I have two questions, both in reaction to Margaret Soltan’s insistent complaints about PowerPoint usage in university classrooms.
1. How common is repeated, regular PowerPoint usage by professors in higher ed classrooms? (E.g., not the occasional usage to show visual material, but the routine use of it for lectures.) Do we have any systematic idea? Does it differ significantly between less and more selective institutions? Between disciplines? (I’m fairly sure that usage is heavier in the sciences and social sciences.)
2. What’s the difference between bad usage of PowerPoint in lectures and bad lectures that involve hand-outs, overhead transparencies and writing on the chalkboard? Are we just complaining about old wine in new bottles here? Is the real culprit professorial droning at classrooms of 200+ students followed by recite-repeat-and-forget examinations? I think it’s at least plausible that the technology is just giving us a new reason to pay attention to a pedagogy whose effectiveness has been suspect for two generations.