In many circles, slideshows are notorious for so-called “Death by PowerPoint.” The same criticism is applied everywhere from corporate boardrooms to classrooms. For many students, PowerPoint is synonymous with uninspiring lectures, and therefore passive learning.
Despite the passive nature of a slide-based lecture, PowerPoint and PowerPoint-like formats are likely going to stick around for quite some time. While slides often lead to tendencies like lecturing and overloading slides with too much information, a well-done presentation makes it easier for students to follow along.
In the past, instructors outlined important points on the chalkboard, but computers have made PowerPoint and Keynote presentations ubiquitous. Slides make it easier for instructors to logically organize their key points and to share relevant photos, diagrams, and charts. To promote active learning, however, the challenge is to make otherwise monotonous content and instruction more interactive.
There are three keys to a truly interactive PowerPoint presentation, and despite “Death by PowerPoint,” each can be made easier with instructional technologies.
engaged during lecture, and make PowerPoint slideshows more interactive.
Nobelist Carl Wieman found that interactive lectures taught with student response systems not only improved student engagement, but also student learning. New student response systems promote discussion and identify misconceptions with more question types, rather than simply fostering recollection of material. In large classes, it is easier to hear from a variety of students using a student response system. Students also prefer to respond to questions posed by their instructor using technology.
Many student response systems integrate with, replace, or work seamlessly with PowerPoint, making it simple to poll and engage students during a lecture.
In a smaller classroom, it is easy for students to raise their hands with comprehension concerns, but in larger classroom or class sessions with a lot of slides to cover in a limited timeframe, opportunities to ask questions are rare.
Technology allows students to submit questions when they arise, rather than waiting for a good opportunity. It also empowers the shy student to ask questions, and allows instructors to see precisely which concepts are confusing.
Many solutions exist to open the classroom backchannel, though some are more elegant than others. In his book, Derek Bruff noted one college classroom where students could text their teaching assistant questions, and the TA would stop the professor if a particularly “good” question came in. Other instructors use Twitter with a class-specific hashtag. Again, some next generation classroom technologies integrate this type of interactive exchange with the instructor’s slideshow.
Utilizing student response systems are great for engaging students with material, facilitating peer instruction, and providing a self-assessment tool. Opening up Q&A allows students to relay specific concerns and to learn from their classmates’ questions. But monitoring overall comprehension is paramount – it allows instructors to modify class on-the-fly and adjust to student learning.
This type of rapid feedback cycle by nature creates a more interactive classroom and provides more opportunities for student learning as instructors attack problems in new ways when students get stuck.