Today, numerous courses at undergrad level utilize PowerPoint slides. The usual style of teaching is that the students print off the slides prior to the class, read the corresponding pages in the textbook, and attend lecture to hear the professor discussing the PowerPoint slides in the order they are presented. To a certain degree, PowerPoint has allowed instructors to embed pictures, graphs, and tables to establish more dynamic learning environment and cover much more materials than they would if they were to handwrite everything in the board.
Some instructors develop their own PowerPoint slides while others use or slightly change the slides from the publishers. The question, however, is whether such pedagogical technique is justified. While a counterargument may be constructed to demonstrate the didactic benefits in the efficacious presentations of materials from PowerPoints, it is unclear as to determine if such learning style truly produces a high comprehension and understanding from the students.
In 2008, the authors of an article from Journal of Further & Higher Education pointed out the ramifications of PowerPoints learning by the students, “The ‘linear teaching approach’ keeps the student as a distant observer of the material, rather than as a participant engaged in its construction.”1 The authors clearly make a valid point because while instructors may encourage interactions from the students, there is obviously a limit to this since instructors feel obliged to teach all the materials listed in the slides for that day. The very same PowerPoints slides that were created by teachers to have an organized lesson plan prevent students and teachers from developing more active and physical environments in the classrooms.
Another crux of this article deals with the comprehension of the students. For some students whose instructors do not upload the slides due to the fear of losing attendance from uploaded slides, PowerPoints is detrimental because students who do come to the lectures become preoccupied to copy the words up in the slides and miss all the key words spoken by the instructors. Rarely, however, do these slides provide any insight not found in the glossary of the textbooks. The real gem of the lectures should is almost always the words of wisdoms by the instructors, not the slides. So, if the students are preoccupied with slides and only attain materials that were explicitly stated in the slides, there will always be students who know the words in the slides verbatim but not actually understand the concepts.
What is more disturbing, however, is that in some cases, both students and instructors do not fathom that students did not understand the concepts until the day of the exam. Instructors cannot always know the comprehension level of students because they are busy going through the slides, and students remain in the realm of misconception of “understanding” without actual understanding until the test day arrives, only finding that they cannot apply the memorized words to the real life scenarios and applications.
Still, the technological innovations cannot be simply discarded since they do have certain merits not available in the past. Perhaps, it may be ideal to combine PowerPoints presentation with the classic use of the board so that the students will be engaged in kinesthetic learning. They will then utilize their ears for instructors’ voice, eyes for slides and diagrams that the instructors provide in the board, and hands to write down the key words that instructors said and written in the board. This will also slow down the pace of the classroom and allow instructors to open up Q&A to clear up any confusion of the materials.
1 Ian M. Kinchin, Deesha Chadha, and Patricia Kokotailo, “Using PowerPoint as a lens to focus on linearity in teaching,” Journal of Further & Higher Education Nov. 2008, Vol. 32 Issue 4: 333-346.