Is PowerPoint the new 'chalk and talk'?

16th December 2011 at 00:00

The first slide shows a baffling pair of clip-art images. One appears to be an outline of a school and the other is an alarm clock. The images only make a bit more sense a few seconds later when the presentation's title fades in:

"Can we stop PowerPoint turning the clock back on schools?"

The next slide shows a sepia photo of a classroom, taken at least a century ago, with pupils sat in neat rows in front of a blackboard. And then the bullet points start flying across the screen one by one, each accompanied by a tinny "whoosh".

- For decades, teachers have been advised to avoid "chalk and talk" - lessons simply involving lectures from the front of the class.

- Indeed, the phrase "chalk and talk" has been in use since the 1930s. (It might be even older: Scottish teachers began using blackboards in the 18th century.)

- Modern technology was supposed to help change that .

The image of the old classroom fades away to show a modern one. The new picture is in colour and the teacher is in front of an interactive whiteboard, although the room still looks oddly similar. Then up flies a barrage of figures showing the rise of interactive whiteboards and projectors since the late 1990s, before they are replaced by another slide of bullet points.

- But, too often, interactive whiteboards aren't being used, well, interactively.

- One of the chief culprits is PowerPoint.

A slide on "Death by PowerPoint" appears, listing criticisms of poor presentations. (And not just from the education world: "The US military calls dull PowerPoint briefings to journalists `hypnotising chickens'.")

In a font resembling handwriting in chalk, a series of new bullet points appears against a blackboard background.

- At least on the blackboard you could change direction mid-lesson.

- It was also easier to hand the chalk over to a pupil.

- So what can you do?

With no alternative available, you click to turn to the next page.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw.

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