By Lin Guo, Health Services
I joined the Graduate Program in Healthcare Services
Administration in 1996, I have been using PowerPoint,
the Internet and other technologies in teaching.
With the help of these technologies, the average scores of
overall excellence of my courses increased by nearly 50% in five
years. Students told me
numerous times that they loved my technology-based approach and
hoped I could incorporate more technologies into the future classes.
ranked the PowerPoint presentations, use of the Internet to download
PowerPoint slides prior to class, and help extended outside
classrooms (emails) as the best features in my classes.
My best experience
with PowerPoint presentations was that they made my teaching more
efficient and better organized.
With the main ideas of my instructions already written on
PowerPoint slides, I was able to build upon the previous experience
and continuously improve teaching in an incremental fashion.
Every time I had new ideas, I created new slides, inserted
them into the existing slides and reordered slides so that the new
slides were naturally merged with other slides.
Gradually, my highly quantitative courses were converted from
detached, boring, and “mechanical” contents into more connected,
interesting and challenging endeavors.
Furthermore, PowerPoint slides in electronic files were
easier to carry and access compared to regular slides.
I could copy a PowerPoint presentation to the G drive on the
LAN and then access it anywhere from campus.
When presenting, I did not have to lug slide trays to lectures or
be careful to ensure everything is right side up and in the correct
order. Instead, I just
needed to turn on a computer and a projector, open PowerPoint and a
file, and use a mouse to present it. I also used the following
features of PowerPoint frequently:
text - PowerPoint can import text from Microsoft Word, and use
this as the basis for a presentation. If the
"Styles" feature of Word if used, PowerPoint will
convert anything designated as a Level 1 Heading into the title
of a new slide; lower levels will be coverted into Level 1
charts - PowerPoint has extensive charting and graphing
capabilities. Besides directly importing a chart or graph
from its partner Excel, it is possible to link to an Excel file
so that whenever the Excel file is updated with new data, the
related chart in PowerPoint changes automatically. This is
useful when a certain presentation is given repetitively but the
data changes regularly (e.g. research);
other slides - PowerPoint slides can be inserted from other
PowerPoint presentations, either individually, or the entire
text - The text in a PowerPoint slide show can be exported as an
outline, which is handy if the presentation serves as the basis
for a paper;
on a computer without PowerPoint - When the Pack and Go Wizard
is used to package together all the files and fonts as well as
the PowerPoint Viewer on a disk, PowerPoint slides can be run on
another computer that does not have PowerPoint installed;
presenting - PowerPoint is powerful to convert a presentation to
a web (or HTML) presentation. A "Wizard" walks
through all the choices and creates all the files that are
needed when "Save as HTML" is selected. When the
files are transferred to a web server, people can see the
presentation in its entirety and the original files are
available for download on the web page as well;
to other Internet resources - PowerPoint allows embedded
hypertext links on a slide. If a computer is connected to
the Internet and links are clicked on, the hypertext links will
automatically launch a browser and display the web site.
However, a PowerPoint presentation may have an adverse effect on
both teaching and learning experiences when it is not used
properly. For example, it could create a classroom
environment that discourages discussion, questioning, probing
and pondering. An instructor seems to move at a faster
pace because the teacher often assumes that with the handouts in
their hands, students spend less time taking notes and more time
on listening and discussing. Based on my experience,
however, a fast-paced instruction often leads to insufficient
time for students to reflect, ponder and interact, resulting in
the lack of understanding of course materials.
was first used in my class, for example, a number of students
told me that they disliked the lack of interaction in classrooms
and the fast pace of instruction. In responding to these
comments, I made several changes in my instruction. First, I redrew diagrams on a blackboard together with
additional instructions after PowerPoint slides that contained
the complex diagrams of concepts were shown. As a result,
students had more time to think and interact because the drawing
was printed prior to class, and class interactions increased
significantly. Second, rather than simply presenting
information, I prepared a set of questions for almost every
slide and asked the questions at the end of each slide.
Third, I frequently paused for questions and sometimes
for silence when difficult concepts were presented. Silence is equally important as the heated exchanges of
opinions in the development of critical thinking (Meyers, 1991).
Given periods of silence for reflection and incubation, students
can ponder quietly to mull over and digest the new information,
concepts, and methodologies. Fourth, I continued to
lecture when presentation media were switched. At Cohen
Center where my classrooms are located, switching between
different media is difficult. To switch to blackboard from
PowerPoint presentations, for example, I have to turn off the
computer projector, roll up the screen, and walk all the way to
the back of the room and turn on the lights. Then it will
take some time for students and I to adapt to the new medium and
lighting. Continuing to lecture during the switching
period was the best way to keep the continuity of the
The other improvement I made was to prepare two versions of
PowerPoint presentations, an instructor version and a student
difference between two versions was that the instructor version
contained a complete set of major points, instructional notes,
and discussion questions while the student version had only the
major points with “note” section purposely left bank.
The blank “notes” sections provided spaces for
students to take notes but more importantly kept them al0
during my lectures. After
such a change was made, even those “sleepy” students became
more interactive because they had to take notes and understand
whatever they wrote. The
last major change I made was to improve the visual effects of
the slides by following the rules below:
large font size (>24 point);
Used one graphic or visual element per page;
light text on a dark blue background for projection (yellow text on
a dark blue background);
the number of words per slide (only include main points on slides and
use "notes" sections to record the details of
the number of slides per class meeting.
focusing on main points, I was able to reduce the number of slides
used for a 2.5-hour class from thirty slides in my first teaching
year to ten slides today. With
fewer words on a slide and fewer slides per class meeting, I could
reinforce the main ideas on a slide by repeating them and spend more
time to interact with students.
It was also easier for students to grasp the main ideas when
only a few points were shown.
technology I used frequently was the Internet.
With the Internet, I set up a home page, which enabled the
distribution of class materials before class.
The materials were copied to Xavier’s LAN and students had
to print them out in a computer laboratory prior to the home page.
They often came to class without handouts because the
laboratory was closed or the printer did not work.
Now they could download my notes anytime and from anywhere
and they rarely showed up in class without handouts.
In addition, I also provided links to Web sites related to
health services administration on the home page.
sites were useful not only to classes but also to students’
residency and future employment.
the home page, I also encourage students to use email to interact
with me outside classrooms.
were several advantages of using emails for the interaction between
faculty and students. First,
email made me always accessible to students, independent of time and
place. My office hours
actually became obsolete after I started to use email to interact
with students. Second,
when students asked questions using email, their thoughts were more
organized and questions were concise.
Third, email enabled students who traveled out of town on
business to submit their homework assignments on time.
teaching becomes more and more popular on campus, in responding to
the employers' higher expectations for computer skills, rapid
development of computer hardware and software, and an increasing
number of working students. As
one of the many faculty members who use technology-based teaching, I
primarily share some of my pleasant and rewarding PowerPoint and
Internet experiences in this article.
However, I also have many unpleasant and sometimes painful
experiences with other computer software and I am still in the
process of exploring the best way of adapting these computer
applications into my teaching.
For the upcoming year, I will move all my teaching materials
to the Electronic Reserves provided by the library.
The new site has additional features that my old site does
not have. I am sure
that I will enjoy my new experience and continuously improve my
C. 1991. Teaching Students to Think Critically. San Francisco,
California: Jossey – Bass Publishers.
Guo is an assistant professor in Health Services Administration.
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