Is modern learning a dis-service to our youth?

Quick background — one of my day jobs is being a ski instructor in the winter and in the process of getting my certifications have learned a bit about the teaching model and ways people learn.  Thus ended up having this interesting realization the other day while chatting with my brother.

People learn in three primary ways (the Fleming VAK model):

  • Visual — see it written, slides
  • Auditory —  lecture, discussion
  • Kinesthetic — move it, touch it, do it

Without going into blending, or some other theories of learning, since I’m preferential to VAK and how it relates to ski instruction (another topic another day).  The big thought that I had was that the big change in recent years (last 10) is that teachers are teaching with powerpoint.

Why do I feel that powerpoint is bad?  Lets think about this for a second, if we subscribe to the VAK model of learning.  That means that to successfully retain something you need to do one or more of the VAK steps to imprint the learning into your memory.  If your instructor hands you a deck of slides, now instead of coping the key points of the lecture you’re just reading them.  Which to a kinesthetic learning is a loss.

To a visual learner, this might be a boon, but at the same time I personally doubt that a visual learner has a photographic memory.  The process of a professor writing things down is going to give the visual learner some time to process the input given rather than potentially memorize a slide.

Finally the auditory learner, at one side probably no change, but at the other, since a PPT deck is so structured in flow there is no tangents or discussion that’s quickly available.  So, if somebody asks a question, instead of going with “lets cover this now” it’s hold that though and in five slides we’ll touch on it, if you still have questions ask then.

Generally, too much structure doesn’t allow for the process of discovery and the ability to reinforce material through multiple means of learning styles (VAK).