Presentation Software: Pedagogical Constraints and Potentials
Harris, David, Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education
In this paper, critical discussions of electronic presentation software, initially focused on PowerPoint, are reviewed. The potentials and pedagogic implications of newer forms, such as Microsoft Producer, Prezi and Xerte, are then considered. Discussion turns to whether teaching technologies, including face to face formats, constrain or prompt pedagogic innovation. An argument is developed about using presentation software in a different context to construct learning objects (stand-alone online resources), to isolate the effects of the presentation software itself. Finally, non-technological issues which also affect actual use are considered, especially in teaching subject specialisms like leisure studies.
Keywords: learning objects; pedagogy; presentations; PowerPoint
This article arose from reading some published debates about presentation software and also from reflecting on the processes in creating blended learning modules for a recent Higher Education Academy project to develop open resources. The organising body in this case was the Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics, and the modules in question, which are now published in an open repository, concerned the Sociology of Leisure (Gilhespy & Harris, 2010) and Introductory Research Methods (Gilhespy, Harris & Roberts, 2010). The team used a variety of presentation software to devise the stand-alone elements of each module, including PowerPoint, Producer, Prezi and Xerte.
Many colleagues will be familiar with presentation software like PowerPoint, perhaps to the point of using it habitually. The software is still controversial, however, and its use can attract impassioned comment. It is clear from the controversy that using presentation software is not just a technical matter but one that raises deeper issues of teaching style and, beneath those, views of teaching, learning and pedagogy. Some authors have simply discussed students' immediate preferences and views but others have pursued some deeper implications about matters such as conceptions of knowledge (specifically whether PowerPoint limits a "constructivist" approach); types of narrative (linear or networked) that are promoted or discouraged; and the effects of technology in general and whether it can determine teaching interactions (either totally or in some softer sense).
It is important to attempt to further clarify the context in which the software is used by considering the whole teaching situation. Do perceived constraints and limits arise from using PowerPoint's default settings uncritically, for example, or is it that conventional teaching itself limits discussions with students equally strongly? Some of the issues become clearer when considering the use of presentation software to move beyond acting as a supplement to faceto- face teaching towards helping to produce stand-alone learning materials intended for online teaching and learning, sometimes in the form of reusable learning objects (RLOs). This in turn leads to a discussion of newer forms of presentation software, especially Xerte, which was initially designed to permit such online teaching and learning.
As the critical review proceeds, more contextual and non-technical elements appear for discussion. The preferred teaching style of the user of PowerPoint is a variable, for example, and some critics have suggested ways to overcome any linear or reductionist tendencies implicit in the software by adding stimulating materials of various kinds while working face-toface; or by permitting more interaction with the PowerPoint slides, both from students and from lecturers. It is clear that connected notions of knowledge, learning and teaching are involved; and the pedagogic options, in the form of frameworks or paradigms, need to be summarised more systematically.
However, it is possible to suggest still further elements of context. Here, actual …
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Publication information: Article title: Presentation Software: Pedagogical Constraints and Potentials. Contributors: Harris, David - Author. Journal title: Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education. Volume: 10. Issue: 1 Publication date: April 2011. Page number: 72+. © OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY Apr 2010. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.