In the corner of my teaching room, on top of a filing cabinet, roughly at head height, there is a computer screen. This, for me, is a fundamental teaching tool, and has been for a long long time. I don't know what I'd do without it.
It's connected to the pc that sits under my desk, which also has its own screen: I used a splitter, a y-shaped one-wire-in, two-wires-out gadget, that cost me a pound or two. In its first incarnation the screen was a battered old TV set that I bought for £4 in a junk shop. I graduated to an incredibly heavy VDU which the University kindly bought for me; now, large flat LCD screens are cheap and ubiquitous, and I would use one of those.
The idea is that everyone in the room can see the screen. So, for instance, I can run PowerPoint slides on it, or demonstrate how to construct Web pages, or do practical criticism of layout of Web pages, all of which I have done at times, but that's not my everyday use.
When I teach a class I prepare a Web page in advance (a WebCT page would work fine). In a Web browser it is easy to scale up the type on the screen so that everyone in the room can read it. On the page is: anything I like.
For instance: the headings of what I am going to say, or what the class will be talking about; maybe with notes underneath. This structures the class, provides a structured summary for students who miss it, maybe provides a set of items to prepare or think about if I give out the Web page in advance: whatever. It's very simple, no slides with fancy transitions or multiple colours: just a clear simple document. Perhaps I'll put on it links to relevant material; students can follow this up later and see how the links fit in with the things discussed in the seminar. And so on.
I mostly teach literature nowadays. Texts. If you want to refer to a text in the class, as we frequently do, then there's the awkward business of finding it, and waiting for everyone, perhaps in different editions, to find it. What I do is put the text up on the screen. Pretty much all of English Literature that's out of copyright is easily available on the Web. The screen becomes a window on to a Web page, or else you can download the text, open it in Word, scale the text up, and there it is, for everyone to read.
This text is instantly searchable. If I or a student want to talk about, or to invite talk about, Lockwood's dream in Wuthering Heights, or the tower imagery used to describe the two sisters in Goblin Market, both fertile areas for Freudian investigation, I can summon them for everyone to see in a few seconds.
It's really really useful.
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9 months ago