An article in The Conversation recently argued universities should ban PowerPoint because it makes students stupid and professors boring.
Originally for Macintosh, the company that designed it was bought by Microsoft. After its launch the software was increasingly targeted at business professionals, especially consultants and busy salespeople.
As it turns out, PowerPoint has not empowered academia. The basic problem is that a lecturer isn’t intended to be selling bullet point knowledge to students, rather they should be making the students encounter problems. Such a learning process is slow and arduous, and cannot be summed up neatly. PowerPoint produces stupidity, which is why some, such as American statistician Edward Tufte have said it is “evil”.
Of course, new presentation technologies like Prezi, SlideRocket or Impress add a lot of new features and 3D animation, yet I’d argue they only make things worse. A moot point doesn’t become relevant by moving in mysterious ways. The truth is that PowerPoints actually are hard to follow and if you miss one point you are often lost.
Courses designed around slides therefore propagate the myth that students can become skilled and knowledgeable without working through dozens of books, hundreds of articles and thousands of problems.
A review of research on PowerPoint found that while students liked PowerPoint better than overhead transparencies, PowerPoint did not increase learning or grades
Research comparing teaching based on slides against other methods such as problem-based learning – where students develop knowledge and skills by confronting realistic, challenging problems – predominantly supports alternative methods.
PowerPoint slides are toxic to education for three main reasons:
students come to think of a course as a set of slides. Good teachers who present realistic complexity and ambiguity are criticised for being unclear. Teachers who eschew bullet points for graphical slides are criticised for not providing proper notes.
Slides discourage reasonable expectations
Measuring the wrong things
If slide shows are so bad, why are they so popular?
Exams, term papers and group projects ostensibly measure knowledge or ability. Learning is the change in knowledge and skills and therefore must be measured over time.
When we do attempt to measure learning, the results are not pretty. US researchers found that a third of American undergraduates demonstrated no significant improvement in learning over their four-year degree programs.
They tested students in the beginning, middle and end of their degrees using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an instrument that tests skills any degree should improve – analytic reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving and writing.
“Framework and Terminology for Understanding Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare,” a new report by Samantha F. Ravich and Annie Fixler for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Cyber-enabled economic warfare is a “hostile strategy involving attack(s) against a nation using cyber technology with the intent to weaken its economy and thereby reduce its political and military power.”
For example, China’s economic theft of intellectual property from the U.S. is considered CEEW, along with Russia’s cyberattack on Estonia and Iran’s Saudi Aramco attack. The authors also contend that the U.S. sanctions on Iran using cyber means to cut off Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication access also falls under CEEW.
Future Trends Forum hosted by Bryan Alexander will address the most powerful forces of change in academia. The founder of the online blog Future Trends in Technology and Education has begun this weekly forum to enliven the discussion around the pressing issues at the cross roads of education and technology through weekly online video chat conversations where practitioners in the field can contribute and share their most recent experiences.
Paul Signorelli, co-author of Workplace Learning & Leadership with Lori Reed, helps clients and colleagues explore, foster, and document innovations in learning to produce concrete results. He also is heavily engaged in supporting team-building and communities of collaboration. As a San Francisco-based writer, trainer, instructional designer, and consultant, he designs and facilitates learning opportunities for a variety of clients, helps others become familiar with e-learning, social media, MOOCs, mobile technology, innovations in learning spaces, and community partnerships (onsite and online) to creatively facilitate positive change within organizations. He has served on advisory boards/expert panels for the New Media Consortium Horizon Project documenting educational technology trends and challenges since 2010; remains active locally and nationally in the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training & Development); and facilitates webinars for the American Library Association and other learning organizations. His most recent work remains focused on connectivist MOOCs (massive open online courses) and building sustainable onsite and online communities and partnerships. Signorelli earned an MLIS through the University of North Texas (with an emphasis on online learning) and an M.A. in Arts Administration at Golden Gate University (San Francisco); blogs at http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpress.com; and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In Kentucky, mining veteran Rusty Justice decided that code could replace coal. He cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that builds its workforce by retraining coal miners as programmers. Enthusiasm is sky high: Justice got 950 applications for his first 11 positions. Miners, it turns out, are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech. “Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty,” Justice says.
Only recently, the general view in the U.S. was that the less-free Chinese system created a poor environment for tech innovation. Put somewhat simply, the argument was that in a society without our kind of freedom of speech or unrestricted access to communication such as the Internet, people would miss out on information and ideas that come from a free system and feel more psychologically constrained from venturing off the beaten path with innovative ideas. The Chinese would be limited, in this view, to knock-offs of U.S. technologies.
The government has also cracked down on use of virtual private networks that Chinese, especially young people, have used to “climb the wall” (i.e. find sites outside the “Great Firewall of China”). And recently, there were media complaints that at the top elite universities such as Tsinghua the anti-VPN policy was not being enforced strictly enough.
Clearly, though, Chinese progress has taken place despite these restrictions.
we should not naively assume that all good (or bad) things go together. Maybe freedom of political and cultural expression is not as important as we have thought for advances, say, in information technology. But it still might be more important for development of less technical or scientific ideas such as public policy proposals or cultural expressions.