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The Black Hole

Not Linear

BY BETH | AUG 23 2010

I had to create a presentation for a meeting at work and decided to try out Prezi, a new online presentation software that helps you to think about giving presentations differently than you would with PowerPoint. Unlike PowerPoint, which is a deck of slides presented in a linear way, Prezi is a giant canvas on which you can place words and images of various sizes, zooming in and out and around to present.  While I was using it, I came across this presentation called “Math is not linear” that I thought would be worth sharing here (Note: click the right-pointing arrow at the bottom of the presentation to advance through the slides):

I thought this was worth sharing here because it speaks to a lot of the issues that I’ve talked with my grad student and other teaching colleagues about teaching science in general, like:

  • show students how the material relates to their lives
  • think big picture
  • present students with problems first (which then motivates students to learn, because they want to solve the problem at hand), rather than basing on memorizing formulae from the textbook and then asking them to solve a problem/answer a question about it. This is, after all, how the scientific method works.

I really wish more of my undergraduate education had been taught this way.  Because, honestly, I can still remember lots of things from the classes that I had that were taught this way (and we are talking a decade later), whereas for the classes I had that were taught in the traditional lecture format and tested via regurgitation-type exams – I don’t seem to be able to remember a thing!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we approach the teaching of science in the comments section!
Note: We have no association with Prezi.com, other than that I am a user of the service. We aren’t making any cash or anything for blogging about them – I just think it’s a pretty cool product!

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  1. BaxDoc / August 25, 2010 at 20:43

    I refuse to use Powerpoint when I teach undergrads – I teach health science – for precisely your reasons: nothing linear about it. And those bullet points are reductionist, creating the notion that things are simple when they are not. But this program looks neat. Thanks! And thanks to Frogheart for retweeting.

  2. Maryse de la Giroday / August 25, 2010 at 22:16

    Hi Beth! Thanks. I just spent several minutes playing on the Prezi site. The only problem I have with it is that one idea propagates a couple more ideas which then propagate even more ideas and on and on. Eeek! I think this approach would work very well for teaching/introducing science topics to audience that don’t usually attend science lectures. I’m thinking of presentations I’ve made at conferences with an audience made up of social science/artistic types who appreciate a more conceptual approach to a detailed technical introduction to nanotechnology. E.g., I’ve tried explaining that nano means one billionth of a metre and had the pleasure of watching people’s eyes glaze over. Cheers, Maryse

  3. Beth / August 25, 2010 at 20:51

    Out of curiosity, what do you use for visual aids when teaching if not PowerPoint? I know one person who creates all his presentations as webpages, so he can just keep scrolling down (with the occasional hyperlink to jump around). Of course, it ends up being most linear down (reminiscent of those rolls of transparency that people used to use with overhead projectors), but at least it’s something different.