Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Language Learning, PowerPoints, and Teaching

This semester, I am teaching a course on second language acquisition, or the process by which we learn second languages. I was provided with a complete set of PowerPoint presentations which had been used by current and previous teachers of this course... but I'm kind of picky about my PowerPoints. To me, there are certain fonts which should never be used in a PowerPoint presentation. I'm not just talking about Comic Sans; in my opinion decorative fonts and any sort of serif font should never be used in professional presentations. Likewise, multiple colored fonts can be used for emphasis, but this should be done sparingly. ClipArt and WordArt need to go. Slides packed full of words need to be rare and limited to Really Important Things. Basically, the set of PowerPoints that I was given pretty much hit on everything that makes me shudder with regards to presentations. As such I'm re-doing them. They're based on the PowerPoints that I was given as well as on the text The Study of Language by George Yule. Here are the ones that I've used so far. Annoyingly, I haven't found any share-your-powerpoint website that lets me embed the files on my blog AND lets the animations work AND doesn't mess up my formatting here and there. Boo. I'm using SlideShare, as it seems to work the best for sharing on Blogger. If any of you know of a site that would work better, please let me know. Anyway, keep in mind that a good PowerPoint presentation should be used as the backdrop for your lecture - it shouldn't simply contain the text of your lecture. As such, a lot of the slides are just pictures, short video clips, or short phrases meant to stimulate discussion. Anyhow - enjoy!

After using this one in class, I learned that my students have no clue as to who Kirk Douglas is. I was finally able to get through to them by saying "You know Michael Douglas? The guy who's married to Catherine Zeta-Jones? Yeah, his father." Also, note to self: warn students before showing the video on brain surgery. I nearly had one guy puke. Not everyone has as tough of a stomach for such things as I have.

You can't discuss second language acquisition until you know a bit about first language acquisition. Also FYI, the last slide consists of discussion group questions. And a picture of me as a toddler.


Ivey Vines said...

It's maddening to me the way many people use PowerPoint. Every professor I had took off points on presentations for using it as a "text feed" and the majority of students continued to ignore the constructive feedback...and then the madness carries into the workplace. smh.

Annie Nimity said...

The worst was back in '05 when I still worked for the US gov't. I had to sit through a week of "training" - 8 hours a day, no internet access to distract me, and nothing but people reading word for word from powerpoints. AND they had printed out the slides for everyone, so I'd read through all of the materials before the first day was finished... and I still had to sit through a total of 40 hours of ppt reading. I really began to worry that I might actually die of boredom.

Gene Keeler said...

PPT should only contain the concept in a few words as a trigger for the presenter to expand on. While preparing for consultant presentations many engineers would try to put all of their words onto their slides. Also, I agree that font selection is important also background colors. To test your ppt go to the back of the room and see how it looks. Can it be read? Does the color cause eye fatigue? Also just because you can animate the text is not a reason to do it.

Annie Nimity said...

BTW, when I mentioned "animation" what I was referring to was the ability to have words/bullet points appear on a slide one at a time, or to have a question appear, and have the answer only appear when you click. (This way the students' ideas can be discussed before they see the answer.) There are quite a few slides that do this in my presentations, but the SlideShare-to-Blogger process makes those no longer work :(