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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Charles Lewis, Jr.
April 2005

Before he enrolled in CETLA’s introductory Blackboard workshop, Dr. Charles Lewis, Jr., was already an avid PowerPoint user.  A well-known expert on the plight of African American fathers and their families, Dr. Lewis had long relied upon PowerPoint for presentations at national conferences.  It was, therefore, natural that he brought PowerPoint slides into his HU classroom when he joined the School of Social Work's faculty in 2002.  However, his introduction to the Blackboard course management system transformed his use of PowerPoint for teaching.

Prior to taking the workshop, Dr. Lewis spent nearly all of the class period lecturing with the aid of PowerPoint slides.  Creating PowerPoint slide shows helped him organize his presentation, but he felt that PowerPoint made his lectures “rigid.”  Referring to the inflexible order of the slides shows, he remarked, “Learning is not that linear.  You come back to things; you digress.”  The slide shows not only made teaching rigid, but also made it “too didactic.”  He did not like the way the slide shows consumed so much class time—precious time that could have been devoted to class discussion or other activities.

Consequently, Dr. Lewis became excited when his Blackboard instructor recommended that faculty post their PowerPoint lectures online so that they could “do something else” in the classroom.  “That was an ‘Aha’ moment,” Dr. Lewis recalled.  He realized then that he would no longer be obliged “to cover rote material” in class.  Instead, he could engage students in higher-order thinking because they would have already covered the rote material online.  

Dr. A. Wade BoykinNow Dr. Lewis posts his PowerPoint lectures online, both as slideshows and as PDF handouts for note-taking.  This “anytime, anywhere” access allows students to work at their own pace to review material for tests.  “You put information at their fingertips,” says Dr. Lewis.  Dr. Lewis noted that, at first, students thought they could just “get by” by reviewing the PowerPoint slides instead of reading the assigned texts. However, as Dr. Lewis warned them, the PowerPoint lectures were no substitute for the readings; they just “focused the reading” since there were “tons and tons of readings.”

Since the PowerPoint lectures no longer use up his class time, Dr. Lewis has more time to engage his students in class discussion and activities that require critical thinking. The PowerPoint lectures have become a “guideline” for class discussion, not the “center” of instruction, he explains.  For instance, during his Social Welfare Policy I class period, instead of “feeding them the textbook,” he gives students the facts online and spends the period engaging students in a dialogue that places those facts in an economic and political context.  Likewise, during his Social Welfare Policy II class, knowing that students should have gained the requisite knowledge online, he can help students apply that knowledge to scenarios from their workplaces and other real-world situations.  Occasionally, he will still show PowerPoint slides in class, but the slides are different: They are filled with images and questions to elicit student responses.

In general, students, have responded enthusiastically to Dr. Lewis’ approach—so much so that he has found that his classes close “minutes after registration begins.”  His approach is especially welcome among the School of Social Work’s many non-traditional students—students who are older, working, or parenting.  Because of the “anytime, anywhere” access, technology such as his has made it more feasible for some of these students to pursue a graduate degree.  However, “integrating such technology into courses takes time,” Dr. Lewis concedes, “time that could have been spent on other endeavors.”  “I know that research is the lifeblood of the academic life,” he observes, “but the teaching matters. I put a lot of work into teaching, and it is worth it.”

 

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