The Advantages of Using Presentation Software for Teaching History
1. The teacher is creating teaching aids. The presentations are a quality teaching aid, upon which the teacher’s personality traces its pattern.
2. The teacher is perfectly prepared to teach the lesson, considering the fact that he has gathered and assembled certain teaching aids into a well articulated presentation. It goes without saying that a teacher who has carried out such presentations is a good teacher, as his considerable effort of gathering and systematizing the teaching aids leads to his professional perfection.
3. The usage of well chosen images (static and dynamic) provides the teacher with the possibility of inoculating certain attitudes toward diverse historical events and phenomena in the minds of his students. For instance, during the lesson on The First World War, a slide is being presented and the students extract the following information from it: “The usage of battle gases”. This is a most trivial piece of information to the student, hardly able to make the latter stand a position. Nevertheless, if one is to insert an image that has been taken out of a documentary film and also insert the lecture of a classical poem ( such as Wilfred Owen’s “ Dulce et Decorum Est” ) that was written during the war, the students’ attitudes may take an unexpected turn. So impressive are the images and so great is the effect the English version of the poem has upon one’s soul, that the chances are the students will grow to condemn the war as a means of settling the strives that may exist among people. Here is the text of the poem:
“Gas, gas! Quick, boys!
An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out,
And floundering like a man in fire or lion.
Through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea,
I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams,
Before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me,
Guttering, choking, drowning.
If, in some smothering dreams,
You, too, could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face,
Like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear
At every jolt
The blood come gargling from
The froth corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer,
Bitter as the cud of viol,
Incurable sores on innocent tongues,
You would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!”
The author of this material made an experiment: he recited the poem in front of the students, yet the latter were hardly impressed perhaps due to the reader’s lack of artistic talent). However, the moment the film (1) was presented, its effect upon the students was absolutely overwhelming.
4. The stimulation of the students’ interest toward history or toward certain fields of activity that are colligated to history. Hence, Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” is so eloquently presented within the quoted documentary, that it is highely likely that at least one of the students in a class will take interest in not only its author, but also in other artists that have revealed the horrors of the war to the world, such as : Erich Maria Remarque, Liviu Rebreanu, Charlie Chaplin, Iaroslav Hasek, Otto Dix and so on.
5. The solving of exercises that have become attractive due to the students’ use of the computer. For instance, during the lesson on the Cold War, the teacher may ask for the following exercise to be solved:
Use COPY, CUT and PASTE in order to arrange the following events in their chronological order (2):
a) The Cubanese Crisis;
The Berlin Blockade;
c) The initiation of the “Star War”;
d) Churchill’s speech in Fulton;
e) The Truman Doctrine;
f) The forming of NATO;
g) Nuclear weapons’ treaty of proliferation;
h) The unification of Germany;
i) The building of the Wall of Berlin;
j) The Marshall Plan.
6. One manages to get hold of students’ attention much more easily by using eloquent static and dynamic images. A good example of a dynamic image with the help of which the students’ attention may be captured is given at point 7.
7. The usage of documentary fragments taken from some specialized television programmes (such as Discovery Channel and Discovery Civilisations) has given the possibility of bringing fresh information into discussion , whilst such information is usally brought about within university groups. Here is such a new, shocking piece of information as it is presented in a documentary film on Discovery Channel:
“Svetlana Balabanova, one of the world’s highest respected toxicologists, tested one of the Egyptian mummies at the Munich Museum, for traces of drugs. This was the 3000 year old mummy of Henut Taui , “ The Lady of the Two Lands”. Balabanova examined hair and tissue, using the same methods used in criminal course. When the test results came back, doctor Balabanova was so astonished she was sure they must be an error. The Lady Hanut Taui had tested positive for nicotine and cocaine. Under current thinking, this result was simply impossible. Tobacco and cocaine are new world drugs. History insists that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced smoking tobacco into Europe in the 16th century. Cocaine is not thought to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean until the Victorian period. Certainly, any such cargo to Europe would be unimaginable to historians before Columbus and the discovery of the Americas. The doctor understandably thought her results incorrect. She sent samples from the mummy to three independent labs to do their own objective tests. She was sure they would fail to corroborate her findings. Surely, some fault in her method would be detected. The independent laboratories confirmed her original findings. Cocaine and nicotine were present in the tissue of the mummy. The mystery had suddenly deepened, dramatically. Doctor Balabanova set about testing other mummies from the Egyptian Empire. She found that about a third tested positive for nicotine and cocaine. She was stunned. She wrote a paper on her findings. Its publication proved so controversial that she received scaving letters from other practitioners in her field. They feared she would bring their branch of science into disrepute. Little further research has been done since her earth-shattering findings were made public. Few scientists are willing to risk their reputations by tackling head-on the astonishing implications of her discovery. Did the ancient world partake in a transatlantic drug trade? It’s not surprising that few are willing to conceive the possibility. And yet, the tests done on the Munich mummies are generally considered water-tight. The questions raised by the doctor’s work hang, tantalizingly, in the air.”(4)
8. The teacher grows to be respected by those students (whose number is continuously growing ) who daily work in front of their computer. As far as the latter is concerned, these students may be considered experts. As they belong to a generation within which the computer has come to play a most important part, they have grown to use the Internet, make-up and presentation software with great deftness and may therefore be asked by the teacher to help implement the teaching aids. Consequently, a new method of communication develops between the teacher and those students who are ardent users of the computer.
9. The teacher experiences a deep feeling of professional satisfaction on having carried out a lesson with the help of the computer.
Disadvantages and Obstacles of using presentation software in teaching history
1. Technique may play tricks on you. For instance, a most trivial power cut may turn everything upside down. However, as we have previously pointed out, the teacher is always prepared for various situations, so there is always a backup plan in order for the lesson to be efficiently carried out.
2. There are certain authors, belonging to the Waldorf pedagogy, who demonstrate that the usage of the computer is not beneficial to students who have not graduated from gymnasium. “Due to the fact that they (computers) are mathematical machines, forcing out both a purely abstract and mathematical reasoning and a usage of formal languages, we may conclude … that they must not be used by students before the latter have graduated from gymnasium”. (4) To this we may oppose the idea that presentation software is merely a means of providing the teacher with a great number of teaching aids, so that a quality lesson may be carried out. This presentation software is only used by the teacher.
3. The technical endowment of schools and teachers remains a most important problem. It goes without saying that few Romanian teachers may afford buying a computer. Despite this fact, so great has been the technological progress within this field of activity that the price of certain programming techniques has been dropping rapidly.
To all these one may add the color television, so that the images may be seen by the students. As it may easily be noticed, the investment for the school’s endowment with a computer is not breathtakingly high.
4. Another problem is directly connected to the teacher’s excessive use of the computer. When you are working in front of this magnificent utensil, you will most certainly notice that it is never bored, that it is never hungry or upset, and that it does everything you want it to do. The main danger lies in the fact that the passion for your work may steal away the notion of time, and without realizing it, you might find yourself to have spent too much time in front of the computer. This may have serious consequences upon the user’s health. A most common symptom has come to be represented by the smarting pain and the reddening of the eyes, together with the head aches that occur in the conditions of a prolonged, uninterrupted usage of the computer.
5. One of the obstacles that must be overcome is represented by people’s conservatorism, the latter especially finding its expression in those who belong to the older generations. Such people are afraid of using a utensil which they have not been taught how to use. “Man easily assimilates the idea which does not run counter to his interests, that does not come in contradiction with his own aspirations and that does not require an increased effort of him “(5). Many a times, one hears the following remark: The classical methods remain the best!". I underline the word “methods”, as the difference in meaning between “methods” and “means” is not a quite clear one. Indeed, the methods have remained the same: the discovery, the colloquia and so on. Yet, the means the teacher may make use of are practically unlimited.
6. The methodology courses within universities do not rank the usage of the computer during history lessons as high as they should.
The part the history teacher has to play remains fundamentally important. One should not fancy that by using the computer we somehow manage to remain hidden behind a server and do nothing but handle the mouse. First and foremost remain the teacher’s warmth and honesty, his respectful attitude toward his disciples, with a view to conveying information to them. As important a part is played by the teacher’s capacity and talent of narrating certain events. This capacity manages to grant a deeply humane side to the lesson and to the teacher-student relationship. The computer is nothing but an instrument one may sometimes use; despite its complexity, the computer remains the instrument that must obey the orders of man, its creator and master.
(1) “The Great War “documentary, “Total War” episode, broadcast on Discovery Channel. The poem was also presented within “The Life in Trenches “ documentary, on Discovery Civilisations
(2) Alf Wilkinson- “Computers Don’t Bite”, within “Teaching History”, no. 101 / nov. 2000, page 18 . The suggested exercise has been inspired by an example the English teacher gave.
(3) The “First Merchants” documentary, broadcast by Discovery Channel
(4) Rudolf Lanz, “The Waldorf Pedagogy. A Way Leading to a More Humane Educational System”, page 239, Foundation INTELLEGENTIA’s Publishing House, Bucharest, 2000 (Rudolf Lanz – Pedagogia Waldorf. Un drum pentru un învăţământ mai uman, pag. 239, Editura Fundaţiei INTELLEGENTIA, Bucureşti, 2000).
(5) *** “Education and Its Dynamics”, “The Tribune of Education” Publishing House, Bucharest, 1998, page 27 (*** Educaţia şi dinamica ei, Editura Tribuna Învăţământului, Bucureşti, 1998, pag. 27).
*** “Education and Its Dynamics”, “The Tribune of Education” Publishing House (*** Educaţia şi dinamica ei, Editura Tribuna Învăţământului, Bucureşti, 1998
Lanz, R.-“The Waldorf Pedagogy. A Way Leading to a More Humane Educational System”, page 239, Foundation INTELLEGENTIA’s Publishing House, Bucharest, 2000 (Rudolf Lanz – Pedagogia Waldorf. Un drum pentru un învăţământ mai uman, pag. 239, Editura Fundaţiei INTELLEGENTIA, Bucureşti, 2000).
Wilkinson, A.-“Computers Don’t Bite”, within “Teaching History”, no. 101/ nov. 2000