October 25, 2007

Lecture styles

Quite frankly any lecture who thinks it is ok to present examinable material through PowerPoint needs a good hiding!


i) It is hard enough trying to keep up to date with what is being done in a lecture without having to read and listen at the same time! For example, it is expected of course that we as students should take notes. Yes that is reasonable, but how are we supposed to do that whilst listening to potentially important information that is being said by the lecturer? You can't. So it seems to me that what you actually write down as notes is a bit of a gamble. If I write what they say perhaps it will come up in the exam, if I don't and chose to write something from the slides perhaps I will not know what to do for a particular question in the exam. I thought exams were about testing a students knowledge on a subject rather than testing whether or not they can write down the important facts in lectures.

ii) There is no interactivity. I like to understand a lot of what is presented to me in a lecture, in the lecture. This normally is the case, as with derivations and such like they are written down with an overhead projector - this is good, as you write the derivation down you understand what you are doing. However, when you see a huge equation on a PowerPoint slide the only feeling you get is "Where the hell did that come from". That is simply no good.

Solution: Scrap PowerPoint and any lecturer who insists on using it.

It should be renamed to Not-very-PowerfulPoint.

- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Steven Carpenter

    Mark Newton and Paul Harrison started using tablet pcs a couple of years ago and the response from students was really positive – using the pcs for writing equations and annotating diagrams, then making the material available after the lecture seemed to work pretty well.

    25 Oct 2007, 20:54

  2. The problem you see is not actually PowerPoint itself – it’s the bad use of PowerPoint. It contains more than enough features for you to be able to sit in the lecture and primarily listen whilst referencing the visual information, and then look at it months later and still be able to know the context immediately.

    If (or clearly in your case as) you can’t do this, then your lecturer is using PowerPoint ineffectively, rather than the software itself being useless. Not that really helps you though… :/

    26 Oct 2007, 11:00

  3. Yes I see your point Luke, I am currently attending a lecture in C programming from Mike Allen and he hands out the slides with missing key points which are to be filled in during the lecture. This makes a big change to the structure of the lecture and enables the student to follow with less confusion.

    Steven, I have attended lectures with from both Mark and Paul and have found the use of the tablets fine. However, this wasn’t my point, the use of pc’s can be very helpful in a lecture environment, but the over use is the point I think I am trying to get across. Diagrams can always be a problem when using PP, since some can be very complex.

    Thanks for your comments, keep updated.


    26 Oct 2007, 14:17

  4. I’ve made a blog post along the same lines at http://physical-thought.blogspot.com/2008/02/abuse-of-powerpoint-in-physics-lectures.html

    I’ve reiterated several points Matt made in his post, as well as adding a few more. Hopefully with enough comments and discussion, plus a few more targetted actions, we can make a difference to the way physics is lectured!

    24 Feb 2008, 15:24

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