PowerPoint 12Many instructors are now using PowerPoint to present lecture material, integrate technology in the classroom, and project videos for their classes. Below you will find some useful tips and tricks compiled by University of Minnesota PhD candidate Jon Smajda, also the Web Editor of Contexts Magazine.

  1. Use the Dual Monitors mode in Powerpoint: Ever wished you could look at your own notes on your laptop screen while keeping the Powerpoint presentation up on the projector screen for your students? You can do this! You have to enable Dual Monitor mode on your laptop and Powerpoint and then you put the Powerpoint slide on one “monitor” (the projector screen) and have your own laptop monitor free to do whatever you want. Here are the instructions: http://www.onppt.com/ppt/article1026.html.
  2. Navigating to a specific slide: Say you’re on slide #12 and you want to go to your web browser to show the class a website or you want to bring up a Word document to show the class. When you go back to Powerpoint, you select View Show from the Slide Show menu and you’re right back at slide #1. Then you have to quickly cycle through each slide to get back to slide #12. There are three ways to avoid this. First, before you enter slideshow mode, instead of using the menu use the tiny “Slide Show” icon in the bottom left corner of your screen (its icon looks like a projector). If you click this, you’ll be taken straight to the slide displayed in your editing mode window, not the first slide. Second, while you’re in slideshow mode, if at any time you type a number and click return you’ll be taken to that slide: so “12 return” takes you to slide #12. Third, if you right-click anywhere on the screen while in slide show mode, and go to the “Go” menu you can go straight to any slide that way.
  3. Drawing on the screen: If you type control-p (or command-p on macs) while you’re in slideshow mode, you’ll get a pen icon. You can then draw on the screen. This is helpful if you’re looking at graphics or lots of text, for example, and want to draw attention to one element (or if you simply want to pretend you’re John Madden drawing out football plays on the telestrator). If you click “E” your drawings will be erased, and if you go to another slide and come back, they’ll also be erased.
  4. Blank screen: If you click “W” while in a slideshow, you’ll get a blank white screen. If you click “B” you’ll get a blank black screen. Just click W or B again to return to your slide. This is helpful if you want to move into a discussion portion of the class and don’t want everyone pretending to study your slides as a way to avoid making eye contact with you when you ask them questions.
  5. Other shortcuts: Microsoft has a table of other shortcuts like this available on their website: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/assistance/HP051953031033.aspx

Also, if you are looking for more detailed online tutorials and references, check out the links below…

Know of other great tricks for making the best use of PowerPoint in the classroom? Comment below!

Neue ErnteThis list of ten teaching tips first appeared in The Teaching Professor after Professor Leblanc won a Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. The list has been put on the University of Hawaii – Honolulu website with the permission of Professor Leblanc, October 8, 1998.

ONE. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

TWO. Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaisoning with their communities.

THREE. Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

FOUR. Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.

FIVE. Good teaching is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are the conductors and the class is the orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies.

SIX. This is very important — good teaching is about humor. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

SEVEN. Good teaching is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to still further enhance instruction.

EIGHT. Good teaching is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible institutional support — resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization — from full professors to part-time instructors — and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.

NINE. Good teaching is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

TEN. At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards … like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.


An additional page from the University of Hawaii outlines more great teaching tips including how to evaluate and address different learning styles, tips for the first day, and how to deal with stress and problems in the classroom. Read more, here.

Contexts Magazine graduate editorial board member Shannon Golden has offered a syllabus and in-class exercise to our readers for a course addressing ‘Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class, and Gender.’ The materials were developed as part of a course in the Sociology of Higher Education offered by Professor Ron Aminzade in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

The syllabus:

  • For a semester-length course meeting twice weekly
  • Assignments include weekly media reaction papers as well as two longer papers, designed to be ‘writing-intensive’
  • The section devoted to ‘Course Dialogue’ provides a great example of how to encourage students to engage in respectful debate about controversial issues.  – A must-read for all first-time instructors.

In-class exercise:

  • Title: ‘A White African-American?’
  • Written scenario about whether a student typically identified as ‘White’ can be considered for an academic award aimed at recognizing accomplishments of African-American students
  • Provides discussion questions to get students talking about the scenario
  • Engages students in small group discussion
  • Based on an actual event, with some details modified

For those of you unfamiliar with the Contexts Crawler, this blog provides summaries of sociological research in the news as it hits the presses (or the web). The site houses daily posts of news articles from national and international news sources and summarizes the key findings of social science research and highlights the relevant discussion by the media. The Contexts Crawler can be a valuable resource for instructors of sociology to bring current events into lectures and in-class activities. You can find up-to-date news stories on the topics you cover in the classroom, using newspaper articles as a way to help your students understand different sociological concepts with current and innovative research…

How to use the Crawler to find articles for your classes…

All of the posts in site are fully searchable, using the ‘Search’ function on the left-hand side of the site (about halfway down). Using this function, you can look for news stories on particular topics like race, gender, sexuality, youth, and work – among many others.

Another handy way to navigate the Crawler is to use the tag cloud on the left-hand side of the page. (See this for an explanation of a ‘tag cloud.’) This part of the site displays the number of posts on a particular topic by the size of the text. For example, the tag ‘culture’ is used more frequently than the tag ‘youth.’ Although stories are available for both of these topics.

Visit the Contexts Crawler at www.thesocietypages.org/crawler

For beginners: What is a blog?

Check out this great resource from Contexts Magazine Graduate Editorial Board Member Kristin Haltinner. This proposed syllabus was prepared as a part of the ‘Sociology of Higher Education’ graduate seminar taught by Professor Ron Aminzade in the department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. 

Assets of this syllabus:

  • Outlines a community service learning (CSL) opportunity for students
  • Provides a number of well selected video clips for course topics
  • A great template for the section on ‘Course Expectations’
  • See the section on ‘Classroom Etiquette’ – especially helpful

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.

-Thomas Carruthers

Teaching an undergraduate or graduate level course in culture? Or even a seminar on the sociology of knowledge? Take a look at this reading by Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 

This article (an Annual Review piece) provides an excellent summary of “how kinds of social organization make whole orderings of knowledge possible, rather than focusing on the different social locations and interests of individuals or groups.” This is a particularly interesting reading in the larger scope of sociological work on knowledge…

Full citation:
Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 1994. “The New Sociology of Knowledge.” Annual Review of Sociology 20:305-29.

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. 

-Gail Godwin