Power Point versus Interesting Visual Aids

Is power point evil or just used poorly? While I find that the Business Insider “Universities Should Ban Power Point” makes a strong argument as to why power point fails as a teaching aid. The presumption is that teachers use power point to echo or literally write out their lectures.  However, power point — as a visual anchor — can inform and enhance teaching, but the key is integrating active learning to enhance student learning.  The problem is students aren’t always aware of how they learn and ” Universities measure student satisfaction but they do not measure learning.”  Thus, if a course seems organized because of a lot of power point lectures students may, indeed, rate the course higher than one that challenges them to apply readings in active learning processes.

As someone who has taught in the classroom or in workshops across a 20 year career, I can attest to my experience pre and post power point. I will take power point over a transparency any day.  BUT I miss chalk boards and the need to slow down the process to really work through problems on a board (versus on a screen).  I believe visuals are necessary for teaching but they are not the end.  They are a means for sharing ideas and data but they do not constitute the end of learning for the student.  They are the beginning that has to include interplay with active learning, discussion and problem solving.

So, is  power point, student evaluations, or a habit of passive  learning(talk-listen) teaching styles to blame for a lack of learning?  All technology is only as good as its user.  It is not power point’s fault that teachers use it in a particular way.  But it is a university’s evaluation system that encourages continuing bad practices. And a teacher’s for not ethically focusing on learning first.




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