I know that this makes me a late adopter, but I am considering using PowerPoint to teach my Intro class next term. I’ve taught this class a few times and I’m comfortable with the mix of lecturing and discussion that I have now. I consult my lecture notes sparingly and have a worked out rhythm that doesn’t require too much preparation on my part. So why change a good thing? Because I think that it is time to take a new look at how I’m teaching the course and try something new. As they say, don’t knock it until you try it. And some students really do seem to think that PowerPoint would help them learn the material.
I’ve observed a few lectures involving PowerPoint and thought it does seem helpful in many ways, I have noticed a few key problems that I want to avoid. On the one hand, there are the students who zone out or those who engage in furious note taking of the slides word by word without reflecting on what they are writing or raising questions. On the other hand, I have noticed that it is easier for lecturers to stifle discussion because they feel pressed to move on to the next slide or pay more attention to the PowerPoint than checking in to see that most of the students are remaining engaged. What I like about my current lecturing style is that I’m constantly interacting with my students, asking them questions, calling on or making eye contact with students who seem zoned out or confused, and I want to maintain as much as I can of that dynamic while using PowerPoint to make points clearer, organize the material better, and use primary sources more effectively.
Therefore, I’m asking for your expertise. Are there any tips about how to use PowerPoint that those of you who use it to lecture have found particularly helpful? For example, how much information and what kind of information should I put on the slide? How frequently should I change slides? How much of the allotted class time should I take up with the PowerPoint presentation? ETC. I’ve used powerpoint to give talks before, but never to teach so any advice would be helpful.