Growing Role of Technology in the Classroom?

I assigned a presentation in the class that I am teaching. The syllabus indicated that the students must prepare a 20-25 minute presentation with a handout summarizing the material. The first group presented early in the semester and prepared a great presentation including PowerPoint. I don’t use PowerPoint in my lectures/discussions and I was surprised that the group created one in addition to the assignment requirements. There are only four students out of 19 who have yet to present at this point in the semester. All of the groups that followed the first have also used PowerPoint in addition to their presentations.

My hunch is that the later groups are following the example set by the first (as I indicated publicly that they had done a good job). But I also suspect that the students are more used to PowerPoint (and technology in general) in college classrooms than I am. When I was an undergraduate technology was largely absent from the classroom. Professors didn’t use PowerPoint, students didn’t bring laptops and cellphones only made phone calls (maybe a text here and there). The majority of my undergraduate and Master’s level courses were either lecture style with professors using printed notes and occasionally writing on the blackboard or seminar discussions with reference to books, articles, etc. These materials were also “analog”.

I often wonder if the students expect me to be using PowerPoint and/or more multimedia than I do. I occasionally show short clips from Youtube and I use a lot of maps and some images but that’s typically the extend of it. I may ask them at some point if they have a preference but I’m not fully convinced how much PowerPoint adds to the classroom. I’ve always seen it as superfluous. Either it is a vehicle for a picture and/or a few quotes or it is dense with text and simply a carbon copy of teaching notes. I’m not against new technology in the classroom. It seems that it can add to the classroom experience but it doesn’t seem necessary or sufficient for effective teaching and/or learning.

3 thoughts on “Growing Role of Technology in the Classroom?”

  1. Engineering education major here. Indeed, PowerPoint, like any other implement in your classroom, is a tool. It can become an instrument of effective teaching and learning, but its use doesn’t itself constitute effective teaching or learning. The point is that, at the end of the day, your chalkboard or whiteboard is as superfluous as a PowerPoint presentation when the teacher’s manner of employing it is omitted from consideration. These are merely canvases upon which our performance of teaching is imprinted to communicate our understandings of the material we need to teach.

    PowerPoint has some practical elements that can make it easier to prepare for class. For one, it can be saved, stored, and moved between machines for later use. It doesn’t make a mess. It can be shared with others.

    If used in conjunction with something like DyKnow (an application that allows both teachers and students to interact with slides as if it were a whiteboard), it can electronically create a new dimension of interaction between students and instructors that has potential benefits for both. Those potential benefits, however, only come about with proper lesson planning to integrate those new dimensions of interaction such that they reinforce the learning experience for your students. Nothing you employ in your classroom, regardless of its technology level, makes up for poor pedagogy.

    If they are undergraduates right now, your students have likely learned how to use PowerPoint in high school. It’s not necessarily a problem that you don’t use it yourself, and it sounds like you do your fair share of technology use outside of it, anyway. Don’t feel pressured to use it if you’ve considered it and found that it doesn’t offer anything for you to take advantage of as a teacher.

  2. I love this blog post! I, like you, was not raised with technology in the classroom. Most of my grade school and high school teachers (1990-2002) had overhead projectors, and I remember lots of terribly hand drawn pictures of human body cells and quick note outlines made in handwriting I couldn’t read.
    As I entered the military just after high school, “death by PowerPoint” became a real thing, maybe because PP was a new technology, maybe because it was easy to create a slideshow and email it around, I don’t know. Moving to undergrad in 2005, I remember some PPs and other new technology, but I don’t think I had a laptop until my sophomore year.
    Now when I teach I do use a PP, mostly because I think it helps to keep my student’s attention. I don’t allow them to have their laptops and cellphones out during class, and you would have thought I had asked them to cut off their right arm. And I ask them to take notes by hand (the horror!! 🙂 lol)
    All that said, I can teach perfectly well without PP, as evidenced when the whole computer system goes down minutes before class. Because I think I have “raised” my class to expect PPs, although I don’t post them, my students seem confused when there’s not something to copy down. At the same time, they seem pleasantly surprised when they engage me and their classmates in conversation…who woulda thunk it??
    I think technology is the way the world is moving and I can’t ignore it forever, although I would love to. I see it encroaching upon the K-12 system, so to think that students wouldn’t expect it in college is crazy. That said, there’s way to seamlessly integrate it into the classroom, I just feel like a luddite that I’m hesitant to try much of anything.

  3. I also enjoyed this post and particularly Josh’s comment. He does a much better job at articulating my thoughts on the matter than me right now! Hehehe, but yes, the method of delivering information is not as important proper pedagogical practices are. This leads me to believe about the so-called “learning styles” and the debate around whether or not it is actually a thing.

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