Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Classroom technology blues I took a campus tour recently and observed a professor teaching with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. The classroom was new, sleek, and fully wired with all the latest technologies. But the designer in me cringed at the clunky typography and stale graphics in the PowerPoint slides. I spoke with the professor after class, and he explained that faculty members are encouraged to leave chalk and markers behind in favor of new presentation technologies. This is a great idea in theory. However, unless faculty are trained in design, typography, color theory, and a dozen other disciplines that help shape information graphics, the classroom could become a showcase for visual mediocrity.

SMART Board technology will save notes for future use, allow teachers to pull up the Internet during a presentation, and more—but there are still drawbacks that need to be worked out. Professors must be technically savvy so that class time is not wasted searching for content online or troubleshooting the technology. The SMART Board pens are an exciting feature, but handwriting needs to be impeccable for many of these boards to recognize the letterforms.

I remember admiring the spontaneous beauty of a professor’s chalked notes on a board and listening as those notes were expanded throughout the lecture. There was something fresh and organic about that simple way of communicating information. I hope that as teaching technologies improve, they will bring not only a world of information to the classroom but also help professors communicate their own personal energy and style.