Fast forward to college. A lot of my classes worked the same way, but a lot of the teachers had begun to use PowerPoint slides instead of outlines. This was not a huge deal; thanks to Samford's generous free-printing-for-all policy, we'd stop at any one of the several conveniently-located computer labs around campus and print the slides out before class, taking handwritten notes on them in the same way as we would for an outline.
Fast forward one more time: medical school. With the exception of a few professors who still provide printed handouts, PowerPoint slides are the norm for presentations. This is perfectly fine with me. However, it kind of concerns me a little bit because I feel like technology is destroying some of the checks and balances on education that were previously in place. Here are some examples:
1. With PowerPoint, there can be a much greater volume of material taught in a short class time. Efficiency at its best, you say? Not exactly. With a nearly unlimited amount of hard drive space at their disposal, educators no longer have any incentive to remove extraneous information and keep it concise. In addition, it's all too easy for them to breeze past several slides with only a brief mention of "you can memorize this one on your own time." One of the lectures in my otherwise-very-well-taught class at Tulane this summer was - wait for it - 251 slides long. Two hundred and fifty-one slides for a three-hour lecture on the female reproductive system. Is this necessary? Absolutely not. I'm not trying to be a whiner and say I don't like to learn; in fact, just the opposite: I learn a lot more from a concise, well-organized lecture than a sprawled-out, unfocused one that takes up an entire binder by itself when printed out.
2. Organization falls by the wayside when material is presented in a slide format. While great for presentation, slides are crummy for putting smaller pieces of information together in the big picture. Outlines put information into perspective and highlight the relative importance of different topics. Slides are like pieces of a puzzle, and even if they are in order, it's difficult to see the big picture when you're looking at boxes on a page.
3. Since our notes are given to us in a digital format, it should mean that we have a myriad of options of how to take notes and study, right? In a sense, that's true. Last year, our lectures were usually posted the night before to allow people to print them if they so chose. This year, however, the lecture files are often not posted until the teacher walks into the classroom five minutes before lecture is scheduled to begin. I prefer to annotate the PowerPoints during class on my computer using Microsoft OneNote and then print them out later to study, so normally this is not a big issue for me (unless we're having class in the hospital where there are no power outlets - but that's a different story). But it is a major annoyance for those who prefer to print their notes. I see no reason why this is necessary. I highly doubt the professors are scrambling to put together their PowerPoint files at 8:55 in the morning before class at 9, so I see no other explanation (other than laziness or forgetfulness on the part of our dear educators) why they could not be posted the night before, or at the very least earlier that morning.
Don't get me wrong; I think technology is amazing and I'm glad professors have such modern methods of distributing information and lecture materials to students. But there's something to be said about the checks and balances that existed a few years ago - when teachers' enthusiasm to impart large amounts of knowledge was balanced not only by a very real limit on the amount of paper available, but also on the speed of their students' scribbling fingers.
Happy September, everybody.