Digital technology in various forms is now well embedded into teaching at university. The use of PowerPoint seems ubiquitous – barely a lecture goes by without the support of a slide presentation. And what is interesting is the way in which the projection of PowerPoint slides also projects the lecturer’s views on teaching. It bares all, whether you intend it or not.
Lecturers who claim to be interested in student engagement have their bluff called when they then have a slide presentation without any room for questions because they are so full of content. The structure of the knowledge within the presentation is also transparent, with linearity usually dominating (Kinchin et al., 2008). Use of technology gives signals about you as a teacher that will be interpreted by students.
It is also interesting to see how practices that are self-evidently sensible suddenly become ‘innovative’ once they are set in the context of “flipped classrooms” or “lecture capture technology”. For example, we can find recommendations such as ‘keeping on-line pre-class videos short – about 20 minutes to maximize student engagement’. Well this is surely also a good idea in the analogue classroom too. We know full well that students find it difficult to remain engaged for a full 60 minute lecture, but the logistics of timetabling 20 minute lectures on campus means that in the analogue world it is just not practical. The digital environment enables us to do this in practice.
So too comments such as “sequence your materials logically“, “offer support to colleagues“, or “manage your students’ expectations” are all quite sensible as guidelines for the digital world, but are equally well suited to the analogue teaching environment too.
I think we have to be a little wise to the re-invention of good practice. Maybe some of our younger colleagues are hearing these things for the first time. That’s fine, so long as they do not walk away thinking that all these valid classroom tips are uniquely valid for the digital teaching environment. The digital-analogue divide needs to be bridged. Good teaching is good teaching, whether you are using a VLE or a chalk board. But if the application of technology is helping to push these ideas to the fore, that can only be a good thing – surely?
Kinchin, I.M., Chadha, D. and Kokotailo, P. (2008) Using PowerPoint as a lens to focus on linearity in teaching. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(4): 333 – 346.