We’ve all had that class before. Walking into the dark, ominous room, the only sign of life coming from a stream of fluorescent illumination out of a machine somewhere in the middle of the space, finding its home on a screen in front of the room. The class where the only thing harder than retaining information is keeping your eyes open. The class no one wants to go to.
I thought it would end in high school. Being lead like cattle to a classroom where the teacher is too young to know better or too old to care, reading their pre-school year determined lessons word for word from Microsoft PowerPoint.
This involves professors rarely adding their own input and leaves minimal opportunity for intellectual, interesting dialogue with students.
The fact is, it shouldn’t be happening in high school, or middle school for that matter. What is even worse is that it is happening at esteemed universities.
Created in 1990, Microsoft PowerPoint has made itself a substantial impact on schools of all levels throughout the country. And, when used properly, it can be a helpful tool in sparking discussion and providing an easy and “green” (which everyone loves) alternative to printing out notes for students to follow along on.
However, it’s when teachers and professors become reliant on what is supposed to be a springboard for learning, can they hinder their students’ ability to take in information.
“I have never used PowerPoint and never will,” said Michael White, a seventh and eighth grade Language Arts teacher at Asbury Park Middle School in Asbury Park, New Jersey. “If I’m not feeding off the students and they’re not feeding off of me, there can be no creative energy in the classroom. A machine can’t create that energy.”
I know what you’re thinking, Michael White is my father. Well, yes, you’d be right. However, he is also considered in high regard one of the best teachers in his field of Language Arts in the northeast region by some colleagues.
He has brought to attention a new way of teaching children so they are constantly interactive and engaged in dialogue with him and the rest of the class. Receiving an award for “Teachers Who Rock” by local radio station 95.9 WRAT, he has designed a program that has increased test scores and academic growth for over a decade, where students collaborate to write their own class novel by the end of each year.
Interaction. Dialogue. These terms should be considered necessities, not oddities or rarities in the educational setting. This is especially to be true when lecturing a university with such an intimate setting like Monmouth.
At some of the larger schools in the nation where classes can contain up to hundreds of members, it can be hard for a professor to reach out and make sure that every student is engaged and getting an opportunity to glean information, while also presenting some of their own. But at a university where I have never been in a class of more than 40 minds to mold, there’s no excuse for a lack of conversing.
“PowerPoint definitely has a place in education,” White went on to say. “But when the technology overrides the student/teacher connection, you [teachers] are taking the easy way out. You’re taking the day, the week, and the semester off.”
And when I say “dialogue,” I don’t mean an “any questions,” or “everybody get that,” thrown in like spices in a Sunday dinner. This just makes the students that are still awake look at one another in confusion, too afraid to chime in because no one else does. That’s assuming those students still know what’s being talked about. A lot can come to a college kids mind to drift away from an all PowerPoint “lecture.”
The days of teachers and professors who are guilty of slapping up a PowerPoint and reading it like an actor with a script need to come to an end. I mean, even Leonardo DiCaprio improvises on his lines. And who doesn’t want to be like Leo?
The main way we can turn the PowerPoint problem into a solution is discussion, a controlled open forum of both student and teacher. Sticking to the slides can devalue critical thinking, most students simply writing only what is on the screen, if they don’t just download the slides the day before the test. PowerPoint needs to go back to being the assistant, not the expert.