My overhead projector is blurry and can only focus on part of the screen at any one time. That makes writing notes on the overhead or putting up information problematic. The convenience of throwing up a word here and there makes the overhead a still useful technology but the fact that they are being discontinued will soon put them in the same pile as filmstrips and laser disc players. Enter the multimedia projector and my laptop to save the day. Why not take note-taking up a notch and use PowerPoint to wow and amaze? Sounds good on paper but the fact remains… it is still note-taking.
Now don’t get me wrong I still use PowerPoint, quite a bit in fact and I still insist, from time to time, that students take down notes. I believe this to be an important skill and something that will remain in our repertoire as long as post-secondary institutions still require this of their students. But I am moving towards using PowerPoint as a conversation starter and not a hand freezer. Posting notes online so students are free of copying every last word allows them to sit back and take in what the presentation has to offer. The key for me is being able to speak to each point and not overloading the screen with words and concepts. Pacing a PowerPoint is like pacing a good lesson, you recognize the purpose and try to get your point across in the most effective means possible. Adding graphics, sound and video clips pushes the presentation beyond the realm of overheads and into the digital era. Is this enough to capture the attention of your students, probably not but it is a start. We must be careful not to simply use technology as a replacement for technology. Sound complicated… remember the blurry overhead projector? 21st Century Learning has as its heart the engagement of the students. If technology can be a vehicle to that engagement then full speed ahead to the digital age and all the power to school boards to provide the infrastructure to make these tools more effective. Well it isn’t that simple… any good teacher knows that sound pedagogy is the heart of student engagement and no fancy toy can ever replace that. Using PowerPoint in the same monotone voice will only get you so far but showing your passion for the subject matter and changing up your lessons to provide variety and change of pace will always prove effective. Developing a PowerPoint lesson that takes into account areas for discussion, questioning and critical thinking fully utilizes the technology and makes it another choice for a teacher and another source of information and inspiration for a student.