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Using overheads?

Kathy Sierra
Cowgirl and Author

Joined: Oct 10, 2002
Posts: 1589
OK, at Sun I was *always* in trouble because I never used overheads. I had a love-hate going. Obviously I liked the visual aspect, but I am an obsessive white board drawer, and I was rarely teaching in an environment where it was easy to switch back and forth. Another reason I didn't use them was because they, well, at the time, *sucked*. They were mostly bullet points, but we won't go there now.
A third reason I didn't use them was because I felt it constrained me too much to that one area, and made me focus on the projector instead of the room. I just liked having a completely unobstructed space between me, the students, and the whiteboard. If it was a class I didn't know well enough, then I had some kind of a podium somewhere to keep my notes on, and I would have to refer to that, but usually I would grab a handful of pages and then get back into the classroom. I just don't like being stuck up at the front of the room, unless I'm in a university setting where I'm in a big theater with a gazillion people. But I'm talking about the hands-on computer classes, where you have no more than 25 or so.
We'll have to start a different topic, I think, on WHAT should be in overheads... speaking of which, Tufte has a new book out on what *should* be done in PowerPoint! And it's either him or someone associated that said, "Power Corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely".
But at least there are good clear guidelines on what makes a good slide. Except... much of what I see on the use of slides in presentations doesn't distinguish between a 'presentation' (like, say, a briefing or two-hour lecture) and a training/learning scenario. For example, if I present at a conference, I ALWAYS use overheads, even though I virtually never use them in the classroom.
So, for this topic, I'd love to hear thoughts about using them, since I don't, but so many really good instructors use them, and must use them effectively.

Co-Author of Head First Design Patterns
Just a Jini girl living in a J2EE world.
Johannes de Jong

Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Posts: 5089
I find overheards suck in a classroom. Give me a white board any day.
I'll elaborate later.
[ September 23, 2003: Message edited by: Johannes de Jong ]
Frank Carver

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
I tend to prefer to have a projector (usually attached to a computer with powerpoint or whatever), but an OHP if that's all that's available. The main reason I like to have this available is to give a nice big, readable version of things the students should keep referring back to.
For example, over the last few lessons in my database class we have been working on adding user-requested features to an Access database for a used book seller. The students find it very easy to get distracted, and have usually come through a schooling system which rewards an overcomplicated, inappropriate solution over a simple, appropriate one. So I make a nice simple slide of four or five "user stories", then cruise round the class helping out, clarifying, answering questions and so on. For most questions, I can just point down the room at the big, clear list of objectives and ask the student whether what they are worried about, or the solution they are proposing fits with the goals on the screen.
I've found that if I try and do this on a whiteboard it's smaller and harder to see from the far end of the classroom, and harder to read my writing than a nice solid sans-serif font. If I try it on paper the students lose/drop/eat/scribble-on the paper, or forget to bring it to the next lesson, or just don't bother to look at it.
I definately turn the projector off, though, when it's not useful.

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Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
I use them all the time. I have a PowerPoint presentation which is made up of bullet points and code samples. I project it onto a whiteboard and then I write my notes on it/over it. While I'm discussing a particular slide I might wander around the room. For a three hour class I might have 30-35 slides.

Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Andres Gonzalez
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 27, 2001
Posts: 1561
The impression that I get from many students (I used to be one couple months ago) is that you don't even need to go to class because everything is powerpoint. Just get the slides and that's it.
IMO, I prefer having a lecturer with a power point presentation only showing a big and broad picture of what the context of the topic is about, and a white board to deep into.
my $0.02
[ September 24, 2003: Message edited by: Andres Gonzalez ]

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Pauline McNamara

Joined: Jan 19, 2001
Posts: 4012
Just recently I used an overhead projector for the first time in one of my classes. I had some transparencies with printouts of code samples. It was helpful to slip them under the sheet you can write on and then add notes over the code during the class to explain what different blocks of code were for.
The students had copies of the code printouts too, so could note what they wanted to.
I liked being able to match the color of what I wrote over the code with some cartoony like pictures I'd drawn (on the whiteboard) to explain the different concepts previously.
Otherwise I much prefer using the whiteboard. More space, more room to move, less barriers also - like you said.
Pauline McNamara

Joined: Jan 19, 2001
Posts: 4012
Sooo, the book's done already?
Kenneth A. Kousen
gunslinger & author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 18, 2002
Posts: 90
This is yet another fascinating topic. Thanks Kathy!
When I make my own materials, I go with PowerPoint. My slides seem to get the job done, but I wouldn't hold them up as great examples of the art. They certainly have too few images on them. Still, they add structure to the class and cover all the essential points.
To get away from the slides, I sometimes go to a whiteboard, especially for diagrams, but normally I go to code. By that I mean that I open an editor (Eclipse is my current favorite), put it up on the screen, and just start coding. I usually ask for student input, of course.
What helps me make this work is that I'm a fast typist, and I know the editor well enough to use the code assist quickly, too. Sometimes I'll step through code using the debugger as well. I always add the Omondo UML plugin, too, so that I can generate class diagrams from the code.
When I'm using third-party materials, however, I prefer to have a PDF of the actual student workbook. That way I can be sure that I'm addressing everything they're seeing in the book.
For my academic classes, I have slides, but half the time I just ignore them and talk directly to the students and then use the editor.

Kenneth A. Kousen, Ph.D. (assorted certs), President, Kousen IT, Inc.
Author of Making Java Groovy -
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Using overheads?