Sunday, June 12, 2011

Presenting . . . Presentations!

Donald Norman explains:

Technology is not neutral. Technology has properties--affordances--that make it easier to do some activities, harder to do others: The easier ones get done, the harder ones neglected. Each has its constraints, preconditions, and side effects that impose requirements and changes on the things with which it interacts, be they other technology, people, or human society at large. Finally, each technology poses a mind-set, a way of thinking about it and the activities to which it is relevant, a mind-set that soon pervades those touched by it, often unwittingly, often unwillingly. The more successful and widespread the technology, the greater its impact upon the thought patterns of those who use it, and consequently, the greater its impact upon all of society. Technology is not neutral, it dominates.

Donald A. Norman, Things that Make Us Smart, Perseus Books, 1993, p. 243.

One of the things we can do with learning objects, with digital media, is to use them in class. We can have individual pieces of digital media on flash drives or other removable media, or stash them on the web someplace, and click on them when we want them. Or we can bundle our learning objects in containers. PowerPoint can be such a container. So can the web. We'll explore a range of different options, and think through what they're good for. As always, we'll ask what we want to do with the digital media, and then find the right tool to do it.

Now I know we've all been in the darkened room, and felt like we were held presentation-hostage while someone read slowly and painfully from the screen what we had already read in our own heads. At best we are a passive viewer and at worst we are daydreaming or doing something else productive with our time. And we've read Edward Tufte's argument that PowerPoint's cognitive style results in a hierarchical, dumbing-down grunting that obscures nuanced and detailed information. His use of Peter Norvig's clever PowerPoint "version" of the Gettysburg address really drives the point home--what happens to rhetoric, to language, to metaphor if the bullet point is considered the mark of the "professional?"

So there are some questions to consider as we think about how to present digital media well in our teaching:

How do you want to teach?

How does teaching with presentation software change how you teach? Teaching with digital media? What does it enable? Is there anything it obfuscates or hinders?

Is there a cognitive style to PowerPoint, as Edward Tufte argues? What do bullets limit? What happens when information is organized hierarchically? What are the other options? See: Howard Rheingold's prezi for one example.

Does every software program, every interface come with a cognitive style?

What technology is good for in-class and what is good for the outside of class? If some things are available outside of class, does that change what you do in-class?

No comments:

Post a Comment