This fall I’ll begin working as an instructor in a new Workplace Learning & Professional Development certificate program at the University of Washington. I can’t quite recall the formal title of the position, but I kind of see it as a modern day, Seattle-based Defense Against the Dark Arts sort of position. The Dark Arts being poorly designed learning experiences (obviously).
This is how I envision my first day:
“Interactivius!” shouted one of my pupils as he pointed his wand at the PowerPoint slide that was being projected on the screen.
Suddenly the clip art on the slide was transformed into… well, into an animated gif file. “Keep working on the Interactive Charm, young master Neville,” I said, “animated gifs can be fun creatures, but more often than not, they’re nasty little beings that simply make poor slide design worse.”
“Who’s next?” A red haired boy stepped up and as he was about to try his spell he suddenly became distracted. A little rat hopped out of his pocket and ran out the door. The red haired boy ran after it as the class burst into laughter.
The next student to step up was a young man with round spectacles and a funny little scar on his forehead. “Enumerate!” he shouted, and a bolt of light shot from his wand and transformed the bullet points on the slide into numbers.
“Nice start, Mr. Potter,” I explained, “numbers definitely make it easier to identify which point you may be talking about, but there are more engaging ways to present.”
“Step aside, Potter!” a little blonde haired boy shouted, then pointed his wand at the screen and cried: “Transitious!” Suddenly, the slide swirled off the screen, advancing to the next slide which dissolved into the next slide which evaporated into a series of random bars, and finally a checkerboard pattern took the last slide off the screen and left the class facing a blank image that said: “End of Slideshow.” The students who weren’t nauseated or dizzy laughed uncomfortably.
“Mr. Malfoy,” I tried to be as tactful as possible since his father was rumored to have been a very ill-tempered and powerful man, “let’s try to ease off on those slide transitions next time.”
“Hocus Poll-cus,” said a soft-spoken young woman in the class. The bullet points and text were suddenly replaced with a brief series of PollEverywhere questions.
“Brilliant, Miss Granger!” I exclaimed. “Where did you learn that particular enchantment?”
“It was quite an easy one to learn, actually,” she said. “It’s one of 100 different charms I learned from The Big Book of Technologies that can Transform Any Learning Experience! By polling the audience instead of talking at them, you can get them involved in generating content for the lesson!”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now that we’re warmed up,” I continued the lesson, “this will be the first and last time we play with PowerPoint in here. For even though there are a gazillion PowerPoint presentations given each day, it’s actually a very dangerous creature that’s been misused, overused and certainly abused for quite some time. It wasn’t born dangerous, but He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named transformed PowerPoint into a dangerous, perhaps even deadly (if you can die from boredom) creature long ago.”
“He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? You mean, Lecture?” There was a collective, panicked gasp among the students.
“No Mr. Malfoy, Lecture is not the root of all evil, contrary to what many may tell you. There is a time and place for the kindly old soul of presentation delivery methods. No, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is…”
Just then, the bell rang.
“Nice job today. We’ll get into it more deeply on Monday,” I said. “Class dismissed.”
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