Or Jeff Bezos is my new hero.
I wonder if Amazon has a “blackmarket” for writing 6-page memos. Someone probably capitalized on this.
My favorite classes in college were the seminars which required a weekly essay on the reading or topic at hand. You normally had something prepared, though there was always the kid who had that odd-ball reading or interpretation or connection which made you revise or reconsider your thinking mid-class.
And even as a teacher I had almost too much fun prepping for some classes. My lecture notes looked less and less like bullet-points and more and more like narratives, to the extent that I even gave them to my students after giving the lecture and having them take notes and discuss.
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This is the best news I’ve heard in a while. Thanks for bringing it (so wittily) to our attention. (Btw: people like you and Rod Dreher are blogging geniuses. You either perfect the form or transcend it.)
Colin, I’ve had similar experiences. Paul, thanks so much. Blogging genius is a few pay grades below a real genius though
This is heartening indeed.
In the few decent PowerPoint presentations I’ve seen, the PowerPoint slideshow is subordinated to a coherent narrative and essentially functions like an old-fashioned handout/overhead projector.
There is a place for Power Point, but in practice Power Point has become a lot like the joke lawyers make about language, God gave it to us to help us conceal thought.
I remember putting a Power Point together for my colleagues on Process Improvement Methodology (the oft mentioned but rarely understood method called Six Sigma). After all was said and done, it amounted to 50+ slides and roughly two one hour sessions. To my horror I soon found out that all the presentation was good for was learning jargon and little else. Terms like Gage R&R and Five S were thrown around indiscriminately at things having little to do with the actual meaning behind the terms.
A few years later I found myself in a management position and wanted to try to actually EDUCATE my team and fortunately learned from my earlier mistake. Instead of a power point, I got a really good text with many many examples of the principles used in case studies. Every two weeks we did a chapter and I assigned questions to be discussed. That’s right, we had a class, or more accurately a book club. I paid for the pizza. The difference in result was pretty significant, though not surprising in hindsight.
The primary problem with Power Points is that they presume to convey more information and expertise than cartoons and bullets can communicate. And since the presenter already knows the material he is in many respects the worste judge of what can adaquately convey the subject matter to an audience that isn’t already endowed with the presenters latent expertise.
In the end you have to give Socratic method its due.
Love to hear Peter and Colin say more about how to make the weekly essays work. What level? How many s indents in he class? We’re they read aloud by the students? Etc. I’m trying to make ver modest moves in that direction and would be grateful for pointers.
Peter, a request. Would you please blog/critique this essay:
Tom, the way I experienced it was that one of the week’s classes were dedicated to argumentation. We’d usually be given a particular topic a week beforehand, and then have to write a “critical reflection” of about 2-3 pages (more depending on grade level – I know of a UD grad school class on Tocqueville following this style which requires 4-6 page papers). We’d come in with our reflections written. Class would then begin with the professor repeating the topic, maybe with some elaboration, and then opening the class up to discussion. Prof. would guide the discussion when needed, but most of it consisted of students discussing and arguing. You wouldn’t necessarily stick to your essay because others might broach points and arguments which you hadn’t considered.
Essays were then turned in at the end of class.
I’m not sure if this style is best suited for all subjects. My classes taught in this manner were on Shakespeare and Thomas More. Probably those subjects which are best are those which are open to various approaches, i.e. literary, philosophically, theologically, politically, etc.
Such seminar-styled classes always opened up my eyes about others’ opinions: usually you find yourself arguing with an idealist, a feminist, a pseudo-Freudian, and a strict Thomist/traditionalist.
Essay topics were pretty simple. For instance, there was one on whether Duke Vincentio from Measure for Measure was a good ruler; or the different portrayals of More in drama, such as “Sir Thomas More” and “A Man For All Seasons,” in regards to the motivations of the historical More.
Thanks, Colin. Those sounds like exciting seminars. I teach theology, so there will occasionally be a class that’s amenable, I think, to that way of proceeding. I appreciate the description.
I don’t know… the criticism of PowerPoint is really just a criticism of Microsoft Trademark, but as patent or as what it is as software…PowerPoint isn’t all that bad, it is a program that enables editing, that enables you to combine graphs, bringing in Excel and LexisNexis even…you can do a lot with it if you can figure out how to use it.
Of course there is the criticism that most folks have not yet exhausted all the possibilities of Microsoft Word (that is classical writing and composition).
My general theory is that PowerPoint being more complex, fewer people have really discovered how to be excellent authors of the medium, there are so options that folks get lost, and then get frustrated with tech support/formatting issues.
You guys do realize that PowerPoint simply allows you to bring in more sources, but it doesn’t require it? In fact once you figure out how to format nothing is required per se, you can make a word style document even (and save it as a word document, or vice versa).
I am pretty sure I could put case studies into PowerPoint. In this sense speaking of Duke Vicentio and Measure for Measure, isn’t complaining about PowerPoint sort of like complaining about Word, two sides of the same Microsoft coin? Maybe Virtu in that day was overrated and folks would rather roll like Lucio and join the prositute Kate Keepdown? (because the students, aka Lucio…will complain about both Word and Powerpoint…since any assignment is going to require work.)
That is, now that you mention it Colin, there is certainly a bit of Lucio and even Angelo in the criticism of Powerpoint. That is in many ways I think Powerpoint could work for say “Notice Pleading”. Business/management puts stuff in Powerpoint, not because it is the full legal memorandum, but because it is little stuff it wants folks to remember, or be on Notice of.
In terms of if the Duke of Vincentio is a good ruler, I would mainly say that is a good story, or good copyright. In a sense the story itself is a discourse on conflating/remixing symbols, or moving from the first to the second estate (to make it more French). He appoints the anti-symbol, anti-powerpoint, anti-notice pleading Judge Angelo, who of course mainly uses procedural due process to ignore indicia/symbolism or powerpoints which in the eyes of the community would make Claudio and Juliet married, instead following an austere four corners legalism which renders these Powerpointless. The rules of evidence and traditions that Vincentio manipulates for the sake of justice largely make him a good ruler, albeit the laws that require good rulers are perhaps less perfected?
In general powerpoint is best when it only contains facts(pictures+graphs) and symbols, that is when it is directly employed as a form of pleading, putting the audience on notice. I would refrain from ever really having an argument section in a powerpoint. As much as possible I would have it be purely contextual and a statement of supporting facts.
I think one way to use powerpoint in an interesting way would be for the professor to create such an image only powerpoint, (along with a narrative/speech/class presentation…) and assign the students the task of making an argument/narrative that hits the key symbolism and points of the actual powerpoint.
Everyone has the same powerpoint slides (or perhaps we can create a bank of say 20, and they may choose 10.)
Assignment: tell a story that makes the “best” use of these slides/pictures/evidence. Grade based on 10 minute presentation.
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