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Sticking Up for PowerPoint

AS A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER WITH a modicum of computer experience (going back to C prompts), I am keenly aware of the limitations of technology. I too have suffered considerably at the hands of PowerPoint presentations that were long on time and short on import. Recently, however, my AV genius hooked me up with an SVID connection to the classroom TV, and now that I have a seamless interface to a decent display, PowerPoint has become an effective classroom tool. I have used it, among other things, for start-of-class announcements, a window into the Depression era via WPA photos from the Web, and test review in the form of a Jeopardy game. Your recent essay on how this program is ruining education left me unconvinced. Technology is neither the savior nor the nemesis of good teaching; like chalkboards, photocopies and lectures, it's another tool. What is ineffective or worse in the hands of one practitioner can be brilliant and spot-on in the hands of another. Regarding .ppt as a medium for student assignments: do some learners (especially beginners) use it poorly, with too much attention to superficialities and not enough to substance? Absolutely; and the same is true in t he five-paragraph essay, the formal research paper, the video, the speech, and every other mode of student expression I have so far encountered. To the degree PowerPoint or any technology serves to cheapen education, I share your concern. However, blanket disparagement of a piece of software does little to assist us in discerning its true usefulness as an educational tool.

-'Asta Bowen

English teacher,Flathead High School

Kalispell, Montana

I HAVE SHOWN [Gary Stager's January 2004 column, "Pointing in the Wrong Direction," p. 71] to a number of educators, and we do not agree with most of the points made in the article. I wonder if Mr. Stager has actually been in any public school classrooms lately, because I have not seen anything like what he describes as the "bad news" in his column. I have seen the printed version of PowerPoint slides used very effectively to allow students and/or parents to take notes in an organized way. Printing of slides in PowerPoint has many flexible options. That is the remarkable thing about good teachers-they can find new ways to use programs. One of the great benefits of Power- Point is the ability to change and update slides. I think teachers and students are much more likely to do this than to use the same presentation year after year. I have seen teachers update their slides between classes! I agree we have to expand the use of technology beyond PowerPoint. Many teachers and a few students are afraid of technology. PowerPoint and other multimedia software allow them to become familiar with technology and that helps us to move them toward its effective use, as well as the use of other programs.

-Nancy B. Jones

Assistant Superintendent

of Curriculum and Instruction

Beeville Independent School District

Beeville, Texas