Today’s students have grown up with high-tech, high-color, high-intensity, high-speed visuals. Even the formerly staid national evening news reflects the change in viewers’ habits and preferences. “Talking heads” like the venerable Walter Cronkite have been replaced with news commentators who are on the screen for no more than a minute at a time, surrounded all the while by constantly changing visuals.
In like manner, you will want to supplement your lectures with compelling photographs, graphics, footage, and so forth. So much is available for essentially every topic anyone might ever want to teach that it is not difficult to find visual and auditory stimuli to accompany a lecture. If you have student assistants who familiar with your content, consider enlisting them to produce some visuals for you. You will want to preview their efforts, but, you might be surprised at how creative and effective they can be. It’s possible they are quite in touch with what might ‘connect’ with students who are similar in age to them.
Many faculty members use PowerPoint or similar presentation software to supplement and/or guide their lectures. For strategic teachers, presentation software neither replaces the lecture nor serves just as a backdrop, instead, it enhances learning by providing visual cues for students’ mental organization. Think twice about using features of the software that create sizzle, but add little to genuine learning. Be sure to consult with those on campus who have responsibility for effective use of such technology. Many excellent books, on-line courses, and other resources are available for knowing to use (and NOT use) PowerPoint.
Most contemporary faculty members who at one time used slides have converted those slides to some type of presentation software. There are two primary benefits of doing so: (1) the slides are easy to reorder or reconfigure and (2) the lights can be left on while students are viewing the slides. Neither benefit should be discounted. Remember, though, that just because the lights are on, you are not guaranteed students’ unflagging attention. The faculty member who presents slides with a lecture must still be cognizant of the need for periodically resetting students’ attention clocks.
Video and sound clips can serve to keep students focused on the content of a lecture. They can illustrate a point, demonstrate a concept, clarify a confusing notion, provide background gereedschap sticker information, or deliver a figurative punch. A clip may be as short as thirty seconds or as long as twenty minutes, but used strategically, it helps reinforce the lecture in students’ minds.
Props are underutilized in the college classroom. Some would view props as unsophisticated or superfluous, but I disagree. I have found props to be essential in teaching particular concepts to students and know other professors who would concur. Props can support the powerful teaching techniques of analogy and metaphor. For example, when trying to make the point with learners that people are able to learn more easily when they already have background knowledge on a topic, I used Velcro as the metaphor. This was effective, but was made even more so by having the students participate in a demonstration with a Velcro-covered paddle, foam paddle, and a tennis ball covered with the loop side of Velcro. The Velcro ball didn’t stick at all to the foam paddle but stuck easily to the Velcro paddle. From then on, I could ask students whether they had the Velcro for a particular concept I was teaching. They never forgot the idea that background knowledge allows people to be able to learn more easily and efficiently.
From a psychological perspective, flip charts (large pads of paper set up on an easel) provide a bit warmer tone than slides and transparencies (remember those?) and seem to facilitate student participation in the appropriate setting. They are most effective in small courses that focus on interpersonal issues and skills. From a logistical perspective, visuals on flip charts can be prepared in advance or can be constructed during the course of the lecture. Either way, you can keep the chart intact or tear off sheets that can then be tacked or taped around the classroom, providing students the chance to refer back to previously-addressed material. Since they do not require electricity and are portable, flip charts are especially convenient and reliable.