Teaching and Learning Forum 96 [ Contents ]

Coming up for A.I.R: How can electronic presentations be effectively incorporated into the teaching environment?

Sue Wynn
School of Management Information Systems
Edith Cowan University

Background

The advent of electronic presentations has brought a great number of advantages to teaching professionals. Lecturers have found that the ease of revision, convenience of storage, the ability to print and distribute displayed materials means that the academic community have embraced this technology wholeheartedly. Students, too, have found the technology to be convenient - they enjoy the colour and the smooth delivery and they particularly enjoy the fact that they can gain access to a hard copy of the teaching materials, often prior to the lecture.

Prior to exploring whether electronic presentations are more effective than the more traditional overhead projector, it would be useful to examine what should perhaps be taking place in the teaching and learning environment. Among the key elements of any learning experience are articulation, interaction and reflection. These three elements are intertwined and it is possible for all of them to be occurring at once.

Articulation

Articulation is the act of the student verbalising what they are thinking, and is very much associated with the reflection stage. Articulation helps to define new knowledge, transfer knowledge to other situations or tasks, compare strategies to different contexts and enables the student to see the problem from other students' perspectives (Collins, 1989).

The act of articulation provides the impetus for students to refine and reorganise their knowledge. (Chee, 1995) states that students should participate in the generation of knowledge and evaluate the outcomes of knowledge-building activities as part of a collaborative learning environment (p 138).

Interaction

Interaction is an important part of the learning process as it helps to transfer learning between the classroom and the real world. It also allows the learner to bring to the classroom his or her experiences and apply these to the new knowledge. Interaction helps to prevent knowledge remaining abstract and formal and contextualises it producing meaningful information (Laurillard, 1995).

Reflection

Reflection works both for the learner and the teacher. The teacher will view the performance of the learners and adapt the teaching strategies and materials accordingly. In this way, the process of teaching is dynamic and undergoing constant fine tuning. Reflection for the student takes the form of looking back over what they have heard or done and analysing the information or performance (Collins, 1989). As (Laurillard, 1995) points out, one method of achieving this is through discussion which enables the learner's and teacher's views to converge (p 181). Without discussion, the learner will experience dissonance and will actively reject the new information. In an ideal classroom the teacher and students will work together to compare knowledge and problem solving processes, identify difficulties and adjust their performance until they achieve competence (Chee, 1995). According to (Collins, 1989), reflection enables the students to focus on their actions, compare their efforts to others, allow abstraction of information and compare their performance with that of experts.

(Laurillard, 1995) believes that reflection is rarely supported in teaching, but that it is important as it allows the teacher to understand the internalising of the information by the students. She goes on to point out that "Reflection takes time, and effort, and it needs to be contiguous with the appropriate experience" (p 182).

Articulation, interaction and reflection focus students' observations of new knowledge and problem solving and help them to gain control of their own problem solving (Chee, 1995). The three should subsist in every class if students are to learn efficiently. When these three elements do exist, students find that they are able to push the boundaries of their knowledge into what (Vygotsky, 1978) calls the "Zone of Proximal Development". He defines this as the distance between a learner's "actual development level as determined by independent problem solving" and the higher level of "potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (p 86).

Electronic Presentations

Presentation technology has provided a new set of possibilities for the presentation of teaching materials. Lecturers may now incorporate video, animations and sound into their presentations and the general consensus from the students is that the multimedia presentation format is more motivating, more attention-getting, more professional and easier to understand (Burroughs, 1995; Curchy, 1995; Ross, 1995).

It has become almost obligatory to use electronic presentation methods at conferences, but do electronic presentations improve the ability of the presenter to communicate with the audience? The answer is very probably no! It is true that electronic presentations can help with the teaching and learning process by making the projected images more interesting (a dull presenter will still be dull); the images will probably be easier to see and read, and the lecture and lecturer may appear to be more organised. However, notetaking may suffer due to the fact that the slides or overheads are more readily available for the students in either hard or soft copy and the novelty effect may wear off fairly quickly once this form of presentation becomes commonplace. A review of the literature has shown a paucity of research in the area of integrating desktop presentation software into the classroom, although there is a body of literature expounding its virtues. A small, informal piece of research conducted within two faculties at a university has highlighted the fact that presenters tend to produce many more slides than they would normally, and move through them at a faster rate thus not allowing for articulation, interaction and reflection (A.I.R). An informal discussion with the lecturers involved was held, and it was pointed out by one that electronic presentation techniques are so superior to normal overheads that time need not be wasted on lengthy discussion! A group of students surveyed initially felt that their learning was enhanced by the use of colour, but when a follow up survey was conducted, they felt that it made no difference to their learning, but increased their enjoyment of the content of the unit.

Process vs Product

Where lecturers were endeavouring to involve students in the teaching process by asking questions and probing for answers, the emphasis was largely still on eliciting the "right answer" without reinforcing what (Chee, 1995) calls "the structure of the domain being taught" (p136). Eighty-three percent of the students surveyed claimed that they preferred the electronic presentation format because they could get either a hard or soft copy of the lecture material which would help in passing the exam. Ninety percent of the lecturers surveyed claimed that they had not attempted to change their teaching strategies with the new instructional medium, but sixty percent had begun to notice that their classes were beginning to lose spontaneity and in spite of all their efforts, student learning outcomes were not being enhanced. When prompted during an interview to think about why this was happening, they realised that it was because they were, to quote one lecturer, "hiding behind the computer and clicking through the slides as fast as possible to get as much content over as possible".

The ten percent of lecturers who had attempted to alter their methods used the slides either as an advance organiser for the class or as a means of summing up the results of class discussion. Many of the students surveyed experienced electronic presentations in several classes and were able to compare the different methods used by different lecturers. A summary of some of their comments follows:

The Dilemma

With the above comments in mind, it is interesting to ask the following questions:
  1. Do teaching methods need to differ when using electronic presentations?

  2. How can teaching methods be changed to incorporate electronic presentations whilst maintaining the ability of the students to come up for A.I.R?

References

Burroughs, R. (1995). New Teaching, New Learning. Electronic Learning, 9(4), 2-4.

Chee, Y. S. (1995). Cognitive apprenticeship and its application to the teaching of Smalltalk in a multimedia interactive learning environment. Instructional Science, 23, 133-161.

Collins, A., Brown, J. S. & Newman, S. E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing and mathematics. In B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning and instruction. Essays in honour of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Curchy, C. &. K. (1995). Lectures, lessons and presentations that peak interest: equipment that paves the way. Media & Methods, 31(5), 12 & 43.

Laurillard, D. (1995). Multimedia and the changing experience of the learner. British Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 179-189.

Ross, B., Beckman, S., Meyer, L (1995). Learning to Produce and Integrate Presentations, Videos and Stills. T.H.E. Journal, 23(2), 78-81.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Please cite as: Wynn, S. (1996). Coming up for A.I.R: How can electronic presentations be effectively incorporated into the teaching environment? In Abbott, J. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Teaching and Learning Within and Across Disciplines, p185-188. Proceedings of the 5th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1996. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1996/wynn.html


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