I’ve been thinking about PowerPoint lately, and about how I might use it productively.
It seems pretty clear that the blizzard-of-bullet-points method is not useful. Who can make sense of such tiny print so quickly? What’s the point of slapping bullet points on a screen?
One popular alternative method is the one Cliff Atkinson advocates in the book Beyond Bullet Points. Atkinson has two basic suggestions. First, he argues that a single, dominating image, plus a trigger word or two is the best approach for any single slide. Second, he advocates crafting a presentation as a narrative, with a clear, logical, problem-resolution structure.
A lot of schools use a “learning management system” called Blackboard to make course materials and registration functions available online. If you’ve ever used Blackboard, though, you know that it’s like a magic portal back to 1999.
Blackboard’s design is truly hideous (frames everywhere!), the options for customizing course sites are dismal, and the interface makes even the simplest functions baffling. (Google “I hate Blackboard” for some entertaining commentary.) The City University of New York recently got an object lesson in Blackboard’s shortcomings when the system crashed and burned, paralyzing CUNY’s online functions.
I’ve been going through some old teaching evaluations and in between cringing (“I hate Miriam!”) and patting myself on the back (“I love Miriam!”) I was struck by one student’s comment.
This was for a film theory section. I think generally the class was successful, but it a) was a theory class and b) took place during late-afternoon dead-time (oh, and c) I’m not exactly Robin Williams), so occasionally the tenor of the classroom would get a little, shall we say, less than wildly enthusiastic. Anyway, this student said, to paraphrase, that when things got slow, “I wish Miriam would have said, ‘HEY! WAKE UP!’ to get our attention.”
A film class needs film. Duh. Close-analysis of film clips is an important part of teaching sections, and nobody wants to mess with scanning DVD chapters to find the right clip. So most TAs I know make clip reels — DVDs of clips — to show in class.
I was interested to see that the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has issued a statement of best practices for fair use (the doctrine that covers this area of copyright law). As far as clip reels are concerned, SCMS has this to say: