Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Power Point in the Classroom

A couple months ago I heard a piece on NPR about how PowerPoint is being used by the United States military. I have included a power point slide that was mentioned in the report.

The piece can be found HERE. I think this article from the NYT helps to sum up my stance on PP: "The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan." In other words, a large amount of the time spent incorporating PP into a presentation could be better spent making that presentation more informative and concise. Also, the mere fact that you are being required to concentrate on static displays forces people to divide their attention between the speaker and the screen. We spend more time furiously copying the info bullets into our notebooks then we spend trying to grasp the content’s meaning. This, I feel, makes it twice as hard to really absorb the material.

As for PP in the classroom? I am extremely opposed to it. Have you ever attended a memorable lecture that was based on PP slides? The best lectures involve active teacher/student discussion and relevant anecdotes. As far as the information PPs are intended to convey, the teachers could save themselves time by creating an outline and distributing it electronically before or after class. However, although I hate the teacher’s use of PP, I do think it can be used effectively by students in a presentation.

For one thing, the mere act of working in a digital medium helps to expose children to the type of work they will be doing for the rest of their lives. PP presentations require Google image searches, typing, MS Office skills, and a wide rang of other online skills that will serve them well as they get older. Also, for kids, the bells and whistles of PowerPoint can be fun and exciting. Students can really personalize their presentations. The medium allows them to express information that they would have difficulty expressing in a different format. So, for teachers, PP should be avoided like the plague. However, PP can be used effectively by students to present what they have learned in an assignment or as part of a presentation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Personal Reflections on the Course

I have really enjoyed this class so far. For the most part, I have found everything we have learned to be extremely practical. The vast majority of classes I have taken have dealt mostly with theory, so learning practical ideas that I can apply in the classroom has been a very nice change of pace. I can imagine a number of different scenarios in which I could apply some of the ideas we have discussed so far.

Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the course, so far, has been my growing awareness of the vast number of ways that technology can be used in a classroom. More than just smart boards and other, often underutilized, technologies, I have discovered that things as simple as blogs could be used very effectively in the classroom setting. Another area that I greatly enjoyed was learning about WebQuests and other Internet based projects. When I was in elementary school, almost all of my research was done with books in the library. By creating a project based upon information available on the Internet, kids could begin the process of learning how to conduct online research. As they get older, knowing how to perform this type of research will be of great importance. I also found the idea of digital storytelling to be wonderful. By using simple, freely available software, kids could create their own presentation, which would be a great counterpoint to the, often boring, PowerPoint presentation.

I have not really found anything to be particularly challenging. The workload has been very manageable and most of the assignments are easy to understand. The work we have done in-class has also been helpful. I enjoy meeting in groups and we have done this often.

As the semester progresses I hope to continue to learn more about the different ways that technology can be applied in the classroom. I am excited about the ways that social networking and podcasting can be used. These would offer extremely interesting new ways for children to interact with the material.

As far as suggestions for the instructor, I have none. Dr. Langran has been very helpful and class is almost never boring. I look forward to the second half of the semester.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Future of Teaching Blog Update

Once again, I am very glad that I chose the Edurati Review as my blog to follow. It continues to offer up a number of intriguing posts. Recently, there was a very informative posting titled “10 Education Warning Signs that Somebody Needs to Heed as this Next Decade Unfolds. The posting met a number of my Criteria for a Successful Blog, including lists, links, and an interesting subject.

The main gist of this posting was that in the coming decade, the American education system will face a number of major challenges that will most likely necessitate drastic changes. One of the most troubling changes is that, due to an increasing number of retiring teachers, we will need to add an additional 3 million teachers by the year 2020. This would be the largest number of teachers retiring since the 1940’s.

In addition to the large number of retiring teachers, K-12 public school enrollment will increase by about 4.5 million students in the next 7 years. The increasing number of students is only part of the problem. Due to aging infrastructure and years of neglect, the article mentions that over $322 billion dollars will need to be spent on school improvements.

All of these statistics paint a scary picture for prospective teachers such as myself. Unless there are drastic changes in funding, I will most likely be entering a profession reeling from budget cuts, retirements, crumbling buildings, and low pay with long hours.

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