Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Death by Powerpoint

I was speaking to a lecturer today who presents his lectures the 'old-fashioned' way by just talking about his subject for an hour. Although I can do a library tour off the cuff I suppose I am still dependent on visual aids of a sort (pointing to things in library mainly) but if I'm giving a classroom talk I either do a live demo of e-resources or use Powerpoint. I tend to shy away from live demos if I can because there is a lot of potential for it to go wrong and because I get embarrassed by the long pauses while each screen loads (as the tumbleweed blows by) and fill in by making stupid comments. The fact that there are no computer rooms for teaching on my campus also prevents my team from running workshops which would be my preferred mode of delivery - although not always practical when faced with a class of 200 students.

So for library inductions Powerpoint is my friend, it does what I want it to do, I can manipulate the screen to show the perfect database search that would never ever work properly live and these days you can do some quite fancy visual stuff with it. Our Powerpoint presentations have got a little more sophisticated over time and with improvements to the software (we use Microsoft Office 2007). We are very aware of the visual impact and tend to use arty images that will appeal to the students. We put in links that will work if they want to use the presentation as a self-paced tutorial in Blackboard. We also use animation but try to avoid lots of whizzy effects if poss.

This year we are using two presentations: the first is up and running when students enter the classroom and is designed to attract their attention and give them something to focus on while we finish setting up. It consists of striking pictures from our image databases (Education Image Gallery, Bridgeman Education, ARTstor, VADS etc) on a black background with a description of each image - including copyright info of course. The Powerpoint rolls on gently in the background changing each image every few seconds - it seems to have a slightly hypnotic effect on some of the students. The second is a fairly convential library talk that my colleague Rachel Pownall has created but it uses visuals from our virtual tour that look really fresh, she also uses clip art and tools like Wordle to create interesting slides. With the revamped leaflets that we are giving out this year I feel that we're putting forward quite a professional image. I wonder what library inductions will be like in the future?

Did you know you can save Powerpoint slides in a variety of formats including jpeg? This is how I've inserted screenshots into this post. This a picture of Anthony Gormley from Education Image Gallery and an image from the virtual tour (above).

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