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Using PowerPoint in the classroom

by Jason Derek Tchir

It's not easy to keep abreast of all the changes technology has brought to teaching. Instructors who once struggled to find the switch on the overhead projector now give lectures using PowerPoint graphics and provide students with online course notes. Making this transition can be daunting, but Open and Distance Learning is there to help.

Roger Kenner is Co-ordinator of Instructional Technology Support in the Open and Distance Learning office, part of Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS). Part of his job is to teach faculty how to use technology to enrich their teaching.

This mandate ranges from help with PowerPoint, a computer program that gives slide presentations, to consulting on digital video broadcasting and Web-based course support. Kenner makes training available to staff through workshops, videos, and instruction on the Internet.

While students and professors have access to state-of-the-art technology, many feel intimidated by the prospect of using technology in the classroom. Those teachers who have to ask their students to help them figure out the classroom's VCR are not alone.

"We do have a few professors who are using cutting-edge technology, and we have others who still aren't comfortable with technology at all," Kenner said. "I want to bring the mass of professors one or two steps forward. That may mean something like PowerPoint, which can make lectures much more effective."

PowerPoint allows instructors to present course materials, including notes, outlines, charts, and diagrams on a computer image that can be projected onto a screen. It's a popular program, and has been used for business presentations for years. PowerPoint tutorials are in heavy demand, especially among Commerce students and faculty. To accommodate the demand, Kenner's department now offers PowerPoint training on the Internet.

The Open and Distance Learning office uses the Internet in other ways as well. An increasing number of courses are offered through WebCT on the Internet. Likewise, all faculty have access to WebCT (the CT stands for "course tools") as a support tool for their courses. They can use this resource to make course material, including notes, readings, references, videos, online quizzes, computer conferencing and grades, available to their students on the Internet.

As helpful as technology is, Kenner stresses that it isn't perfect. Any of us who have ever lost hours of work when a computer crashes can attest to this. Kenner teaches professors what to do when the technology stops working.

"I can cite examples of that from my own teaching experience," he said. "For example, I tell teachers who are planning a PowerPoint presentation to make transparencies of all of their pages so they can use an overhead projector if there's ever a problem. It's not quite as much fun as PowerPoint, but it will get the job done."

Kenner realizes that unfamiliar technology like WebCT, PowerPoint, and even e-mail, can be intimidating to some instructors. He stressed, though, that because students now expect more in terms of technology, instructors have to evolve.

"Now, students can use the Internet to take courses from MIT here in Montreal," Kenner said. "As instructors, we have to stay on top of the technology, or we may get left behind."

Ready to get started? You can contact Roger Kenner at 8483430 or . You can also consult the Web site at

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.