I can’t resist reading blogs about teaching, research, and other aspects of faculty life. I think it will help me make sense of my own. But especially when it comes to posts about teaching, they talk exclusively about the interests of the students (the arguably correct thing to do) and no one really talks about the cost to the instructor, especially when it comes to teaching with technology.

This past semester I gave two guest lectures for a colleague who teaches almost exclusively on a blackboard. I have to admit that for the first lecture I felt a bit unsteady without slides to prop me up. But I really enjoyed preparing for the second lecture. It took 3-4 hours. I read the relevant chapter, composed handwritten notes, thought of a nice example that I could carry through the lecture. At the end of this process, which involved some thought and 4 pages of notes, I felt I had created something coherent, something a bit elegant. I walked into the classroom, talked to the class, wrote on the blackboard. A faculty member who had sat in the lecture said that she appreciated the running example, which had added to the understanding she gained from reading the chapter. I felt happy. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to do with the 4 pieces of *paper* (notes) I had generated. Where would I put them?? They are still sitting on my desk.

In contrast to this guest lecturing experience, my own lectures are composed in powerpoint or latex (beamer). I insert animations, I compile the latex. Click. Copy. Click. Paste. Select. Add effect. Appear. Up. Down. Click. Ctrl-L. I upload the resulting file to cTools (our course management software). But first I create a folder within a folder. cTools thinks the pdf is application/binary, so I “Click”.”Edit details”.scroll down.”File Type”.scroll down. “application/pdf”. Save. If I end up making a change to the slides, I repeat some of the steps in uploading the new version. That would have been enough 2 years ago. Enter LectureTools. With lecture tools, students can take notes on the slides, and you can also insert interactive features, such as polling the class with multiple choice questions. So, I then convert the PPT or PDF to images (one per slide), while still uploading the slides to cTools as well. I log into LectureTools. Create new lecture. Click. Confirm class time. Click. Add slides. Click. Browse. Click. Click.  Select All. Upload. Click. Add multiple choice. Click. Type. Click. Type. Click. Save. Share with other users. Click. Add more multiple choice. Rearrange slides to put multiple choice in right spot. Drag. Scroll. Drag. Save slide order. Click. Publish lecture click. The typical delay for these sites is > 1-2 seconds between each click.

The benefits I need not repeat, since so many other blogs have done so: students don’t have to take notes -> can pay attention, interactive activities promote learning etc. I of course buy into that, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing all that extra clicking. But somehow 10-20 minutes of clicking translates to 10-20 fewer minutes of putting in serious thought into lecture. The thoughts that do make it in are chopped up into slide-sized pieces.

  One Response to “Teaching with technology”

  1. Point taken. Seems like one user (the faculty member) isn’t being taken account of. I hope LMS/CMS maintainers see this — and add a more streamlined way to add surveys. Unfortunately most faculty aren’t going to be comfortable with command line approaches — and it’s hard to do interactive choices in a way that doesn’t make the user wait. But a perceptible wait? Ugh!

    As for your paper slide notes–why not scan them and post them on your website? It’s easy enough to do (I have a desktop scanner, most departments have a copier which is actually a multifunction machine that scans/emails/faxes, too). (Scan, save to website, email host–should take fewer steps than your class slides at least!)

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