What kinds of tools do you use in the classroom to help students understand the assignments?

I guess I’m a simple man; I tend to rely most on personal, direct communication and a whiteboard to get my ideas across. For many of my colleagues who are younger than me (I turned 42 at the end of August), PowerPoint seems to be a way of life, but not so much for me. Partially this is due to the fact that I teach most of my classes in an environment where I feel fortunate if I have a whiteboard I can use every day. Also, I’ve had some students tell me that they think I do better without PowerPoint (I love it when my students reinforce my preferences) because it frees me up to move around the classroom, gesture broadly, etc.

Schools have different philosophies in this area. Some invest heavily in technology and they want their professors to be good stewards of it. This is actually the philosophy of my school, but I teach most of my classes off campus.

I think the best professors are those who play to their strengths, but in our increasingly tech-oriented culture, we professors need to incorporate at least some of that technology into our lectures. In an age of smartboards, computers in every classroom, DVD access, etc.-and in an age when student attention spans are not exactly getting longer-we need to vary our methods to some degree.

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Timothy D. Holder, Ph. D., is the co-author of Ask the Professor: What Freshmen need to Know” and author of Nixon and His Men.” Visit his website at


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