Should historians use PowerPoint in their lectures? Jonathan Rees says “yes” for images, but “no” for text. I largely agree with him.
Here is a blurb from a post he wrote on the subject back in 2009:
I say use PowerPoint like art history professors used to use their slide carousels. That way you can add to the lecture rather than bore people…
Yes, I always have a little text at the beginning. I also label the pictures when I’m afraid students won’t be able to spell the name of the person or thing that’s depicted. But man oh man, I hate predominantly textual PowerPoints. If your presentation consists of reading your own PowerPoint slides AND NOTHING ELSE, I don’t see why you bother to show up for work in the first place. You might as well give them to your TA and have them read it for you.
This week Rees is wondering if PowerPoint is helpful to project text, especially in the case of primary source quotes. Here is a snippet from his recent post:
There is also great value to using PowerPoint for primary source quotes. In my pre-Power Point days, I remember reading out relatively long primary source quotes from my notes as if I was the narrator from a Ken Burns documentary. Now this strikes me as rather inefficient since I can now talk about the quote rather than read what students can read for themselves.
But thanks to a couple of conversations I’ve had lately, I’m beginning to wonder if that much multi-tasking is too much to ask from students. So professorial readers, the questions of the day are:
Do you ever read text (particularly quotations) from a PowerPoint lecture? If so, why? If not, why not?
While I try to avoid text as much as possible, I do use textual PowerPoint slides to display important primary source quotes. I have found that it gives a bit more authority to the quote. The students pay more attention to the recitation of the source if it is up on the screen.
What do you think?
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