Powerpoint Version of the Gettysburg Address

Have you seen too many PowerPoint presentations?  Here’s a satire.

http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/sld001.htm

6 Comments

  1. lefalcon

     /  September 20, 2007

    Pretty funny. You know, PowerPoint can be
    used rather extensively in English-as-a-
    foreign-language instruction. A fact with
    which I am intimately familiar.
    PowerPoint: I wonder what genius designed
    it in the first place? My flash disk is
    bristling with PowerPointpresentations
    featuring such classic sentences as:

    “The toilet won’t flush!”

  2. acilius

     /  September 24, 2007

    I rarely use PowerPoint in my classes. There are two things I am generally dissatisfied with about my teaching. First, I rarely find a structure that is fluid enough to allow the students to participate as much as I’d like them to do. Second, I don’t invariably achieve my daily goal of getting them to see that the material is more complex and less determinate than it may have appeared in the reading. PowerPoint tends to defeat both of those goals.

    It makes it harder to decenter the classroom because there’s a straight-ahead linearity built into the slide-show format. If I ask the class a question, the greatest thing I can get is an answer I didn’t expect. That’s the indispensible element to starting a class discussion. But if there’s a PowerPoint presentation on the screen, an unexpected answer is just wrong. The only right answer is one that helps us get to the next slide.

    PowerPoint makes it harder to reveal to the students layers of meaning and kinds of problems they hadn’t suspected existed, because students react in a very predictable way to PowerPoint presentations. They will transcribe the words from the screen, ignore any spoken words that do not appear on the screen, and zone out while you show pictures or video. I don’t see any point in getting together in a room to do that. That sort of thing can be put online and the students can view it at their leisure. Class is for the unexpected.

    I’m in a dwindling minority around here. Most classes at BSU have PowerPoint presentations every day. I go to these discussion groups about teaching methods, the question is never “How often and to what end do you use PowerPoint?” The only questions are about how to integrate other forms of technology with daily PowerPoint presentations.

  3. lefalcon

     /  September 28, 2007

    What A wrote (above) reminds me of something I’ve thought for a long time: It is possible for a class to be – in some sense – *too* planned. I’m not saying (obviously) that I think it’s just fine for an instructor to be cavalier and to hardly prepare anything. [In this connection: I once met a guy who claimed he put about 15 min worth of preparation in, for every two-hour lesson! Gee whiz: Doing your entire preparation for a two-hour lesson in 15 min?? This guy staunchly resisted the notion that teaching should involve anything but the bare-bones minimum of work. How the fuck he made it through a two-hour session is beyond me. He would scrape through by the very seat of his pants every time. It seems like that would be so stressful, that one would finally break down and start adequately preparing…if only to alleviate the anxiety assoc w/ being confronted by a roomful of eager faces and having no stinking idea what the hell you’re doing. The key, I believe, is that this guy had a pronounced ‘bullshitting’ streak to his personality…so he would shamelessly bullshit his way through.]

    Some musicians deliberately cultivate a certain amount of spontaneity in their performances, by deliberately keeping band-members on edge…so that the performance won’t be flat and over-rehearsed. After all, spontaneity and being in the moment are at the very core of live musical performance…

    But this idea could even be applied to classroom teaching. The teacher’s plan can be a kind of ‘hidden agenda’ that pushes the teacher to gloss over some interesting things that come up…in the name of getting on with and getting through the lesson plan.

    I hate power-pt. I really do. I also hate TV. That’s why I watch it every chance I get.

  4. acilius

     /  September 30, 2007

    The best days in my classes usually come after I’ve meticulously prepared a full lesson plan and then decided on my way in to throw that plan out and go with some idea that popped into my head at the last minute. I’ve heard this about military the plans, too, that planning can be valuable as an exercise, but only if you understand that the plan you generate in the course of that exercise will not survive contact with the enemy. I don’t hate PowerPoint, but I do dislike the power that it gives to a preset plan.

  5. lefalcon

     /  September 30, 2007

    I don’t hate PowerPoint, either. I hope we didn’t hurt its feelings. Obviously it’s a tool and can be used in different ways.

    It might be a good idea to give students all your PowerPoints at the beginning of semester, or to make them available so that students can print them out whenever they want, at their discretion. This way, you totally get rid of the whole phenomenon of students frantically copying down everything on the screen in the classroom.

    Naturally we can assume that some students will still do that, even if they can just print out the outlines from the Internet.
    I know that sounds like strange behavior…but I bet some oddballs would still do that.

    Part of the reason might be the sheer craving on the part of many college students for some kind of crutch. It is so much simpler and comforting to copy down “set” information,
    “canned” pre-prepared points…as if they were some type of scripture.

    From a certain point of view, college students are by and large victims of their conditioning. It is easy to fall into a bitter cynicism about “undergrads.” (You have to say the word “undergrads” with a certain intonation, like you’re talking about an especially repugnant species of beetle.) Yes, they are in general spoiled in various ways, they generally don’t work very hard, their brains are fried on tv and pop culture, etc., etc. Yet they are still individual human beings…at some level.

    As Mr. DeWitt taught us years ago, each and every one of us is special.

  6. acilius

     /  September 30, 2007

    I post notes on the Blackboard utility, notes that include everything I would want to include in a PowerPoint. So, why bother with PowerPoint in class? They can access Blackboard anywhere, anytime.

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