Oh dear. I had to wipe up some porridge this morning as I read this week’s article in the Irish Times from DCU’s former president. The “PowerPoint or Not” story has made it to the top, it is his article of the week. The article, which is essentially based on a 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education piece, and a press release for Southern Methodist University, discusses some personal anecdotes and some general hand-waving towards removing PowerPoint in lectures, and just, you know, teaching naked. Yes, I said the Irish Times.
I’m sure DCU’s Learning Innovation Unit must be collectively weeping this morning. Their website is full of resources for different teaching methods and information about seminars, which I’m sure FvP was informed about, and probably used in extolling the virtues of teaching innovation at DCU during various speeches as President. He chose to ignore all that, and preferred to, you know, just teach guys! I’ve found my Higginbotham – I was right about the unusual name. I’m not going down the senseless PowerPoint or not debate, except to say that it doesn’t matter what type of football boots a Newcastle player wears, whether he is a good player or not boils down to a certain amount of innate talent, and a lot of practice based on best training principles.
The bigger issue for me though is that this is still what passes for considered comment in the discourse on academic teaching quality at third level. Here we have someone, who hasn’t taught for at least ten years, advising others in his profession how to teach. He’s not basing this on any research, any evidence – just because it feels good, and, you know, he was a great lecturer. And while I would never usually say no to an article on teaching making the Irish Times, given the week Higher Education has had, (it even got another President blogging again), I would have thought something on the workload of academics would be more timely.
I was surprised when Prof von Prondzynski’s column in the Irish Times returned in the autumn. While having someone in the job of University President gave interesting insight to some of his columns, now that he has finished that position, I don’t understand the decision to keep him. Perhaps they thought he was a good bet for the Maynooth job? His column today really emphasises the fact that he has not much to offer, like a retired Taoiseach no longer knows what goes on at Cabinet. He should take the other Drumcondra man’s lead, and bow out of Irish media gracefully. I wish him the best in his new position. And for God’s sake will someone call Tom Collins and see if he can do a column for next Tuesday.