This is a first for me, so let’s see how it works and we’ll go from there…
First, a basic introduction. I have been working as a GET in the Korean education system for approximately 2 and a half years. The first two were at a High School in an orphanage, and currently I am working at a middle school in Busan.
These days I’m focusing more closely on my visual presentation, and that means greater considerations of the often maligned powerpoint. While it is easy to critique an over-reliance on powerpoint presentations, I feel they fit with my current environment for a variety of reasons:
a) There is research, though controversial (See Clark, et al. 2010), that Koreans have a visual learning bias (see Oxford, 2001).
b) Students have been accustomed to this mode of presentation.
c) A more detailed powerpoint probably scores a few brownie points with our Korean co-teachers.
Of course, attention to this aspect of teaching is but a small piece of the puzzle for successful teaching, nevertheless I feel it is a significant one.
During the summer vacation, I had the opportunity to go over two books relevant to the subject at hand. I readily recommend Ruth Clark and Cloetta Lyons’ Graphics for Learning and Ruth Clark, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller’s Efficiency in Learning. Anyhow, here are some of the major tweaks I made to my PPTs after going through these materials:
a) Add Learning Tabs. A learning tab would be a small graphic display (i.e. a logo, or a picture) in the upper right corner of the screen. The function is to remind the learner of their place in the lesson.
b) Include a Learning Agent. A learning agent is some character, human or otherwise in the bottom corner of the screen. It may seem difficult to believe, but Clark, et al (2010) provide plenty of evidence that including a learning agent can increase learning.
c) Exploit Proximity to Aid Comprehension. After explaining the basics of the target language focus I demonstrate the TL item through word bubbles. After the second example, I begin to fade the bubbles (i.e bubbles, with no text, then I remove the bubbles entirely) and ask students recall questions to ensure they have a basic comprehension of the key points.
d) Cut Down on Distracting Data and Graphics. Clark, et al. mention “seductive details.” What they mean is added visuals or sounds, or whatever intended to heighten learner motivation. They argue, rather compellingly, that such extraneous details—in their words—depress learning. Their advice is that if it doesn’t contribute to learning, then it should be eliminated. I’m a little hesitant to adopt such advice whole-heartedly for a middle school environment. Clark, et al. make the recommendation to focus on “cognitive motivation” as opposed to “emotional motivation.” They make the case, not entirely convincing in my estimation—at least for the lower grades, that if cognitive motivation is enhanced, the need for emotional motivation wanes. Nevertheless, I concur that a more efficient approach (meaning everything done during instruction is designed to contribute to learning) towards visual design should heighten student learning.
e) Make More Graphic Representations of Key Ideas. This is a no-brainer. Presenting ideas schematically helps learners focus on the key ideas; it should make the main points more comprehensible for learners even if they are lower level learners. Recently I have started to make a rather simple graphic organizer for every TL item I address during my lessons.
In closing, I want ask what do you do in your classroom in reference to visual presentation? Do you have any critiques for me?
Thanks for reading.
**Sorry, this is my first post, and I wasn’t able to upload powerpoint images just yet. If anyone would like to see examples, send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org…Cheers!
Clark, R.C., & Lyons, C. (2004). Graphics for Learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer
Clark, R.C., Nguyen, Frank, & Sweller, John (2010). Efficiency in Learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Oxford, Rebecca (2001). “Learning Styles.” In (ed.) Celce-Murcia, Marianne. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd edition). Boston: Cengage Learning