The Presentation

Posted: November 6, 2008 in Methods, Pedagogy, School

Well, the presentation went well. I was originally going to present what was written in the previous post. In fact, I printed it off. But before we got to the presentations, Laura Gurak talked to us about case studies, and about the difficulty of finding one little thing. While she was talking, an idea came to me. An idea that is small enough that I can get set up by the end of the semester, but that still informs my project at large.It occurred to me that there was at least one technology that I watched become pervasive in education: powerpoint. I remember when professors first started using it. I’ve seen it used as just an overhead projection of outlines, no different from the literal overheads or the writing on the chalkboard.

But I’ve also seen what Powerpoint can really do. I’ve seen it used with very clever music, great audio cues, animations, embedded videos. I’ve seen it used for great comedic effect, and I’ve seen it make what would otherwise be a dull presentation extremely interesting.

Even today, there are still those who barely know how to use powerpoint. I’ve been in one class (this semester, in fact), where the powerpoint was literally just notes to help the professor teach (not that he needed more; he’s incredibly interesting), and in another where we saw a power presentation that made me laugh, that had a lot of great visual references (and robots, which is always good), and showed me just how cool powerpoint can really be.

So I have a study. Or at least, a proposal for one. This is a technology I can examine specifically, one that is still being used to its best potentials.

I’m not sure what the method technically will be. I’m envisioning interviews with early comers and late comers to the technology. Maybe a case study of someone putting together their first power point presentation (hell, maybe I could do an auto-case study). But I want to ask people about their experiences with it, their exposure to it, and how difficult it was to start to use, from both a usability standpoint and a personal psychogical standpoint.

So that’s one technology that I can focus on. One thing where I can examine the strategies used. This may eventually lead me into strategies that would work generally, but it’s nice to have one that’s this close to ‘right now.’ YouTube falls under that same umbrella, as does Second Life and, to an extent, World of Warcraft. There’s a nice range of technologies being brought into the classroom right now, and so examining a few of those, then a few older technologies (like whiteboards, overhead projectors, laser pointers, or slide machines, the predecessor of powerpoint; maybe even something much older, like the printing press or textbooks), then a few potential future technologies (things that maybe have been invented but aren’t in the public sphere yet) could help me discover and develop those strategies that are the goal of my overarching project.

The more I look at this project, the bigger it becomes. I’m starting to feel like this project will be for me what copyright is for Lessig.

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