UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 11 | Sep.
5 , 2002
High-tech Teaching Advice: Lose the Overheads
Computer presentations bring lessons alive
By Michelle Cook
Pat Mirenda had no trouble lining up Dustin Hoffman to help
her teach a course on autism. All it took to get the actor
- who portrayed a man with autism in the movie Rain Man -
to speak to her students was a click of her computer mouse.
Hoffman, along with well-known researchers and real-life
people with autism will come to class this term in the form
of computerized video clips that Mirenda, an associate professor
in the Dept. of Educational & Counselling Psychology &
Special Education, runs from her laptop. The video clips are
part of a high-tech overhaul of a course she once taught using
stacks of overhead slides and VHS tapes.
"There is no comparison between teaching with new technology
and teaching with overheads," Mirenda says. "Everything
I do in class is technology based now. For students it's a
better learning experience because I can make things come
to life in a way that was impossible with static media."
Mirenda began incorporating technology into her lessons shortly
after arriving at UBC's Education faculty in 1996. After seeing
a presentation given with PowerPoint, she quickly adopted
the software to make better overheads. One day while looking
through a colleague's PowerPoint files, her world was rocked.
"She had incorporated video into her presentations,
and I said 'wow I'm not using this software to its full potential',"
With help from the colleague, Mary Bryson, Mirenda learned
how to import and edit video on her computer. Over the past
year she has re-designed all her courses to include animated
graphs, video clips, cartoons, sound bites, sound effects
and other computer-generated lesson materials.
The high-tech courses make it easier and faster for Mirenda
to execute activities, and to present more material in class.
It has also freed her students from scribbling lots of lecture
notes, and helped to make the concepts she teaches more 'real'
Mirenda thinks the switch to high-tech has made her a better
teacher, too. "It takes some of the burden off me. I'm
not having to spend my time talking about basic things. The
technology does that and then I can go into more depth on
different topics," Mirenda says.
One of the challenges of high-tech teaching is gathering
all the necessary tools, says Mirenda. She requires equipment
such as LCD projectors and latops, a Mac computer, scanner,
CD burner and an anaolog-to-digital video editing system.
Another hurdle has been learning to trust the technology.
The first year she used PowerPoint, she continued to make
overheads as a backup. She remembers her first time teaching
without them as "nerve-wracking".
But those days are long gone, says Mirenda.
"My overheads are like artefacts now," she laughs.
"I think the bar is being re-set. In the next 10 years,
technology will be as de rigueur in class as overheads have