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SBL and Technology II: Powerpoint banned at SBL?

November 2011
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I arrived well back in Norway a couple of hours ago today; it was a long travel, and the time difference is great; 9 hours. But I will probably be OK tomorrow. That is, I have to, because I am supposed to lecture on text criticism. and that is such a boring topic to many, that I at least have to be quite awake myself.🙂

At the SBL/AAR Annual Meeting this year in San Fransisco I attended several sessions: first and foremost the three sessions on Philo of Alexandria, then also several others more related to the New Testament.

I am a big fan of using some sort of visualization in my lectures, often Powerpoint, but also simple handouts. I have never hear my students complain over them. But has Powerpoint been banned at SBL? Most of those I attended, and I looked into several others sessions, were almost completely free from any Powerpoint slides, or – what might have worked even better to many – any handouts, providing me with the main arguments of the papers.

We had some discussion about this lack of pedagogy several years both on my blog and on some others, but things seem not to have changed.

See Mark Goodacre here,  and see Stephen Carlson’s updated entry on Hypotyposeis, Torrey Seland’s update in Philo of Alexandria blog, David Meadows’s comments in RogueClassicism and Edward Cook in Ralph the Sacred River.

But when some lecturers are speaking so fast, in their various  dialects, as if they were reading a 45 minutes lecture in 30 minutes, I still get frustrated. And I am here not thinking particularly of the Philo sessions; that would be unfair, but it relates to some general impressions.

Remember: I, and many others, have been traveling for 15-20 hours, we may have a severe jet lag, I for my part, is  an European that have some problems with some of the American dialects. I want to get the main arguments, but the lecturer is speaking too fast, I want to keep note on the most important references, but they pass by too rapidly. I am not spending 2000 dollars plus, traveling half around the world, to hear somebody READ a paper in a way that tells me s/he (it is mostly he) has forgotten that he is supposed to communicate. I want some sense for pedagogy too; not necessarily power-point, but some handouts with the main arguments is  not too much to expect.

I went to a session on Disputed Paulines; one guy used powerpoint, and he had handouts with copies of all the powerpoint slides. They contained all his arguments, and the supporting Bible references. I could go home, having attended the lecture, and still being able to think over his arguments by help of those slides.

Well, that was my out blow for the day; as you might understand I have traveled long today!🙂
But I am quite serious too; I think the organizers of sessions should demand from the lecturers that they present proper handouts. Some use handouts, presenting some particular texts they are discussing. I prefer handouts with the main structure and arguments of their papers. I presume both the discussions in the sessions, and the outcome for each and one of the listeners would be much greater then.


3 Comments

  1. Joel Green says:

    I think handouts are a great idea, too, Torrey. I would welcome more visuals, though I am also aware that convention centers / hotels charge an exorbitant fee for use of projectors and screens.

  2. Mark Elliott says:

    Torrey–good points. The hotels charge huge amounts for PP equipment, I think. With handouts, it’s often hard to know how many to make in advance. I did 20 for my session and was a little short. And as I left it until I got there, it cost me about $15! All the best for teaching tomorrow. Mark

  3. Torrey Seland says:

    Dear Joel and Mark. I get your points concerning the expenses of using the video equipment in the hotels; I probably was not enough aware of that part. Hoepfylly in a couple of yers technology will make it easier, as there are coming several cheap and good video machines to be used together with Iphone or Ipads. My comments on handouts etc are. alas, still relevant.

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