Let’s be honest, statistics professors are not noted for being “hot.” I think the Statistical Sages would all receive positive z-scores for attractiveness, at least for the distribution of statistics professors. Nonetheless, I’m guessing that very, very few people would want to see any of us teach naked. But “Teaching Naked” is a vernacular phrase for “teaching without technology.”

It wasn’t that long ago that one of my colleagues (a friend) sent me an email stating that professors who didn’t use PowerPoint were ignorant, behind the times, and well, worse. More recently, a group of professors wanted me to endorse a proposal encouraging professors to use technology in the classroom. In both cases, my peers were shocked by my response … I seldom use technology in the classroom (or videos for that matter). Except when I am teaching technology (e.g., SPSS or Excel) when, not surprising, I use technology to teach it, my favorite classroom tool is “the perfect” piece of chalk. Yes, it is true … I do not use PowerPoint slides to teach statistics (research methods or psychometrics, either). Incredibly, I’ve made PowerPoint slides and provided copies for my students both electronically and on paper, but I feel fairly strongly that the use of PowerPoint in the teaching of statistics is disruptive to the flow the class, at least when I am teaching.

I’ve been accused of being old (but I’m still without any grey hair) or not caring enough about doing the best I could do, but I’ve made the PowerPoint slides and even given them to students, as students seem to like to get a summary of notes. But I sense that even handing students PowerPoint slides seems to decrease students’ feeling for having to read the textbook. I once taught a large class in a large lecture hall, where I felt the only way to teach was to implement the use of PowerPoint. However, the day the computer system wasn’t working proved to be so much more interesting for students. They begged me never to go back to PowerPoint again. (It was more fun for me, too.)

As I think about this, it does seem that professors who have the ability to “dance” in the classroom … that is, adapt to the mood or interest level of the students may be the kind of professor who is hindered by PowerPoint slides. But, the professor who wanders a bit in how they present information may be helped by the forced organization of PowerPoint slides.

As for my recommendation? I encourage everyone to look at all possible methods of teaching, including the use of PowerPoint presentations in the classroom. Try some lessons with it and without, and see … what do you prefer, as you have a right to have fun teaching. What seems to aid in your students’ learning and interest? Let’s stop with this rhetoric that there is only one right way to teach, and if you can’t plug it in, it is certainly inferior to the method of Socrates, generations of Rabbis, and other noted great teachers, individuals who put their entire being into teaching others, and did so without PowerPoint. However, equally so, I encourage all of you to try a new teaching technique for this academic year. As though I can’t be certain if it will work or not, I can be certain that even in failure in the classroom, we learn.

For now, if you would like to have access to the PowerPoint slides that accompany Kiess and Green (2010), you can follow this link: http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/PowerPoint-Presentation-Download-only-for-Statistical-Concepts-for-the-Behavioral-Sciences-4E/9780205626281.page Joshua Sandry, a doctoral student at the University of New Mexico, and I made these slides. Feel free to use them as they are, modify them, etc. Please, let us know what you think.

Just know, I won’t be using them in class … I prefer to “dance!”

Follow these links to articles and a video clip from The Chronicle of Higher Education. They are about teaching with and without technology.

http://chronicle.com/article/College-20-Teachers-Without/123891/

http://chronicle.com/article/Reaching-the-Last-Technology/123659/

http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-Naked-Effort-Strips/47398/

and the accompanying video http://chronicle.com/article/Video-A-Professors-Plea-/48404/

Pingback: Low tech vs. high tech « Statistical Sage Blog