The place of technology in the classroom is a topic being debated on many college campuses, including Princeton.

The two biggest problems identified so far? PowerPoint presentations and laptops in the classroom.

Concerning laptop use, faculty members said one of their worries is that the internet’s ocean of resources makes it more difficult for students to decide what information is trustworthy. But for the most part, they said, the chief annoyance is when students use laptops in class for purposes other than academics.

The first part of that concern is really a red herring. Teaching students to evaluate information, from the web or anywhere else, should be a key part of the curriculum at every level, even an Ivy League university.

So, faculty members are mostly annoyed that students are surfing the web instead of paying attention to their lectures. Who’s fault is that?

Then there’s PowerPoint.

PowerPoint slideshows were another concern addressed during the meeting. Though they are the standard format for many Princeton lectures, doubts surfaced yesterday regarding their merit as a method of instruction.

“Princeton prides itself on its precepts and lectures,” history professor Graham Burnett said. “Those very precepts and lectures are now under siege … [PowerPoint] induces a very static and ultimately boring presentation.”

Again, who’s fault is that? PowerPoint doesn’t “induce” anything. Boring lectures are going to be boring with or without the accompanying slide show.

Beyond slide shows being the cause of poor teaching, some also blame them for truancy.

Slideshows posted on Blackboard, suspected to be a widespread excuse for truancy, are PowerPoint’s second pitfall, the panelists said.

“I post presentations online so that my students are not scribbling furiously in class,” computer science professor Brian Kernighan said, “but that can also inspire [students] to stay in bed and download all the notes.”

Other than the fact that someone is paying big bucks for them to attend Princeton, I’m not sure I blame the students for staying in bed.

If they can learn the material by viewing the slide shows online, pass the tests, and not have to sit through boring presentations, why not?

Mmmm…. laptops, PowerPoint, Blackboard. That sounds like the edtech foundation of a certain overly-large school district around here.

No connection implied, however. :-)

[Thanks to edtechNOT for the link]