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Why Are We Still Using PowerPoint?

OPINION

Why Are We Still Using PowerPoint?

Sometimes I wonder if we (educators) will ever really use technology for what it should be used for. Yes, I know there are great examples of schools and teachers doing wonderful things. But I contend that when we take a broad view of how technology is being used, we see a lot of PowerPoint and electronic textbooks. Ouch!

How did it happen?

It has been said many times that any new technology is first used to do what you always have done. PowerPoint, which is essentially an electronic poster, is a great example of this. Teachers and technology coordinators alike (myself included) grabbed on to this as a quick way to get many teachers using technology. And I think there was some value to this in terms of getting teachers to start using technology if they never had before. But we need to move on. Consider another example, in this case, using technology only for the sake of using technology: I observed a teacher spend an entire period using Inspiration software to create printed concept maps. This could have been done in five minutes with paper and markers, and the teacher could have spent the rest of the time actually teaching about the connections they made or did not make.

What should we be doing?

What we need to do is start using the power of the computer for what it was meant for. For example, complex simulations in science courses are now available. Students can do very complicated experiments in chemistry and other sciences using this software, rather than using the possibly dangerous conventional methods. It took awhile to see these products come to market, but they are out there now. Another good example is video-editing software. A short time ago, we needed expensive equipment to do this, but now it comes with every computer. Add a capture device, and you are ready to go.

The bottom-line question you need to ask yourself is: Can this assignment be accomplished in a very similar fashion without the computer? If the answer is yes, it is time to re-examine what your focus is.

Moving Teachers to the Next Level

Learning new things and trying them in front of others can be risky. I have found the best way to get teachers using new things is to give them time to experience them firsthand. If you want to move a group of science teachers from PowerPoint to simulations, just give them the software in a guided environment (with a trainer) and let them play. Good science teachers will fall in love with a good piece of simulation software in no time, because they will immediately see the value. The key piece is giving them enough time to explore. I use the term “guided environment” on purpose; it is not a step-by-step training session. This training method works well in many areas besides science.

Let’s move on from the Technology Stone Age and start using the power that our computers really have!

Darrell Walery is the director of technology for Consolidated High School District 230 in Orland Park, IL.

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