Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about PowerPoint. Like Edward Tufte, I believe it is truly one of the worst things that has happened to education since, well, forever. Earlier this year my older son who is in fourth grade came home and proudly told me how they had spent their entire day in science class learning to make a PowerPoint. When I asked him what they learned about science that day, he said, “How to make a PowerPoint.” Why, I think it’s fair to ask, do 9 and 10 year olds need to be able to make PowerPoint presentations? What possible educational purpose is served? Okay, so I’m ranting, but it’s a good rant.
More to the point of my professional concerns–and an area I can actually, maybe, do something about–it the unrelenting spread of PowerPoint to the college and university classroom. What do you mean you don’t use PowerPoint? How can you be so unhip, so unwired, so un-ramped? Chalk and (shudder) overhead projectors are so last century! Heaven forbid we should actually just talk with our students when we can show them slides with text that appears and disappears on command.
But students love it, demand it, give you bad teaching evaluations if you don’t use it. Right? Why don’t we let one of them tell you in his own words (from a recent self-reflection of my students wrote on his learning thus far this semester):
There have been many classes that I have taken where I come out of the class knowing nothing more than I did when I walked into the class. Sometimes the classes are just so boring and repetitive; reading thirty or so PowerPoint slides a day in class and having to memorize certain parts, does not really force me to learn anything. This is because soon after the class ends I will forget much of what I had to memorize.
Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. What about you? Now get back to creating those slides for Monday’s lecture!