Perils of PowerPoint

Dependence on the technology stifles lectures and oversimplifies complexity.

ItâÄôs a common experience âÄì a dimly lit classroom, the low hum of the projector, and the soft glow of yet another bulleted list on the screen.
Eyes grow heavy. The professor stands motionless, ensconced behind a podium and laptop. Attention fades. Across our great University, PowerPoint has become a crutch for teaching rather than a tool for learning. With more and more technology migrating into classrooms and students seeking an easy lecture crib sheet, these presentations have come to lead lectures rather than augment them. Students recognize that the best professors make subjects come alive with interesting lectures, open discussion, and critical questioning. No teacher has ever derived effectiveness solely from sleek slides with cheesy fade effects. At its heart, much of education needs little more than a teacher, some chairs, and perhaps a book. The New York Times recently covered a conference earlier this month in North Carolina where military leaders spoke openly of the hazard posed by dependence on the ubiquitous PowerPoints. Brigadier General H.R. McMaster warned that âÄúitâÄôs dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding, the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.âÄù And therein lays the crux of the problem. When lectures are molded to fit the constraints of PowerPoint, learning is compromised and subjects become pasteurized, homogenized, and intellectually boring. Abandoning this crutch will enhance learning and create more opportunities to practice extemporaneous public speaking with probing questions and answers. These skills challenge students to become better listeners and thinkers âÄî qualities that are of critical importance in todayâÄôs increasingly complex world.