Wednesday, April 8, 2009

pedagogical experiment

When rooms were being assigned for the current term, I was informed that I had two options: walk across campus to get a projector, or use the room behind my office, which has no technological anything. I said, give me chalkboards! And so began my current experiment, in which I am weaning myself (somewhat) off of PowerPoint. So far it's been surprisingly great - this is an upper-level seminar about a tangential field to my own specific subfield...so it's something I know a lot about. We're reading both basic-level informative texts as well as primary literature, and I'm hoping that I'm managing to push the students a little in terms of their comfort level with the material. I'm throwing a lot of information at them, and expecting them to get the big picture even if they don't understand all the details (though we do go over those as well). There are no tests, which prevents them from freaking out.

I've found that I'm suddenly more confident in my ability to lecture without a set of slides - since I'm managing just fine by reviewing my lecture topic right before class and then letting myself talk. I don't think I'd want to go totally technology-free on a subject that I'm less familiar with, since then I wouldn't be able to elaborate with random stories and asides or come up with on-the-fly illustrations, but I think that doing this seminar without the PowerPoint option has really helped me focus more on the information itself, student questions, and the big picture.

My students, who are required to give presentations on some of the course topics, are less than thrilled with the lack of PowerPoint. Which is a little bit sad, I think, since when I was an undergrad we were just learning how to use the technology for the first time, whereas now we seem to be ready to wean them off the technological crutch already! I think it's a good thing for all of us, in the end, and I'm really glad (now!) that I was going to be kicked across campus this term unless I went without.

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