Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Digital Teaching

[I wrote this up a while ago, since then I have made additional observations which I've added in brackets.]

I've been pondering the pros and cons of teaching with a tablet PC. The basic idea is to prepare some kind of material ahead of class (probably slides) and then, using the tablet PC, you can project the image and write on the slides as you give the lecture.

Pro: You no longer waste as much time in class writing out equations and notes.
Con: This may cause a lecture to go too quickly through material, since the time spent writing allowed a student to think.

Con: It is difficult to pace yourself correctly with pre-made notes. The process of writing down notes on a board slows you down to an appropriate pace for comprehension. Josh postulated that it takes twice as long to comprehend as it takes you to write, including the fact that the student is writing down what you are doing and trying to understand.
Pro: Digital media removes the need for the student to write down complete notes, thus permitting them to focus on comprehension.

[Additional thoughts: after doing some lectures like this it seems as if it is not a good idea to have all the lectures premade. There is something natural about writing the equations by hand. The speed at which you write seems to be close to the speed at which people can read and comprehend. The manual writing gives you the appropriate speed naturally. Some equations could be prewritten. General equations, equations that have already been derived, etc, so there are opportunities for premade material.]

Pro: Because the material is presented digitally the lecture itself can be saved and distributed to the class. Notes can be given before a lecture and screen capturing can easily create a video of the lecture. This alleviates the student from having to take so many notes in class.
Con: The note taking process may be beneficial since it acts as a memorization device.

Con: Having all prepared notes conveys to the student that you are unable to lecture about the material without prepared slides. Possibly undermining your respect.

[Applying a mix of premade and handwritten notes should take care of this.]

Pro: Prepared notes will reduce errors, possibly allow for a more dense class, allow student to pay attention to the ideas instead of their notes and allow for easy recording of lectures.
[Just be careful so that it is not too dense.]

Con: Everyone falls asleep during power point slides.
[More reason to continue with hand written notes (remember that they can still be digital via a tablet. Also, some though can be put into the color scheme. Using a projector that does not require the class room lights to be off may help as well. ]

Pro: The class can clearly see what you are writing on the board. i.e. you are never standing in the way.

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