Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can IT be misused for teaching?

Teaching hasn't undergone many changes inspite of recent advances in information technology. Nor has learning for that matter. But one of the most noticeable effects of IT on teaching has been the use of powerpoint presentations in the classroom.

Now I must state emphatically that I am one of the strongest advocates of use of IT in teaching-learning process. But using powerpoint presentations for teaching subjects such as C programming, Java programming, mathematics? I am not sure that helps at all. The only person it helps is the teacher who doesnot have to prepare the subject but only prepare the powerpoint presentations. I mean, its one thing to know a subject and come and discuss it in the class on a blackboard with nothing but chalk and duster. It shows the mastery of the teacher on the subject. Programs do not suddenly appear on the mind's screen, rather they develop gradually, as on the blackboard, as the teacher writes out each statement and encourages the student to think (or guess) of the next step. That is how programs develop, isn't it? On a powerpoint presentation its all too easy to see one step after the other appear magically; where's the thought process? OK I know you can use custom animation to bring one step at a time, but still it does not reflect the thought process that goes on in the mind of the teacher, something I know that even students can appreciate.

Such powerpoint presentations may be good for discussing topics such as systems analysis and design, MIS, CRM, and to some extent networking (provided you involve some simulations of the networking process). Even there, the presentation becomes useful if each point/slide is discussed in detail. But merely displaying the slides and reading out what is already there for all to see is a big NO-NO. Students CAN read, but they may need help in understanding, so DISCUSS and DONT READ. But using PPTs for teaching programming is just not done, unless you want to show a form (as in VB or Java) or certain aspects of web designing.

Technology is a double-edged sword, and the misuse of PPTs in the classroom is one of the disadvantages of powerpoint presentations.

(Note I have deliberately used small letters for powerpoint presentation - generally, nowadays, this term encompasses all types of presentations, not necessarily those created with Microsoft PowerPoint).
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