Accounting Professor Nola Emson cares so much about student engagement, she has begun a movement to banish PowerPoint presentation software from her classroom, and hopes to someday eliminate its presence from all of academia.
“I will only use ‘ShowZits’ slideshows in my courses,” said Emson at a workshop she conducted at the most recent Conference for Engaging Teaching. “If I could get a secure wireless connection in this hotel, I could show you its benefits, but allow me to just explain.”
“ShowZits allows you to turn any photo into a cartoon, which students love,” said Emson. “Here. Let me pull up an example of a tax spreadsheet I converted a few weeks ago.”
Emson searched her iPhone for a graphic to hold up in front of the packed presentation room.
“Oops. It crashed. That’s a common problem for ShowZits, but when I reflected on its frequent failure rate, I realized that the time I spend explaining concepts to my students face-to-face yields better scores on exams,” said Emson. “I think it’s an engagement technique ShowZits should brag about in its review comment threads. Any questions?”
“I saw your spreadsheet right before it crashed,” said one audience member. “It looked like the 2015 model of tax codes that the IRS eliminated.”
“That’s correct. Good eyes,” said Emson. “It took me about 90 minutes to convert that image into a cartoon and then another hour to upload it into my presentation. I realized about half-way through my first semester teaching that engagement has to come before rote content that students could look up on Google.”
“Getting students’ attention is impressive,” said the audience member. “Do you have any other tips for positive engagement?”
“I wish I could pull up my favorite slide,” said Emson. “I programmed ShowZit to take a new tax law and make the text whip around like a full balloon when you set it loose. It’s hilarious.”