When did academics lose the capacity to discuss their research without slides, asks Gary Rawnsley.

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Of course the overdependence on technology is annoying and distracting in myriad other ways: the all-singing all-dancing PowerPoint slides with machine-gun sound effects which accompany every letter that literally spins onto the screen, meaning that just the title of the presentation takes almost five minutes to appear (I kid you not – I recently witnessed a professor prepare such a presentation at a major international conference); the commitment to filling every available space on the screen with text of ever-decreasing font size; or, arguably most annoying of all, the presenter who turns his back on the audience and simply reads reams of text from the screen. All are observed examples of a serious decline in the ability of academics to communicate their research. Is the focus on the presentation covering the lack of substance and intellectual rigour?

Of course PowerPoint and other presentation tools are useful, but they are simply that – tools. I use them to display photos, diagrams, maps and tables, sometimes to play a video clip. You could never do this with an overhead projector and transparencies. (Remember the fuss of preparing them?) There are even times when, depending on the audience I am addressing, I decide it is necessary to add a few bullet points to a slide. But I am confident that, having written some notes (on paper, sometimes with a pen) the show will go on even if the technology lets me down. I hope that I am in sufficient command of my subject to be able to speak about it for 10 minutes, if not longer.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.timeshighereducation.com

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