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March 08, 2005

Comments

The Birdwoman

I should also point out - educational research suggests that there are different "learning styles" that different people favour. PowerPoint - and other visual aids - can be a powerful tool for those who are primarily visual learners. And IIRC, that's the majority of people.

Caroline

Perhaps I should keep quiet..

I'm just finishing off my PhD in learning and Teaching :-( Sorry Hugo!

I do agree with you about powerpoint, all it encourages lecturers to do is speak in soundbites, and students to copy down the slides in tortuous longhand.

Part of my reason for disliking powerpoint is that it centres attention on the teacher, when what I want to do is focus attention on the learners what we/they are doing, how they are grappling with ideas.

For that reason I disagree with you strongly about lectures. Of course they have a role to play, but to speak of a lecturer as a "deliverer of information? What a modernist concept Hugo! :-) I am surprised. You'll be saying that your lectures are value free and unbiased presentations of competing theories next!

I won't charge you with being old fashioned, as the socratic and discursive methods I use go back much further even than overheads! Yes, like you my voice is initially the dominant voice, as I structure and shape the course but the aim is to shift attention to the student's agenda. I teach mainly at a postgraduate level now, so that is easier of course, but even with undergraduates I would seek to support their active learning more than my teaching.

A while ago, I was asked a question in the final seminar of the year. It was a good question and the answer took me 30 minutes (sounded like a damn lecture to me :-). The students really appreciated what I had said and asked why I hadn't lectured them before. My answer surprised me: "Because you didn't know enough to disagree with me then!"

Anne

Hugo, I know of at least one of your colleagues who prided himself in devoting his own funds to wiring his classroom. His use of power point does not detract from the fact that he is a wonderful lecturer. The power point is great for showing us maps, pictures, and notes (the stuff that usually just went on the chalkboard).

There is nothing wrong with wanting a wired classroom. I don't think you should "put down" your colleagues for their interest in utilizing the latest technology.

Chris

As as budding instructor, I have to say that I love powerpoint, primarily because I have very bad handwriting and it only gets worse when I'm forced to write on a chalk or white board. Without powerpoint, students wouldn't have any idea what the hell I'm putting up there.

As a student (and as an audience member at conferences, where virtually everyone uses powerpoint) I don't really think that powerpoint is the problem. The problem is people who think a powerpoint presentation is a substitute for good public speaking skills. In decades past (or so my elders tell me) the most dreaded speaker at a conference who stands there and reads his paper. Now it's the one who stands there and reads his powerpoint presentation. They look even more like idiots since they usually do this looking over their shoulder at a screen. On the the hand, some of the most engaging lectures I've ever seen have used powerpoint. It's not the software, it's the person using it.

In other words, powerpoint doesn't give bad lectures, bad lecturers give bad lectures.

mythago

There is nothing wrong with wanting a wired classroom.

There is--if the reason for wanting a wired classroom is that it's cool and high-tech and impressive. There's nothing wrong with wanting to have better tools, and a teacher who knows how to use them and how they will improve the learning experience is in a different group than the "Woohoo! Powerpoint!" crowd.

Hugo Schwyzer

Caroline, that's where you and I disagree. The uninformed can't have an agenda until they have been informed. Only once one has passively absorbed material FIRST can one then SUBSEQUENTLY engage it in discussion. This is particularly true in history courses which require that one cover everything from Hammurabi to Martin Luther in one semester!

I cheerfully plead guilty to being a reactionary in terms of pedagogical method. A belief in gender equality and a belief in hierarchical teaching styles sit together easily for me.

Anne, if you read my words carefully, I note that there are a few -- a very few -- teachers who can use lots of technology while also delivering high-quality lectures. The colleague of mine to whom you refer is one such person.

Orlando E, Raola

Dear Social Scientist!

Can you please take a look back in time and reflect upon the strong resistance that the introduction of every new tool brought about among those called to use them? Do you still write on a waxed tablet with a stylus? You might be doing so today if those who ranted against the introduction of the quill and the papyrus had had it their way!

Your truly, Natural Scientist

Caroline

Do people need to be informed first? Or do they need to inquire first?

Is the information value free? Is it objective? Is it indisputable?

To what use will this information be put? That question itself will shape the information ..

And what happens to this information as it's transferred from you to your students? Is there a chemical reation within your students that makes a change in them?

I am not absolving the academic tutor from contributing to a student's learning. For example, a lecture can be a way of modelling a learning or academic process. And I DO accept that there are accepted norms from knowledge communities that are best passed on in the coherent form of a lecture.

But what surprises me, given your discipline of feminism, is that you can write of information in this apparently value free way, that you can position yourself in the role of arbiter of what information can be passed on (and, of course what won't be). I would have thought that this would sit uneasilly!

(BTW - in the midst of a disagreement, just to say that I do value and learn from your blog! I'd hate to think that you found in me someone looking for a disagreement! :-)

ps, I'm in the middle of a series of three posts on learning/disipleship at Organicchurch - do feel free to take a look and be appalled! :-)

mythago

Can you please take a look back in time and reflect upon the strong resistance that the introduction of every new tool brought about among those called to use them?

You would also have to look back on how every new tool had proponents insisting it would revolutionize things--for example, how television would completely change education for the better...

clew

Some people ascribe virtues to PowerPoint that belong to any projected computer display; graphics, obviously. You can use lots of other programs to display them with better interoperability. I find a local-to-the-laptop Website is ideal, and can be printed out, fisheyed on demand, or provided supporting material, much more effectively than Ppt can.

Anyone who needs the outlining and sequencing tools Ppt tries to provide has problems no tech can fix, in my opinion. (I also think the beautiful images some artists make with Ppt are more evidence that it's a businessperson's tool meant to sway and color the information it holds, not a teacher's took meant to make clear the statements and their support.)

My current best prof uses the whiteboard in his (organized, vivid) lectures and provides LaTex'd notes; minimum of noise, maximum content.

Anon

Hugo, I enjoy listening to your lectures. You could give lessons on how to lecture as far as I am concerned. They are refreshing with all the Powerpoint and DVD's going on in other classrooms.

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