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Universities should ban PowerPoint. It makes students stupid and professors boring | By Paul Ralph

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Do you really believe that watching a lecturer read hundreds of PowerPoint slides is making you smarter?

I asked this of a class of 105 computer science and software engineering students last semester.

An article in The Conversation argued universities should ban PowerPoint because it makes students stupid and professors boring.

I agree entirely. However, most universities will ignore this good advice because rather than measuring success by how much their students learn, universities measure success with student-satisfaction surveys, among other things.

What’s so wrong with PowerPoint?

Overreliance on slides has contributed to the absurd belief that expecting and requiring students to read books, attend classes, take notes, and do homework is unreasonable.

Courses designed around slides therefore propagate the myth that students can become skilled and knowledgeable without working through dozens of books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of problems.

A review of research on PowerPoint found that while students liked PowerPoint better than overhead transparencies, PowerPoint did not increase learning or grades. Liking something doesn’t make it effective, and there’s nothing to suggest transparencies are especially effective learning tools either.

Research comparing teaching based on slides against other methods such as problem-based learning — where students develop knowledge and skills by confronting realistic, challenging problems — predominantly supports alternative methods.

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PowerPoint slides are toxic to education for three main reasons.

  1. Slides discourage complex thinking. Slides encourage instructors to present complex topics using bullet points, slogans, abstract figures, and oversimplified tables with minimal evidence. They discourage deep analysis of complex, ambiguous situations because it is nearly impossible to present a complex, ambiguous situation on a slide. This gives students the illusion of clarity and understanding.

  2. Reading evaluations from students has convinced me that when most courses are based on slides, students come to think of a course as a set of slides. Good teachers who present realistic complexity and ambiguity are criticized for being unclear. Teachers who eschew bullet points for graphical slides are criticized for not providing proper notes.

  3. Slides discourage reasonable expectations. When I used PowerPoint, students expected the slides to contain every detail necessary for projects, tests, and assignments. Why would anyone waste time reading a book or going to a class when they can get an A by perusing a slide deck at home in their pajamas?

Measuring the wrong things

If slide shows are so bad, why are they so popular?

Universities measure student satisfaction but they do not measure learning. Since organizations focus on what they measure and students like PowerPoint, it stays, regardless of its educational effectiveness.

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Hospitals measure morbidity and mortality. Corporations measure revenue and profit. Governments measure unemployment and gross domestic product. Even this website measures readership, broken down by article and author. But universities don’t measure learning.

Exams, term papers, and group projects ostensibly measure knowledge or ability. Learning is the change in knowledge and skills, and therefore must be measured over time.

When we do attempt to measure learning, the results are not pretty. US researchers found that a third of American undergraduates demonstrated no significant improvement in learning over their four-year degree programs.

They tested students in the beginning, middle, and end of their degrees using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an instrument that tests skills any degree should improve – analytic reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving, and writing.

Any university can deploy similar testing to measure student learning. Doing so would facilitate rigorous evaluations of different teaching methods. We would be able to quantify the relationship between PowerPoint use and learning. We would be able to investigate dozens of learning correlates and eventually establish what works and what doesn’t.

Unfortunately, many key drivers of learning appear to reduce student satisfaction and vice versa. As long as universities continue to measure satisfaction but not learning, the downward spiral of lower expectations, less hard work, and less learning will continue.

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By Paul Ralph, University of Auckland. 

 

 

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Opinion

Cameroon: Let My People Go | By Sissiku Julius Ayuktabe

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I write to you today from Kondengui Principal Prison, where I am unjustly detained with a sizeable part of my cabinet and with thousands of other Southern Cameroonian prisoners who have run afoul of the repressive regime of Paul Biya, the long-ruling despot of Cameroon.

We are in an increasingly dire state – overlooked and forgotten by the world at large, which allows our captors to inflict unspeakable violence upon us. This, in reality, is indicative of the broader struggle that my people have faced, often in silence and too often disregarded.

Over the past two years, I have the honor of serving as the president of the Southern Cameroons Interim Government. Several months ago, I was illegally abducted, together with part of my cabinet from the Nera Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, and thereafter illegally transported to Cameroon, in violation of international law. To be sure, I am merely the latest victim of a catastrophe that has been long-simmering, evident today by a growing social fissure that has resulted in countless deaths and destruction.

Historically, The Republic of Cameroon achieved its independence on January 1, 1960 and became a member of United Nations with her own territory clearly defined, sharing a recognized boundary with Southern Cameroons. British Southern Cameroons was later granted its independence on October 1, 1961 with her own territory clearly mapped out as well, sharing common boundaries with the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cameroon.

As such, the root cause of today’s ongoing crisis is the result of a severely botched decolonization process. And this must be addressed immediately before a lasting solution can be found, one that is built on a foundation of international law and a culture of justice and respect for basic human dignity. Put simply, international law provides Southern Cameroons the right to self-determination. What is more, the violence and killings that are taking place in Southern Cameroons at this time, has left us with no alternative than to fight, to defend and to liberate ourselves from the shackles of black on black colonialization.

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The unjust treatment of Southern Cameroonians is, today, an unavoidable and tragic reality. Our people are being killed not for what they have done but for who they are. Our people have indeed been described as “rats” and “dogs” by members of the Cameroon’s government. There are calls to exterminate us, and other Ambazonians, with the justification that President Biya has the right to kill everyone on the pretext of “national unity.”

Imagine being told that you are the enemies in the house; imagine your people being told to vacate their ancestral lands and villages or be considered terrorists; imagine the scorched earth policy and military operations in our villages that have spared no one, not even elderly women and young children; just imagine being made to feel like a second class citizen in the country of your birth. These are the stone-cold and brutal facts of today and living conditions in which we are forced to somehow survive.

On the basis of these reprehensible and humiliating conditions, Southern Cameroonian leaders have sought, on multiple occasions over the years, to engage in peaceful dialogue with Cameroonian authorities. We have been consistently refused this opportunity. Over the due course of time, our people – myself included – realized that we were simply victims of another broken promise and the signs of impending disaster were manifest. Our hopes were dashed and many of our leaders, both political and civic, were thrown illegally into jail. Protests had failed. Attempts at good faith dialogue also failed. We were stymied. We were beaten. And we were humiliated in the process. We thus came to the realization that collectively we had no other alternative except that of preparing for direct confrontation, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the international community.

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Put simply, the people of Southern Cameroons have lost faith in the Cameroon experiment – it is indeed an incurable disease. Paul Biya and his regime has ruthlessly cracked down on our peaceful people – our mothers, fathers and children alike – with a ferocious barbarity. War has been declared on our people. This is all to remind onlookers and readers that we did not move irresponsibly into direct confrontation with authorities in Cameroon. We have always advocated for a peaceful resolution to the root causes of this crisis. However, Biya and his regime thought otherwise, determining that violence can be the solution.

Never again can we, the people of Southern Cameroons, afford to live with the narrow and institutionalized status of second-class citizens – certainly not in the land of our ancestors.

Today, the winds of freedom and liberty beckons to your divine conscience to tell your governments and your elected representatives worldwide: Let my people go! Support our democratic aspirations. This struggle has gone beyond that of individuals like me willing to pay the ultimate price for the freedom of our people. Join our struggle for human decency and battle for respect of our bodies, hearts and minds, our traditions and values. The struggle for the complete independence of Southern Cameroons is your struggle. Please, stand with us.

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Opinion

Makinde and The Jinx of Salary in Politics | By Alhazan Abiodun

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“Seyi tun ti se’yi o!” was the message on a notification on a WhatsApp group I belong on Thursday, 25th July,2019. The message was from a member who might had hitherto had a mixture of trust and doubt on the capability of the State administration, under Engr. Seyi Makinde to pay salaries, pensions and allowances every 25th of each month.
Not up to ten seconds, I got an alert from my bank, notifying me of a credit deposit which was my own salary. I was also elated, not just because I would be able to meet financial demands, but also that workers in general would again have the opportunity of having savings power through their cooperative groups and personal investments.
Civil servants in Oyo State have started getting used to this ritual of having a fully charged mobile phones handy, especially every 25th of each month and again, creditors can be rest assured that civil servants are credit-worthy.
Oyo State has a varying overhead cost of #4.5 to #5billion monthly, especially in the last eight years, which included, pensions and allowances of political office holders.
The State gets an average of #2billion and #2.5billion from the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). Of course for the month of June, Oyo State got #2,105,441,605.76 (over two billion naira).
The fear of the cynics could be given some air of reality when you look at the need to take care of other areas of governance apart from salary overhead, but we have seen a governor who has shown his readiness to utilize a renewed vigour in maximizing new frontiers in foreign investments and expanded internally-generated revenue.
As at the 25th of July, 2019, some might still have the fear of a reverse of situation to the old whenever Commissioners and other appointees assume office, but like in other areas where this governor had promised to make a change, I have assurance that the jinx of late salary payment has been broken!
Governor Seyi Makinde promised to stop any form of payment by pupils and students in public primary and secondary schools. Today, that has been put to history as doable. As I am writing, a powerful monitoring team , led by the Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Nureni Adeniran is moving around schools where reports were rife of the school authorities defied government order and sent pupils out for not paying fees.
That is the nature of human. Like some cynics will believe, the jinx of late salary is still strongly clamped around civil servants’ necks, some will also think free education is never going to be accomplished in Oyo State.
Let us look at the merits of prompt payment of salaries, pensions and allowances. A civil servant that is paid as at when due, especially at a predictable day of the month will be eager to put his utmost into bettering his or her job. Efficiency and optimal delivery will be his or her goal as he will always has it at the back of his mind that he will be ungrateful to an administration that has fulfilled its own side of the bargain.
Savings power and small scale investment will be on the rise and this will in turn boost local investments while crimes will reduce, as we all know that money has a phenomenon of moving like powerful flood within any society when each and everyone has something to do at work.
The governor has made a promise which he has fulfilled and we pray that God give him the intellectual power to sustain his fulfilments in all strata of governance.
Somebody asked about government’s payment of 13th month salary to its civil servants and I answered the fellow that it was a gesture of appreciation, not the salary accrued to them for services rendered throughout the month.
Only prompt salary payment will return financial power to the individual worker for him to send his wards to higher institution of learning and engage in other things that will promote his living.
Again, while I pray that God empower our governor to do more in governance and in fulfilment of his electoral promises, It is also my prayer that the evil of late salary never visit Oyo workers again.
Alhazan Abiodun Rilwan is the Head of ICT and Editor at Oyo State Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

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Opinion

Before Shiites Is Labelled A Terrorist Group | By Rahaman Onike

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Monday’s Police-Shiites clash in Abuja conjure up a mental image of the theatre of war barely two weeks when the sect’s protest turned violent at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.

The Shiites, agitation was not unexpected. Since December 2015 that Ibraheem El-Zakzaky has been in detention for alleged murder among other accusations, his followers have not relented in their efforts to get him released.

If what Shiites described as peaceful protest will be so regarded there wouldn’t have been reports of violence that day. With the Premium Times report of the protest, it was alleged that the Shiites threw petrol bombs as part of the protest. What this implies is that the Shiite phenomenon is assuming a more dangerous dimension with relentless efforts of members of his sect to secure the release of the leader of the group.

Out of the total casualties recorded during Monday’s Shiites protest, the most devastating was the death of Precious Owolabi, the 23 years old Corps member serving with Channels TV.

The death of this promising young Journalist is a reminder of gory tales of how many brilliant Journalists had lost their lives in the course of performing their professional duties. With the circumstance of this sudden and untimely death of Precious Owolabi, public attention is once again being drawn to the reality that journalism could be hazardous and adventurous.

It is high time the federal government took decisive action to curtail the violent agitation by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) otherwise referred to as Shiites.

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Apart from the use of moderate force by the police, the government should think of Psychological measures rather than relying on the use of force alone to cause the Shiites to retreat.

By nature, character, and activities of Islamic sects, no serious government would take their threats as empty noise. I am sure that President Muhammadu Buhari with his military background understand the psychology of the militants that they would not mind sacrificing their lives in the course of the struggle. This is part of the reasons why Boko Haram survives till now.

It won’t be in our nation’s best interest for the government to allow Shiites crisis to escalate or become another deadly terrorist group like Boko Haram. If care is not taken, Shiite’s crises will become an additional headache for the country already suffering from unending ethnic conflicts, economic crisis, and insecurity challenges.

Given the number of security personnel that the nation had lost to restiveness of Shiites in the last three years, I think the government needs a more intelligent approach and proactive strategy to curtail the excesses of the sect.

One other worrisome angle to the whole scenario was the killing of DSP Usman Umar Belel in the course of onslaught between the police and Shiite during the so-called peaceful protest staged by Shiites in Abuja on Monday.

If the account by Mr. Frank Mba, the Force Public Relations Officer is anything to go by, the claim by Shiites that their protests were peaceful would be rejected. With the death toll after Mondays’ mayhem and cost implication of NEMA equipment set ablaze and several police officers on the danger list, one may tend to believe the Force Public Relations Officer’s press statement that the protesters were fully armed and engaged in an indiscriminate attack on innocent citizens and police officers.

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Now that the call for the urgent release of Mallam El-Zakzaky is becoming a popular demand in the country, this will remain wishful thinking so far the federal government has already made a contrary pronouncement on the issue.

In a way, President Muhammed Buhari may not be wrong after all, giving the fact that there was virtually no valid and subsisting court order to effect the release of IMN leader, El-Zakzaky.

The much talked about the order of Justice Kolawole for the release of El-Zakzaky and his wife was made in 2016 before the culpable homicide charge was filed against him in the High Court of Justice by the Kaduna State Government.

Since he was held on a charge of culpable homicide, the offense of such grievous nature is ordinarily not bailable exception exceptional grounds mostly if the suspect suffers life-threatening ill-health.

Unfortunately, those clamoring for his release seem to be unaware that currently there is no subsisting order for the release of El-Zakazaky upon his arraignment for culpable homicide.

With the current reality, what El-Zakzaky’s legal team can do to assist their client is to ensure that the court expeditiously hears and dispose of the case. Notwithstanding, whether Judgement will be delivered in his favour or otherwise depends on his culpability and the decision should be left to the discretion of the court.

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One important point to make clear here is that it is not Buhari/Federal Government that is holding El-Zakzaky for homicide charge and being responsible for his bail refusal. If anybody is to be blamed at all, I think it should be El-Rufai/Kaduna State Government.

Assuming El-ZakZaky was charged for insurrection or terrorism, probably he would have been charged by the Federal Government instead of Kaduna State Government that is currently holding him on the charge of culpable homicide.

Whatever other extraneous reasons for holding him, the best strategy to ensure his release, for now, is through the Judicial Process. On a more serious note, this is likely to be more fruitful than persistent agitations and wanton killing of innocent citizens by the Shiites.

 

Rahaman Onike, Public Affairs Analyst writes from Oyo, Oyo State.

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