Death by PowerPoint – Fact or Fiction?

Image by HikingArtist.com – Flickr

I’m working on an assignment at the moment for my PG Cert in Teaching in HE looking at the use of technology in lectures and classroom teaching.  For me e-learning means the use of technology in learning opportunities, but there are still many involved in teaching in HE who are unsure about embracing technology and are concerned about teaching being technology driven etc.  Yet probably most lecturers make use of technology in their face to face teaching in lectures, seminars etc because they use PowerPoint or Keynote as a presentation aid in their teaching.

I think it’s important not to be wowed by technology and to use it just for the sake of it, but rather to think about whether we can use it to help us improve and enhance our teaching.  Using technology can help us to deliver more active learning opportunities to our students and encourage more peer to peer learning and collaborative learning. The question I have is how has the use of PowerPoint enhanced teaching and learning and is there any evidence that it has?  Were chalk and talk and OHPs worse, are our students really experiencing death by powerpoint?  Have we just blindly adopted it to help us transmit information without much thought about our teaching style or how we engage students in lectures?

I’ve got a pile of papers to read through this weekend which will hopefully help me to begin to answer some of these questions and I’d also welcome anyone’s else’s thoughts on the use of PowerPoint in teaching or links to any articles on this.  In the meantime here are a couple of slideshare presentations by Garr Reynolds who runs the Presentation Zen website, which I thought were worth sharing as good examples of Powerpoints but also because they give some helpful tips on designing your slides.  Many thanks to Vicki Davis for the tip off about the first presentation, which I came across on a post on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Should Powerpoint handouts be uploaded to the VLE before or after lectures?

lecture handouts

Photo credit - libraryman

My PG Cert in Teaching in Higher Education kicked off last week with a workshop and one of the group activities involved us all delivering a short 5 minute micro teaching slot.  We had been forewarned about this so most of us had prepared a few Powerpoint slides to support our slots.  After we’d done our stint we had to evaluate our own efforts and then we got feedback from the other members of our small group and a course tutor.  This exercise stimulated some interesting discussion around student engagement and whether students today expected to be spoon-fed, in contrast to when we were all students when you had to take your own notes during lectures as there wasn’t the luxury of being able to download from the VLE what was written on the OHP or blackboard.  This discussion continued in the plenary session.  Some lecturers highlighted that they tended to use keywords on Powerpoint slides rather than have lots of text, which all seems to make good sense, but students weren’t happy because there wasn’t enough information for them on the slides.  Were they unhappy because they would actually have to listen and make notes …  I don’t know.

The debate about lecture Powerpoint handouts continued with some colleagues at the end of last week.  We currently make our lecture Powerpoint handouts available after the lecture has been given.  In a poll (run with Turning Point) in the last lecture of a 4 week teaching block one of the questions we asked was, ‘When did students want the Powerpoint handouts for lectures uploaded to Blackboard’. The options we gave them were before the lecture, after the lecture, at the end of a teaching block or not at all.  95% of them said they wanted them uploaded before the lecture.  Discussing this with a couple of lecturers there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for doing this.  The reasons for this are that, one they think that students won’t bother coming to their lectures if the handouts are available beforehand, and secondly as many of our lecturers are also busy NHS doctors they often don’t have their Powerpoint slides completed until just before the lecture.

I’ve had a very, very quick squint to see if I can find any literature that provides any evidence that releasing the lecture notes before the lecture affects learning outcomes for students and their performance in assessment etc or their attendance.   I haven’t really found much on this yet that I can get access to, but intend to do a bit more serious searching.

I’m interested in whether other institutions have protocols or guidelines on whether lecture slides should be made available prior to lectures, what are you encouraged to do?  What’s the rationale for making them available before hand rather than afterwards?  Does this approach affect attendance at lectures or learning outcomes.   Does giving out the handouts before the lecture encourage the students to come to the lecture more prepared and stimulate more interaction in the lecture or do you think it’s just spoon-feeding them?

I’d be interested to hear what others think!

Photo credit libraryman