Friday, May 15, 2009

Academic Presentations

I've been away from posting this week because I've been attending a conference at my school on teaching with technology. I gave a presentation Thursday afternoon on my use of blogs in the writing intensive music history I teach, which went very well, and spent the rest of the conference going from session to session wondering why at a conference on teaching with technology, the presenters used technology so poorly.

What technology you might ask? Why PowerPoint, of course. The first presenter had excellent ideas but used his PowerPoint like a paper, with footnotes and long quotations and so many bullet points it looked like Bonnie and Clyde's car. What was sad is that the presenter knew his PowerPoint was working against him because he jokingly referenced having seen Death by PowerPoint, but obviously didn't take any of its lessons to heart. The presenters after him were no better, simply taking bullet point list after bullet point list and forcing us to read them in bad templates. *sigh*

The other cloud hanging over the conference was the spectre of e-learning where an entire class is online. We're all crusty academics who value face-to-face interactions with students, but with the decline of newspapers, some doomsayers are forecasting the downfall of universities as well, especially after commercials like this:

Kaplan is one of the crop of for-profit online schools and have made several great commercials like that one. But what the articles and lectures and videos don't understand is that there is more to college than lectures. Much of the learning that goes on in college happens in dorm rooms, in the cafeteria, playing Frisbee on the quad. Those experiences are not replicable online; in facebook we're usually friends with people we already know, not making new friends and sharing deep conversations late in the night. Plus, many seem not to realize that classrooms are more interactive than ever before, harnessing new technology to encourage student participation. The old "I talk, you listen" paradigm is still in use, but is constantly changing. Many professors may not know how to use PowerPoint, but they certainly are learning to bring learning in powerful new ways.

1 comment:

Jaime Olson said...

Andrew, you are so great. I'm often impressed by your thoughts and your perspective on your work. You manage to care about your area of expertise AND the people you are teaching it to, and that is a rarity in academia. We are super proud of you!