Professor John Munro passed away on December 23, 2013. This site is maintained and kept online as an archive. For more infomation please visit the Centre for Medieval Studies
Professor (Emeritus) John H. Munro passed away December 23, 2013
Department of Economics,
University of Toronto
150 St. George Street
My Home Page: freely accessible to everybody.
the ECO 301Y course web page.
Updated on: 22 January 2010 :
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT POWER-POINT PRESENTATIONS AND STUDENT ATTENDANCE
- Concerning posting my Power Point presentations and lectures online. Several important considerations to be noted:
- Many of my colleagues have been appalled at my custom, for the past ten years or so, of posting my lectures online, and in full, contending that if they were to do that, their students would not come
to class. I fully realize that doing so may provide the false incentive, for some students, not to come to class, in the hope that they can get all the lecture materials online. My experience, over the past
ten years, is that the only students who do well in the course -- from B+ to A grades -- are those who regularly come to class, and read the lecture notes only as supplement. I think that if you do not come
to class -- and hear the questions and answers, and comprehend my emphases on what is important -- you won't be able to understand the online lecture notes, all the more so if you leave the task of reading them
until the end of term.
- The danger may be all the greater now that I am providing and posting (after the class) Power Point presentations, along with the full lectures. And that does worry me. For obviously there is no point in my
doing so if too many students decide that having the PP presentations posted online allows them to skip classes.
- Please consider that my having decided this year, for the first time, to use Power Point is not really rational, not at my age (71, going on 72). There is no material gain (for me) to be derived: since there is
no merit pay component in either my pension or my stipend ($14,900 per year -- the same amount paid to all stipendary lecturers; and about the same as that paid to PhD students as TAs).
Nor of course can I be 'promoted', after retirement. I also run the risk of not gaining
an expected academic return on this heavy investment in my time in constructing these PP lectures, for the first time (about 6 - 10 hours per lecture), all the more so, since I am alternating my two courses, and thus will
not give this one again for two years: not until 2011-2012. By that time, I could be physically incapacitated -- or even dead (I attended two memorial services for recently deceased colleagues who were not much older
than) I; or, I could be without a job. In view of our current financial crises, the chair could tell me that departmental finances do not permit him to renew my annual contract.
(Tenure, by the way, ceased with my mandatory retirement, at 65, in 2003).
- So why am I doing it, if not for material gain? Well, it is important to realize that many of us, past and present, have done and do things for motives other than material gain. Creating power point
presentations is fun; and it greatly enhances my enjoyment in giving lectures. As I have said before: for me, teaching is the 'elixir of youth': a consideration (at my age) far more important than money. And also,
quite frankly, I began to feel guilty: that I was short-changing my students by not using Power Point (despite my earlier protestations about the 'opportunity cost' of doing so, for the first time, with such
high fixed human-capital costs).
- So, in return for this mutally beneficial 'investment', in doing Power Point presentations, I ask that you do come to class - a quid pro quo. If attendance falls, then I may have to
consider not posting the Power Point files online -- or even (gasp!) going back to using overheads!!
- If you find that you cannot come to class, and if you are concerned about earning the bonus points for class
participation, please let me know ahead of time (by e-mail), if you cannot come to class.
Some Supplementary Comments
- A peculiar view of Power Point: Globe and Mail letter to the editor (2 Dec. 2009): from Alison Dennis (Peterborough ON): "At 55, I've recently returned to university (undergraduate BScN) after
graduating from my second undergraduate degree in 1990. Many lectures now consist of someone simply reading what is on a Power Point presentation, and expanding on the points with whatever comes into
their head. [my italics added: JHM]. In the past, what I valued was the lecturer sharing [sic] what they [sic] knew about the topic, from their own research or real world experience. To have someone
reiterate what I've already read in the text is a waste of my time. My vote would be to get rid of Power Point presentations. That would force lecturers to prepare a lecture rather than provide McEducation."
- My comments [JHM]. Surely this student's real complaint is about professors who crib the lecture from a textbook: a practice that disgusted me when I was an undergraduate student at UBC (1956-60) -- and
I vowed never to do that if, as, and when I became a professor. Most assuredly I do not do that -- and most of my lectures are based on my own research (though some students may find that intimidating).
But a professor can do that -- crib his lecture from a textbook -- whether he/she is giving the lecture with or without visual aids (blackboard, overheads, Power Point). So here, Power Point in itself
is irrelevant -- the Medium
is Not the Message. If her criticism of PP presentations is that the professor does nothing more than read what was on the screen, then that would be a valid objection -- but she admits that her professors
verbally elaborate on what is on the screen (see the passage in italics). How does she think that we prepare Power Point presentations?? In doing these for the first time, I spend about 12 more hours a week than I would
do when just presenting my lectures with my collection of overheads. The text is, of course, taken and much condensed from my revised lecture notes -- and doing the PP almost always leads me to do
futher revisions of my full lecture notes.
- Unless I am misreading Ms Dennis' letter, I find her views an absurd contradiction. To advocate that Power Point presentations be banned from universities??
That is really a new one, in the realm of bans!! Any comments?
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