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7 Law Tchr. 1 (1999-2000)

handle is hein.journals/lawteaer7 and id is 1 raw text is: TUE LAW


Institute for Law School Teaching

Fall 1999

Adventures in PowerPoint
Teach with punched-up visual aids and see the difference
By Alison Sulentic

One day last semester, a student who had witnessed
my struggle to get the PowerPoint projector, laptop
computer, and remote control unit to work at the
same time gently observed, You re pretty new to computers,
aren t you? Yet just a few moments earlier, I had been
congratulating myself as a pathfinder forging hardily into a
new technological frontier. These different perspectives
illustrate the gap between the experience of many law
students, who were born to the computer age, and that of
their professors, who until recently found an electric
typewriter to be an excellent example of technological
wizardry. Using PowerPoint can be an adventure, especially
if terms like Java turn your students thoughts to
computers, while you contemplate beverages.
Last semester, I decided to use PowerPoint slides in my
three-credit Sales course. I decided to do so for several
reasons. First, Sales is a course that requires constant in-
class attention to statutory language. A visual aid, such as
PowerPoint, enables the class to examine the statutory
language on a common visual field, rather than look
exclusively at individual Code books (a practice, by the way,
that I had no intention of discouraging and indeed hoped to
actively encourage). Second, I prefer to teach Sales through
the detailed analysis of hypotheticals. I planned to project
the basic elements of the hypotheticals on the PowerPoint
screen in order to help my students (and me) remember the
basic fact patterns I set out. In addition, the PowerPoint
projector would enable me to highlight changes in the
hypothetical fact patterns as the class progressed, something
that I thought would be helpful. Finally, I hoped that
PowerPoint would help me add a little pizzaz to what can be
a hypertechnical subject.
Now, a few months later and a semester wiser, I have
emerged from my first adventure with PowerPoint with an
increased enthusiasm for the medium. I also have a few
words to share with those who might be considering the pros
and cons of using this new technology in the classroom.
PowerPoint and Class Participation
Many professors fear, with good reason, that the use of
PowerPoint will dull class participation. Students who are

equipped with PowerPoint printouts will simply gaze at the
screen and forego note-taking, thinking, legal analysis, etc.
This is a realistic concern, and professors who opt to use
PowerPoint must consider both their expectations of class
participation and the means they use to stimulate class
Class participation is a necessary component of any
course that utilizes the problem method. The point, after all,
is to get the students to do the problems. I found that the
effect that PowerPoint had on class discussion depended on
the way that I structured the slides. If I presented a slide that
flashed the solution to a problem on the screen, students had
little incentive to discuss the problem. On the other hand, if
I used the slides to state the facts of a hypothetical or to
project a portion of the statute, I found that I could continue
to question the students in much the same manner that I
would have employed had I been working without visual
Using PowerPoint may indeed cause a professor to
subordinate the desire for classroom spontaneity to the need
for advance preparation of a slideshow that follows a
particular lesson plan. My own approach to a class like Sales
is very methodical, and I keep a tight rein on the class s
progress in order to cover all of the necessary doctrinal
material. This approach slotted in easily with the kind of
preparation necessary for a successful PowerPoint class. In
other classes, where I am interested in probing a subject in a
more open-ended manner or in soliciting student input
concerning the direction the class is taking, I would find it
harder to prepare and use PowerPoint slides effectively.
While it is possible to back up or go forward in the slide
Continued on page 2

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