What’s the (Power)Point?
Just kidding. Can we get a lesson that involves just a tiny bit of preparation?
By Mattie Winowitch, Waynesburg University
Picture this: Your alarm goes off in the morning, and you’re exhausted.
The room is the perfect temperature, while your bed has somehow transformed into a fluffy cloud overnight. You reach to grab your phone to turn off your alarm, and contemplate going to your 8 a.m.
After much inner-conflict, you get out of bed and drag yourself to class. You figure, hey, it’s probably best. If you don’t go, you might miss something really important. The professor comes in, and you yawn as you think to yourself, “This better be good…”
And then, he loads up the PowerPoint presentation.
This is not a fantasy for many university students. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it happens probably every day. Students are forced to go to class, but when they get there, all the professor has planned is an arsenal of poorly made slides.
What makes it even worse is that nine times out of ten, the professor put these slides online for clarity’s sake, therefore causing your presence in class to be absolutely pointless. You could still be counting sheep in your cloud bed, but no, instead you are sitting in class, ready for death.
This is a problem for multiple reasons.
First, it’s discouraging students from attending their classes. If you’re a professor and you use the same teaching style every single day, get ready for a lot of absent students.
The second reason why PowerPoint is a problem is that it is so easy to come off as a joke. While presentations offer an aesthetically pleasing and professional edge to any lecture or speech, the person giving the presentation is (unknowingly) walking a fine line between looking good and looking like a mess.
I’ve seen teachers and professors put entire paragraphs on slides, just waiting for us to copy them down. How is that teaching, again?
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the ClipArt. I have ClipArt nightmares.
I think my preferred lecture style is when the professor just talks. In those classes, I am sitting on the edge of my seat, anxiously writing down every word in the hope that I won’t miss anything important, and every now and then, they’d write something on the board to make sure we were on pace. Of course, no one wants the teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” just droning on, so usually this sort of lecture style requires a certain personality type.
I’m not really sure when the uptick in PowerPoint really began. In fifth grade, I was fascinated by the overhead projector. Sometimes, our teacher would even let us write on the clear worksheets with dry erase markers. Sure, it was a messier and far more complex process of presentations, but at least it excited the students.
Fast-forward two years, and I almost died of boredom as my science teacher would show us the same PowerPoint presentation every day. That’s right. Every day, Every. Damn. Day.
And, when I would accidentally fall asleep, he would stop the class and force me to go sit in the front, threatening to send me to the principal’s office.
But the real question is, was I wrong? Was it really my fault for falling asleep? Or was it the fault of his lazy teaching methods?
Obviously every student has different learning needs. Some students work better with reading and seeing things, while others need more hands-on experience to get their juices flowing. I’d say to be fair, there should be an even split between the two to keep students engaged.
But when it comes to college, I am personally expecting greatness. Most good jobs (and when I say good, I mean good—not like the manager at a Rite Aid) require a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree for those they choose to hire. That goes to show that college is special—it is something to be highly regarded.
And we knew this, of course. That’s why we decided to spend thousands of dollars to leave home, gain ten pounds and live in a shitty dorm room with a roommate we grow to loathe over time.
Oh yeah, and I guess we came to learn something, too.
When I was in high school, my teachers always hyped college up. They always emphasized how hard it would be, and how there wouldn’t be any “fun and games.” So, I prepared, and I was ready for the worst. Pop quizzes? Random ten-page papers? Short deadlines? Pshhh. I had it all covered, no problem.
But then, I actually went to college, and I wanted nothing more than to go back to my high school teachers and ask them what the hell they were talking about when they told me college was going to be different. Maybe something has changed within the past few years that has altered the hierarchy, but I’m willing to bet that as technology gets more advanced, professors are getting lazier with their methods.
Sure, this makes their jobs easier, but it only hurts the students.
As a student, I would like to represent all students by saying that we all deserve something more than PowerPoint presentations. We all deserve more than just copying down a slide. We are the paying customers in this strange hierarchy, so I think it would only be fair to get our money’s worth.
I’m not saying that PowerPoint should never be used. I think it can be a really helpful supplement (emphasis on supplement) to a lecture, especially when dealing with a really complex topic or something that can be shown in a visual manner.
But, at the end of the day, professors shouldn’t be afraid to be different. By constantly striving to try new things, they are only encouraging their students to do so as well.