Friday, November 20, 2009

Presentation on writing for the Internet

I gave a talk on teaching Internet writing at an online teaching conference at Cal State Los Angeles last week. The talk put Internet writing in the context of the concept of IT literacy, then covered three types of Internet writing:

  • Conversational writing
  • Writing short documents
  • Collaborative writing
The presentation includes links to full presentations and teaching exercises on each of these types of writing.

(Click on the "writing" label for other writing posts on this blog)

Research on writing for the Internet

Stanford professor Andrea Lunsford headed a five-year longitudinal study of student writing. She and her colleagues followed the writing -- in and out of class -- of 189 students during their four years at Stanford and their first year after graduation (about 15,000 pieces of writing). Some of the findings were:

  • Students are writing more than ever
  • Some of their “life writing” is profound
  • Their writing is done to achieve some purpose or goal
A recent account of student blog posts in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings supports the idea that life writing can be profound. We should not underestimate our students.

You will find two videos on this study and related work here:
  • Interview of Lunsford on the study, 12 min. 18 sec. (left tab)
  • Moderated discussion among four professors, including Lunsford, on digital literacy, 39 min. 30 sec. (right tab)
You may also be interested in following the research at the Center for Writing in Digital Environments at Michigan State University.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PowerPoint -- criticism and reflection

I just read a blog post by a third year college student on her frustration with PowerPoint lectures. (The comments are interesting too).

She finds that PowerPoint lectures are rushed and she does not have time to take notes. When her instructors use canned material that came with a textbook, she has the feeling they are ill prepared and seeing the material for the first time. Some of her instructors use PowerPoint exclusively, rather than switching to other media like a chalkboard lecture or video when that would be better. Others use the medium poorly, for example, by reading from text on a slide.

This is my first semester using PowerPoint, so I became a little defensive when I read her post, but she got me thinking. Here are some thoughts and questions that occurred to me:

  • A good teacher will be good regardless of whether he or she uses PowerPoint.
  • An active, engaged student will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
  • Taking notes keeps students active and alert and improves retention. Even if they have printouts of the presentations, they should take notes.
  • Students who thoughtfully review their notes after class will do well regardless of the presentation medium.
  • A PowerPoint file does not stand on its own for self study -- it must be presented live or narrated and/or accompanied by a transcript.
  • If a PowerPoint presentation is narrated, should the narration be scripted or recorded live during a classroom presentation?
  • PowerPoint presentations may encourage a passive state in the students. It is important to keep the room lights on and engage the students while giving a PowerPoint presentation.
Here are some things I find myself doing:
  • I only use PowerPoint slides that I have prepared myself. That allows me to present what I think is relevant, and I essentially rehearse the presentation while creating the slides.
  • The first slide in each presentation lists the skills and concepts to be presented.
  • The second slide in each presentation shows where the presentation fits in the overall course outline.
  • I pause when a new slide is displayed to give the students a chance to look it over.
  • I use images in many of my slides.
  • I add fat, red arrows or other call-outs to highlight material when appropriate.
  • A presentations may contain a link to a video or demonstration which I show at the appropriate place.
  • I talk about the slide on the screen, but never read more than one or two sentences from it. The slides are intended to enhance and illustrate the presentation and serve as a mnemonics (for me and the students), not to be the presentation.
Here are some of the things I found online after reading Carolyn's post: