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Alright, maybe it is not that powerful, but at least, useful.
In my college days, professors’ lectures were mostly verbal and sometimes aided by a blackboard. The professor would either talk my head off throughout the whole lecture non-stop making me take notes busily in the fear that I might otherwise miss some important things, or in a better situation, write some key points on the blackboard with a chalk but I, occasionally if not often, had to do a guess work due to an individualized handwriting. Sometimes, the professor might use a slide projector making things a little better, but I still struggled with the handwriting on the slides. I never had a class that featured in PowerPoint presentation because that was in the last century, a long time ago before PowerPoint came into common use in classroom teaching. Thanks to technology that makes teaching both verbal and visual.
My first attempt to use PowerPoint was in 2002 when I was engaged in a summer teaching exchange program between CUNY and Shanghai University in China. The two courses that I taught, Introduction to Information Sources & Services and Using the Internet for Research, had two hundred students in each. Class size was incredibly large compared with the American’s (we have an average class size of 25 at York), partly because the students were interested in the course contents (and partly … hey, it’s a populous country.) The classes would be held in a large lecture-hall and I would have to use a microphone to deliver lectures. All seemed okay except it might be difficult for students sitting in the back to take notes from distance. Then I discovered that the room was equipped with a computer and a projector for the lecturer. I decided to try to use PowerPoint instead of using a traditional blackboard. However, I was a novice user and knew little about the software. Fortunately, my teaching assistants, assigned by the university, were tech savvy. They taught me the basics and showed me some useful tips. (Off the topic: they also helped me “climb over the wall” because some databases and websites were blocked by the so-called “Great Wall”, a government-backed internet filtering system, but I needed to use them for classroom demonstrations.) All lectures went smoothly and the university was pleased to see the students learning outcomes. Since then I have used PowerPoint frequently.
It must be stated that I am no expert in the full spectrum of PowerPoint universe but a happy user of it. In my practice I enjoy the following benefits from using PowerPoint to teach one-shot library workshops.
It is visual
In addition to our talking, students can enjoy the graphs, diagrams, tables, images, and photos that are visually descriptive in effective ways. Thus, the students can get a better understanding of our points.
It is multimedia
We may use Animations, Transitions, Audio and Video files to enhance the presentation and to enrich user experience.
It has multiple usages
We can save the PPT file as PDF and make it handouts for students to use during the session and/or for future reference.
It makes it easier for students to take notes
Students never need to guess what’s on the projected screen since the text is typed.
It is more than a local file
We can hyperlink reference databases and websites to introduce sources from our library’s subscribed databases and on the Internet, and access relevant information with a click of the mouse.
I also recommend the following tips.
- Use large fonts for both heading and text for easy reading.
- Use timed presentation if you are good at time management.
- Use click-controlled presentation if you want to have more control over slides.
- Don’t use the background color that is too similar to the text color.
- Don’t use too much text on a single slide.
Attached here is a sample PPT file which I use for orientation workshops.
This semester, for the first time, the library began offering online versions of our information literacy workshops through Blackboard. “Keys to Database Searching” was offered four times and “Finding Articles” class was given twice during the Fall semester. On weekdays, the workshops were open 7 a.m. to 8:45pm while a Saturday work-shop was offered from 8 am to 3 pm. Instead of having to sign up for an information literacy workshop and struggle to fit the workshop into their busy schedules, the online format now freed Hostos students from the inconvenience of traveling to a class. They could now log into the workshop at any time throughout the day, completing tasks at their convenience. On their end, librarian instructors logged in throughout the day to respond to discussion board posts and student questions. Busy Hostos students who attended the online workshops were able to learn information literacy and research skills from anywhere.
All workshops were fully registered although not all registered students completed the workshops. Student comments were uniformly enthusiastic: “I thought the online workshop was GREAT! I got to do it at home by myself and really concentrate and focus on what I was learning. And I really liked how the Librarian answered all of my questions pretty fast. I wish there were more FULLY online workshops!” One student commented that this work-shop was her first introduction to Blackboard.
Librarian instructors benefited from the experience of teaching online. We are able to assess student learning in ways that are not possible in a short, single session workshop. We also connected with individual students, responding to their specific concerns through email in the context of an organized lesson. We hope that these individual connections will encourage students to come back and use the library for future research. Although we are still experimenting with format and process, look for more online workshops during spring semester.
—Prof. Kate Lyons