' here.

See 'the Innovator's Dilemma': []

The costs of in-person delivery of education have made the American educational experience extremely expensive for most (whether it be taxpayer or student). And the opportunity cost of spending 4 years in college is also very high.

The thing about disruptive innovations is that they are never as good, on the face of it, as that which they disrupt (the early PC against the mini or the mainframe, the Honda minibike against Harley/Triumph, etc.) but they do, over time, steal the market.

The incumbents are never well placed to address, because they serve their existing customers well and with great focus and attention to quality.

But the disruptive innovation transforms the market, and usually gets better, so eventually the incumbents have to notice it.

If you look at where the future students are, they come from lower socioeconomic groups who cannot borrow $200k for college. They come from overseas, and are blocked from entry into the US by tighter visa rules. They live in Emerging Markets and will never be able to afford the cost of a western university.

So eLearning and eDelivery is an inevitability, even if something will be lost in the process in the quality of education.

A Harvard or MIT degree will always carry an imprimature of quality that will make it valuable, but watch out if you are outside the top 100 institutions: the pressure is going to be on.

Re:Amazing that Lectures Still Exist (2, Insightful)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045288)

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.

It Works If The Professor Made the Slides (5, Interesting)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044954)

Speaking as a former professor who has written two entire semesters of Powerpoint lectures in Java [] , 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.

Re:It Works If The Professor Made the Slides (1)

HiChris! (999553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045314)

I agree completely with this. I have taught several courses using about 70-80% of the lecture with PowerPoint slides. I make every slide myself - though I do use text figures if they are good (only about half are). I have varied with the amount text on the slides going from 85% of what I'm going to say to less than 20% - for the most it really depends on the topic how much you need, but most students like the amount somewhere in the middle. That way when they look at the slides it's easier to remember what I was talking about. I now also put up my slides ahead of time, so every student can print them out and take notes on them - so that they pay attention to me - and not just try to copy everything down (of course many still do that - erggg. What is funny is when I find out they copy down my mostly bad jokes). Now for research presentations - I totally go with the minimal approach. You are there to here ME talk about MY research - not be bored with reading my slides. Lots of pictures - few words other than the title and labels on the slide.

Re:It Works If The Professor Made the Slides (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045406)

smart idea with the animations, i have about half that are lazy, monotone and reads the powerpoint. something else to mention is that they dont even grade, they have student graders. talk about laziness.

It's not the tech, it's the prof (2, Insightful)

PHPNerd (1039992) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044968)

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 [] for your profs before you sign up for their class.

Re:It's not the tech, it's the prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045180)

"If he's a gifted teacher, it will shine through no matter which medium he chooses."

I second that. Last I heard, most uni professors are required to have a degree in the subject they teach... but no requirement of any _teaching_ credentials. Seems quite ass backwards to me.

different for ESL students (4, Informative)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30044972)

Until recently, I was a vocal opponent of PowerPoint. I had read Tufte's essay [] and applied the assertion-evidence structure [] 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.

Re:different for ESL students (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045286)

It seems like there might be better ways to address a professor and his students not speaking the same language (better than text-as-slides). It really does. One of them might be enforcing language requirements (if there are 3 ESL students in a class, it is not OK to fuck over the other 25 people in the class to accommodate them).

Chalk talk rules (5, Interesting)

Dynetrekk (1607735) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

o What's Wrong With Powerpoint (5, Funny)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 4 years ago | (#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".


Let's move to slide 2.

Re:o What's Wrong With Powerpoint (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045290)

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.

education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045006)

And again, education is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a series of lectures given by knowledgeable professors. It's, it's a series of...Powerpoint presentations!

Powerpoint sucks in schools (3, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Nessak (9218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045044)

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.

Half and Half Works very well (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045048)

I just graduated recently with a degree in CS and I had an instructor who would do half and half. The class was data structures. He did this in a very good way. He would go over the theories and concepts of a data structure for the first half, and then he would actually keep his computer projected onto the screen while he was actually programming the data structure we just discussed. Of course, class participation was a must. When I say he was programming it, he was really just typing what we told him until the entire class got stuck. When we got stuck on a piece that we clearly did not know, he would go into great detail about that piece. Honestly, I learned more from that data structures class than any other class I took at college. Really, using PowerPoint is not bad if you do it correctly.

PP AID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045050)

powerpoint is an 'aid' to a presentation and should not be the presentation itself. say, if Jesus used PPs to present his teachings would he be as effective? anything extra speakers does directly competes with what the speaker has to say for listener's attention.

The proper way to use Powerpoint (4, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045052) certainly not demonstrated in this video. However, I do see more and more of this style these days

How NOT to use Powerpoint []

Chalk talk was really useful (0, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045056)

The other day I was watching Jon Stewart and he was explaining something vague about Hitler stealing Geln Beck from us internal organ by internal organ by internal organ. None of it made any sense till he rolled in the chalk board and explained the link between Acorn, small and large intestines (something Karl Marx had) and the stomach, then it all became very very clear. If in doubt, use a chalk board. That is my dictum now.

Be careful what you wish for (1, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045068)

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 his non-stop lecture. You couldn't afford to miss a single thing he said. He basically wrote one one sheet, slid it to the other side of the projector, and then started another one on the right side. If you were a fast writer, you could just finish up the previous page just as he completed the next.

The problem was that he did know what he was talking about, but it was the ultra-condenced version. You had to go home and take a few hours to review the classes transcript. Thankfully, he scanned his sheets and sent them out the next week. I doubt I could have survived that class on my notes alone.

Although it was nice in that since he wrote almost everything down, any accent barriers were inconsequential.

(The course wasn't a walk in the park either, it was our digital signals processing course)

Re:Be careful what you wish for (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045168)

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.

A chalk-talk instructor here (2, Informative)

Schiphol (1168667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045072)

Well, I teach an undergraduate course and avoid using presentation software -which, anyway, would have been Lyx [] plus Beamer [] 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 are neatly projected on the screen. I could achieve the same effect by dictating, of course, but that's even more boring and less empowering for students that PowerPoint.

Re:A chalk-talk instructor here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045374)

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 are neatly projected on the screen. I could achieve the same effect by dictating, of course, but that's even more boring and less empowering for students that PowerPoint.

As as been pointed out, there's a right way and a wrong way. You can do exactly the same bad things you mention with chalk too.

At a basic level, chalk and powerpoint are the same - information gets put on display for the students. Powerpoint, however, has two major advantages:

1) You can give handouts of your presentation, so students only need to write what they think, not what you're writing, and

2) The pace is more naturally tailored to the ideal pace of the class, not how fast the instructor can write.

Again, it's quite possible to be a bad teacher with powerpoint, or without. I was in college during the transition from chalk to powerpoint, and I really liked not having to be a stenographer, trying to get down everything the instructor wrote on the chalkboard. It allowed me to focus on the class, knowing that I'd be able to refer to the source material later since I had the handouts.

Why PowerPoint is a useful classroom aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045078)

  • Reinforce key educational points
  • Slides convenient for test-time review
  • More material can be covered in allotted time
  • Dodgy handwriting not an issue
  • Students can sleep in, download later
  • Nobody reads the last bullet anyway

Same as web pages (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045090)

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 one theme, with only a few colors" or "No more than 2 different fonts, pref. Sans Serif. Nothing below 18 pt. in size." We have to do this because they use Camtasia Studio to turn their presentations into Flash movies, and a mix of colors, fonts, etc. makes the file size blow up.

Why is this news? (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045092)

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.

This Post Was Created In PPT (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045100)


- Ridicule PPT presentations (good!)
- Education Rant
- Pitfalls
          o Boring
          o Lack of connection
          o Obligatory MS rant
- Conclusions

Note: there will be a test Thr, make sure you are familiar with this material

stupid garbage (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045106)

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 professors are nothing new... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045132)

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

TFA woulda been (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045140)

Epic if it had been created in Power Point...

Just sayin'

Suggestion to Carolyn (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045148)

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 the section titles and something like a 24 point font for the two or three points you make in each section.

Choose a nice color and a not-too-distracting-but-not-very-bland either border decoration and apply it to all the sections.

Add a nice title section.

Presto, your blog post is very eminently presentable to millions of college students in a easy to present format that appears to be nice and slick. As an added bonus before someone comprehends enough of it to ask you any tough questions, you would scrammed out of there with plenty of time to spare.

Learning is hard work, deal with it. (3, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045154)

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.

Are there profs doing this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045160)

I have never had a professor who used slides which were shipped with some sort of textbook. I also never had ONE book as literature reference to any course I took at university. In school, teachers tend to use parts of schoolbooks and other material provided by schoolbook publishers, but at university it would be strange to use "schoolbooks" for lectures. That sounds fishy to me.

And BTW slides can also produced with other software packages beside PowerPoint. For example latex-beamer which was used by several professors at my last university. And of course the slides are available online for the students before the lecture, so they can take notes on the printout version of the slides or on their notebooks, depending on what they prefer.

This Is the Reason I Took A Break From College (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045164)

Years of college to get a degree in CS while being subjected to mind numbing power point slides destroyed my soul. All I wanted to do was work with real hardware, networks, OS', etc.

The textbook says [insert OS here] works and everything integrates properly but until I got into the field I was just a talented geek who had a hobby of trying to keep his box running on low cost korean parts while savagely violation his ISP's ToS in the name of learning.

Maybe I just don't appreciate the "traditional" classroom environment but I believe education starts by doing. Cramming a chapter of a textbook into a slideshow does nothing.

A CS student by the name of Carolyn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045170)

I say that's a lie.

Meh (1)

Enry (630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045192)

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?

Technology generally sucks in the classroom (2, Insightful)

dvorakkeyboardrules (1652653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045208)

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 graduate work and complex programs are needed. It is like teaching from a powerpoint. If a lecturer just repeats exactly what is on the powerpoint it is extremely boring.

Give me a professor who wants to interact with students and really teach, and I will take that every time over any great online lecture, powerpoint slides, etc.

Both my professors use them (1)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045210)

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 colleges though -- less skilled teachers can be employed at lower wages.

Happens at my university (1)

Cahan (1141015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045216)

My university professors use PowerPoint, but they always either hand out the slides or have them available for download on the university website.

does anyone ever learn anything from lectures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30045226)

I studied maths at uni, undergrad and postgrad. At undergrad level, I learnt everything from reading books, taking notes from books, doing exercises in books, teaching newer students, doing more exercises in books, asking lots of questions to and having highly interactive discussions with seniors and peers, and setting my own challenges or filling in gaps in books. I attended as few lectures as possible, and got very little out of them.

I've always thought lectures were a legacy from the days when books were too expensive.

N.B. I've also got very little out of web sites, unless we're just talking about an Internet-accessible archive of historical works or journals. Wikipedia, for example, is occasionally good for opening paragraphs when I'm completely clueless, but every article quickly and descends into the result of 1,000 "editors" with no uniform style, purpose, level of detail, etc. Inevitably there's one long section on some obscure topic reflecting either the author's special interest (sometimes - these are well-written when politically neutral) or what he's recently learnt in an undergrad class (inevitably either recognisable cut-paste jobs or horribly naive expositions).

Stick and dirt (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045240)

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.

Powerpoint sucks so hard, it blows (0, Offtopic)

Tony (765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045268)

Powerpoint is the worst fucking program ever written. It has no point except to fill up time with mindless drivel, to divert your attention so you don't notice the presenter perpetually has a booger hanging from his nose, and to make you think you're getting actual information, when in fact you are getting a series of tweets.

Powerpoint blows.

Computers blow.

That's why I refuse to ever use a computer.

Little time to digest, heh (2, Interesting)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045270)

"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.

PowerPoint boredom (1)

Zelgar (1555507) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045338)

I am a college professor myself, and absolutely hate using PowerPoint presentations to try to convey a point to my students. Often times, because you have to turn the lights low in order to see the presentation, students will take that time to catch up on a few useless minutes of sleep, and often will not even pay attention to what I, nor the presentation are attempting to relay to them. Unfortunately, I encountered the constant belief that PP presentations were a good way to provide knowledge to students while I was earning my degree. When questioned beyond the scope of the presentation, any of the "professors" could not answer, what seemed to me, simple questions. It was this experience which has led me to use no PP presentations during instruction now. I may occasionally put up a single slide to easily convey a table of data, but will not teach an entire lesson from one of these abominations. Much to my chagrin, I am one of the few professors at the college that feel that way; a fair estimate suggests that 90% of professors throughout the U.S. still use PowerPoint presentations to teach their classes.

From the other side... (1)

lxt (724570) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045356)'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 my time, and for every student complaining that the class used too many slides, there's one who's upset we didn't have enough. Some students don't want to take notes, others do. This is part of the challenge of teaching - to find an even ground where every student is satisfied with the lecture style. For example, she says "what helps me most is doing problems step by step as a class". However, I've seen some students who *hate* this approach - so what about them? Do we just forget about them? Ignore them? I personally don't take notes very well, so I like having handouts to supplement lectures. Does this make me a bad student? Honestly, the blog post isn't all that different from some of the student evaluations I read for classes - one student's opinion about what his or her perfect class is. Unfortunately, other students might feel differently. A good professor can be engaging *regardless* of how they present. If you only lecture well with PowerPoint and the projector in your lecture hall breaks, what do you do? The student here is missing the much bigger picture, which is that bad teaching is just bad teaching - whether it be slides, chalk, or overheads.

LaTeX or chalk (1)

zbharucha (1331473) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045360)

Powerpoint presentations are just horrible - especially if they contain equations. LaTeX, chalk or I'm not attending the talk.

Going to have to agree with Steve Lowe ... (1)

xgadflyx (828530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30045380)

When it comes to Power Point, Steve Lowe said it best: Power Point, the Microsoft tool that encourages people to think and talk like fuckheads. You can check out more in his book "Is it just me or is everything shit?"
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