Presentation Technology and Teaching

Increasingly, new forms of technology, particularly computers, are changing the processes of teaching and learning. As a cognitive psychologist and a teacher, I am interested in this technology, but concerned to find effective ways of using it. Essentially, my concern is that teaching and learning guide the implementation of new technology, rather than adopting technology simply because it is available. Of course, many others share this point of view; see, for example, the TLT Group, which evolved from an interest group within the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE).

While many new  usages of technology can be added to traditional classroom practices (for example, using e-mail to communicate outside of class, or using a Web site to provide supplementary information), technology is also changing what happens in the classroom. In large part, this has been the result of computers, but even more fundamentally, it has been due to the availability of data/video projectors, which enable the presentation of traditional information (such as text) in new ways, but also allow the introduction of new modes of information (such as simulations and the demonstration of real-world processes on a large screen), often integrating multiple formats within a single class ("multimedia"). Various terms have been coined to describe the usage of multiple media in a class, the term "presentation technology" seems to fit well. (It should be noted that presentation technology may also be combined with a networked classroom, in which students have access to computers while in the classs.)

As a teacher, I find myself wondering what the most effective uses of these new options are. At the most basic level, the flexibility of options, in the absence of established guidelines for practice, makes it difficult to determine anything like "best practices". For example, consider the following questions:

While there likely is no simple answer to these questions, the reality is that the use of presentation technology represents a new paradigm for classroom teaching,  much as Web delivery of courses differs from traditional correspondence courses for distance education, and there is as yet no clear pedagogy for its use. As a cognitive psychologist, my feeling is that we need to be doing research on learning outcomes in order to be able to identify factors that matter--and those that don't. (Iinterestingly, there is much more activity focussing on Web delivery than there is on presentation technology--yet most faculty expect to continue to do classroom teaching, and increasingly with presentation technology, than expect to teach via the Web.)

Part of my current activity deals with the design and implementation of presentation technology at Ryerson (see the PTIC web site), and part of my time is devoted to fostering good teaching practices, via GREET (Group to Renew and Enhance Effective Teaching). In many ways, the issues raised here and in the presentations noted below reflect my attempts to merge these interests. (During my sabbatical in the coming year, I plan to focus on looking at gathering data, particularly learning outcomes, in relation to some of the above questions.) For now, I welcome comments, personal experiences, and other feedback from others interested in these issues.

Presentations on PT and Teaching

Presentation Technology and Pedagogy: What to Do? Why?

(University of Toronto IT Forum, April 2000)

If You Build It, They Will Come: Putting Presentation Technology in the Classroom

(Media Prosperity '98, Edmonton, June 1998)

Note: the above presentations are in Lotus Freelance 97 format; a Web browser plug-in  for Netscape is available at:

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