Friday, 7 March 2014

Post 7: Technology in the Classroom

I remember being terrified of being the person at the front of a classroom full of students, red-faced, becoming increasingly flustered and panicked as I struggled to figure out exactly why the project in the room wasn't posting my presentation on the screen. Time was ticking, it was already 7 minutes after the class's start time, and I was going no where.

I used that fear as propellant to ensure that that didn't happen to me. Because I also remember distinctly that feeling of powerlessness when it comes to technology that I don't understand, I'm happy to help anyone who asks, which also recently included a sessional instructor who posted their help request on one of our mailing lists.

Technology is awesome, and when used to your advantage, it can be a very powerful tool! Knowing how to link up to projectors and audio can allow you to show Powerpoint, Prezzi, Incite and other presentations; you can include YouTube videos, songs, movies, show materials on websites and anything else on the internet... essentially, anything! Learning how to use it, and feeling empowered and comfortable to do so is one of the things I consider myself lucky to know. (It certainly came in handy for a recent presentation that I had to do in a small boardroom.)

So first, you need to know your equipment.
I use a MacBook Pro from 2011, and knew from previous observations that it needs a VGA adaptor in order to connect to the standard equipment on campus. Older macs have different adaptors, so make sure you get the right one. If you have a PC, the requirements are slightly different. Some come equipped with a port that can be hooked into right away; others may need the appropriate adaptors. Google can be your best friend in helping you to determine what your needs are.

One of our local, native, and endangered orchids:
a spotted coral root (
Corallorhiza maculata)?
Next, go to the classroom ahead of time to check out the setup there. It's fairly similar in all the rooms, but you never want to be thrown off by the projector screen being at the back of the room near the light switches and needing to hunt for it, instead of it being up front (where it would be more useful)! Typically, the data cable and the audio cable are connected on the presentations stands at the front or sides of all classrooms. So you just need to make sure that you can connect to them on your side.
You'll also quickly realize that if you're on campus as UVic, you need a key to open the equipment drawer; in our department, Lori is the Keeper of the Keys.

Next locate the on/off buttons for the projects. And make sure to select the correct one between video and data. I made that mistake at the beginning of this semester, and panicked for a minute, but I knew that the Audio Visual Services on campus has immediate classroom help, so I gave them a quick call, explained what was going on, and learned about the difference between the two video and data buttons in the equipment desk. That number at UVic: 250-721-8292. Speaking of -- Audio Visual Services offers in person training to show you how to use the classroom equipment. Depending on the kind of learner you are, that might be much more effective than this short blog post.

If you are playing something with audio, don't forget to plug the audio cable into the microphone port of your laptop. Otherwise, the only sound will issue from your laptop.

So, after you have your key, you know your equipment, you have your presentation/movie/song lined up, you should be good to go. Classroom technology is not that difficult, and really, it's about knowing how to turn things on, connect things, and turn up the volume.

And of course -- making sure to turn off and lock up when you're done. No sense in wasting energy. Once you have under wraps the technology you need, you can teach more effectively, relax and think about the content that you want to present, and go back to having the fun that teaching really is.

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