I aim for portability and scalability. I want the freedom to pitch a lesson to a small classroom and then walk up the hall to a 500-student auditorium and deliver the same lesson without a loss in returns. So I try to keep things portable and scalable. Here’s how:
There’s the iBook (#1). It’s slow. Especially when running a Keynote presentation that spans a semester and comprises 500+ slides. I need to do something about that.
There’s the overhead projector (#2) which I haven’t used in a year. There’s probably someone on campus who could use it, probably someone who’s reading this post right now, right now carving murderous thoughts about me into a basement wall somewhere. But you just never know when you might need one, right? Makes a nice Ottoman for my laptop, in any case.
#3 is hot chocolate, delivered every first period by our SpEd-run cafÃ©. It’s isn’t technology, but it is tasty, so it gets this brief nod. Moving on.
There is JBL’s On-Tour portable sound system (#4). It drains AAA batteries like they owe it money but it’s as portable as anything and packs a pretty decent dynamic range. Only used for the sporadic YouTube video. For religious reasons, I don’t include sound in my presentations.
#5 is my Sharp XR10L digital projector, the least portable and most expensive item in the class. I eagerly await the day of more portable, less expensive digital projectors. Incidentally, I had this in a closet for over a year after winning it in a grant. Shame has brought about the greatest innovations in my practice.
Aside: we find here one of the most obvious exceptions to Important Ratio #2. If a student decided to smash the projector lens — not a strenuous feat — I might disproportionately lose my cool.
I keep every lesson I’ve ever taught, every handout I’ve ever assigned, and every Keynote slide I’ve ever fussed over, all on a freaking Lego (#6). I’m no stranger to technology but that fact scares me.
Mark me: one day the Legos will rule the world.
In any case, I’ve invested hundreds of hours into my Keynote slides so I back them up more often than I brush my teeth.
Aside: whenever a teacher cracks open one of those enormous filing cabinets, two of which I have, neither of which I’ve ever used, I have to suppress a giggle.
Finally there’s the Kensington wireless remote (#7), good anywhere in my class. It has transformed me lesson-by-lesson into a showman, which, I know, is kind of a disreputable label for a teacher, conjuring up images of Robin Williams channeling John Wayne channeling an effete Eastern European all to teach quadratics. Wacky!
But I revel in the showmanship of teaching. I’m not some animated dervish. I don’t use accents or a lot of jokes or manic energy, but I know how to setup a lesson and then knock it down. Structurally speaking, good teaching is just one long, satisfying joke, not particularly funny but extremely well-told. Maybe some crack at The New Yorker is appropriate here.
I rehearse before class, I know what slide I’m on, where I’m going, what object will wipe-in or fade-out next. I can move about and stand near students who are having trouble focusing and then move on. It makes teaching three times more fun than it was before shame brought out the best in me.
So that’s it. One anecdote about portability and I’m out:
Early in the semester, a Geometry teacher had to handle a family emergency. It was my prep so I was called to sub. I quickly pulled #1, #5, and #7 over to his classroom. I popped #6 into #1, found out what sections the class was working on, and re-ordered some slides to match. It was a great day for scalability and portability, and if only they had delivered my #3 to the new classroom, it would’ve been a perfect day.
Any suggestions for improving portability and scalability in my practice, please have your way with the comments.