May 2004 (v6 i6)
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Educators celebrate the ‘power of PowerPoint’
“It’s the wave of the future!” declares teacher
by Elizabeth Barksdale, Associate Editor

CAMPUS — The university recently hosted a conference for UT professors, Austin Independent School District teachers, and educational specialists from across the country to discuss the benefits of PowerPoint presentations in academia. More than 25 seminars were also given on how to master PowerPoint technology and make slides particularly eye-catching.

“A few years ago, I was apprehensive about using PowerPoint for my lectures,” said UT Biology professor Jane Letswatz. “I thought my overhead projector transparencies were interesting enough. I had different colors of transparency markers, and sometimes I even used clip art. I didn’t think I needed this fancy PowerPoint stuff to make my classes interesting, but I was wrong! PowerPoint has opened up amazing new doors for everyone.”

Letswatz and many other educators admitted to having to get over initial jitters when using this program.

“PowerPoint was hard for me at first,” said Dr. Bob Meterson, a Sociology professor. “I kept closing the slide show, and I couldn’t figure out how to open it again. My students were tittering a bit, but one nice young lady showed me how to run the program. But then it went too fast, and I had to talk very quickly. The class ended 30 minutes early. Some students asked me if I could post the slides on the web, but I had no idea how to do that. And by the next lecture, I had forgotten how to run the slide show again. It was even harder than e-mail.”

Some instructors gave up on PowerPoint and went back to using overheads and chalkboards for giving notes in class. A few professors formed a support group, however, and with grueling practice sessions running late into the night, they mastered the art of the program that Microsoft calls “very user-friendly.”

“It was tough in the early days, but now I have a lot of fun with it,” said Letswatz. “I like to use lots of animation and sound effects. My favorite is that little ‘splat’ noise. I turn up the volume really high and like to scare my students with it sometimes. It really keeps my kids on their toes!”

“Now I can run through a whole slideshow lickity-split,” said Meterson, grinning. “Now the only problem is that my students complain that they don’t have time to copy down all the notes. I don’t buy that excuse, though. Unlike me, they’ve grown up using advanced technology. I bet they all have those palm computers or at least pens that write faster than normal — they shouldn’t whine about taking a few notes!”

Teachers from AISD also attended the conference.

“I believe PowerPoint is truly the wave of the future,” said ninth grade Social studies teacher Martina Funnell. “If only there was more public school funding, there could be more PowerPoint presentations in high schools. I firmly believe that this would raise TAKS scores and help keep kids off drugs.”

Microsoft spokesperson Jim Felterville spoke at the conference, saying that “Microsoft is delighted that educators are coming together to celebrate PowerPoint.”

Felterville gave a PowerPoint presentation that illustrated how the next version of the program will provide even more educational opportunities. Although the slide show froze halfway through and Felterville’s laptop had to be rebooted, educators still expressed excitement about the prospects of new PowerPoint software.

“Sure, they have a few bugs to work out, but there’ll be more sound effects!” said Lestwatz. “With this program, I’m going to teach my students to think about biology from a more analytical perspective — one where I can make the computer say ‘ribbit!’ like a frog, to boot!”
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