Defending the Book

6 August 2007 at 9:51 am 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

Books teach more than videos, PowerPoint presentations, and similar substitutes, writes Alan Wall (via Mark Brady):

[H]owever central the computer might have become in our lives, in a literary education, the book remains our main technological tool, and none of us should be bullied into apologizing about the fact. The book represents one of the greatest technological innovations in history, and its fitness for its task, its versatility, its convenience, mean that it will surely continue well into the future. It is also a remarkably democratic technology, in educational terms. If a teacher is giving a power-point presentation, as we teachers are now being exhorted to do, at every available opportunity, then that teacher dictates what is available in the form of knowledge to everyone in the room. She or he presses the keys on the laptop that change whatever text or image is up there on the screen. She decides what I can see and when. But if I am a student and I have a book in front of me, then I can answer back. I can turn my own pages in my own good time, and remind myself of my own marginalia. “Excuse me, but I don’t agree. What you said about Dorothea in Chapter Five might well be true, but if you’d care to turn to Chapter Nine, I think you might find. . . .”

Many power-point demonstrations are mechanical and halting, because the presenter or lecturer spends much of the time staring at a laptop screen, instead of engaging with the audience. In terms of teaching literature, there is also a limit to the usefulness of any visual material. I can have a picture of Milton, or Charles I heading for the scaffold, or Cromwell displaying his legendary wartiness, but sooner or later we have to buckle down and read Paradise Lost.

Some of you are thinking, “That’s fine for literature, but not economics or sociology or management. Besides, nobody in these fields writes books anyway, just articles.” Still, training students (and colleagues) to grapple with ideas through long, sustained arguments, rather than short bullet points, is a worthy goal for scholars in all disciplines, especially management.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory, Teaching.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. spostrel  |  6 August 2007 at 12:09 pm

    The proposed contrast between books and Power Point seems artificial to me. I can’t see how the two actually compete, especially in a lit class. Power Point is mostly a substitute for transparencies and whiteboards. What lit student doesn’t have a copy of the book at hand during lecture?

  • 2. jonfernquest  |  6 August 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Powerpoint, article, book all seem to be complements, with articles ideally rolling up to books, with articles being reduceable to powerpoint (essentially just a serialised outline). In fact, the thought experiment “what kind of powerpoint would I make this article into” is a good revising technique and way to bring focus to any article. IMHO ideally **the** book should be the final long-worked on definitive statement, worthy of being placed on a library shelf (and not gathering dust) perhaps even published posthumously.

  • 3. links for 2007-08-07 at Jacob Christensen  |  7 August 2007 at 7:23 am

    […] Organisations and Markets: Defending the book Books teach more than videos, PowerPoint presentations, and similar substitutes, writes Alan Wall (via Mark Brady) (tags: academic education teaching technology books) […]

  • 4. Mark E Hoffer  |  9 August 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Good Dr. Klein,

    With this: “Still, training students (and colleagues) to grapple with ideas through long, sustained arguments, rather than short bullet points, is a worthy goal for scholars in all disciplines, especially management.”

    You delineate the ideal of Education. .ppt (s) only serve to draw an asymptote, to deep into the flatline, hardly anywhere near the parabolic trajectory one finds on the way to the desir(ed/able) goal.

    Alan Wall is quite correct, the .ppt is merely an electronic extension of the command and control basis of what has passed for “Education”, for far too many, for far too long. I would imagine that they would make Dewey drool at the thought of the possibilities they possess to disable even more of our critical thinking capabilities.

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