It’s about the Teacher, Silly! or, Don’t Ban PowerPoint—Learn How to Use It (or switch to Keynote)!

23_1Consider this scene:  A faculty member from Pima Community College recently apologized to the audience that although he had requested an advanced room, he had been given one without a blackboard and eraser.  His point was that some tools support the art of improvisation better than others:  chalkboard=good, Powerpoint=not so good.  (See the full story here.)

I liked this quote from the article, which appeared in Tomorrow’s Professor:

  • “A good faculty member….must be like a good comedian – “knowing the audience, responding to the audience” and either extending one line of thought or regrouping when something hasn’t worked.”

They go on to point on that if you blindly let the PowerPoint slide show dictate the pacing of your lecture, you have lost the improvisational art of teaching.

For me, the real point is that the focus of a classroom should be on the connection between the student and the teacher and not between the student and the technology.    Writing on the blackboard with an extended period of time showing your back to the classroom is just as bad, in my opinion, as advancing PowerPoint slides in an autopilot fashion.

Here’s how I make sure that even when I use video, a very compelling and riveting technology, I make sure that I don’t break my own connection with the students.

  1. Keep the lights on.  Today’s projectors let us do that.  Dim lighting sends an audience into entertainment mode.
  2. Interrupt frequently.  I maintain a dialogue with the video itself, pausing it, explaining a point or posing a question to the students and then revealing the answer during the remainder of the clip. F
    1. Poweroint – click to stop, click again to play
    2. Keynote – use the Inspector Tool to start the clip exactly where you want and then click to stop, click to play from the same spot.
    3. Rewind.  Used sparingly, it is effective to replay a very short section of the video over again a few times to make a point.
    4. Ask for reactions.  Create a dialogue with the students, you and the “virtual speaker” by

Bottom line:  Whatever tool you use—blackboard drawings, PowerPoint, Keynote or standup comedy—it is HOW you use it that matters.

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