Sunday, October 18, 2015

Showing Videos in the New Space

We've just completed the fourth week of classes in our new Palmer-Martin building and I am mostly loving the new space.

On Friday, I showed a video at the start of my clay class. It was a compilation of Icheon Masters throwing, carving and decorating their ceramic work:

The neat thing about showing the video this quarter is that I was able to get it ready quickly and show it, on the large screen, with audible sound, as the students walked in to class. The students noticed the video and most of them walked over on their own and sat down to watch and discuss the video. Since the audio is just music, the students were able to discuss what was going on in the video while it was playing. It was a casual atmosphere and energizing to see the Icheon artists working. Additionally, students who were working in the space but not technically coming for class, were able to see the video without interrupting their own work (or keep working without being interrupted by the video.

In the old space, showing an online video at the start of class would have entailed about 8 steps and probably a total of 20 minutes of setup on my part:

Step 1: Get the Projector. I would have walked over to the Media Center (upstairs in the library) to get a projector before my first class or in the 10 minutes between my classes. I would have taken the elevator to the ground floor and pushed the little cart through five sets of doors and across the absolute bumpiest sidewalk on campus.(If I rushed, one particular bump would send the remote flying off the cart and, if I wasn't careful, threaten to send the projector off, too. I broke two water bottles by dropping them off the cart while I was trying to move it between classes or on my way off campus for the day.

Step 2: Plug in the Projector. I would have rolled the cart to the middle of the design studio, unrolled the plug, climbed under a table and plugged in the projector. Often I would need to move a second table so that the plug could reach directly to the wall socket. Sometimes, if I could find one with the right prongs, I would use an extension cord to read an alternate plug.

Step 3: Turn on the Projector and Computer. I still have to do this.

Step 4: Move the Screen. While I waited for the computer to warm up, I had to line up the screen with the projector. This classroom had no permanent screen attached to a wall, so I would pull down the screen on the back of the portable chalkboard (on wheels) and roll it to a place where the projected image would hit it straight on.

Step 5: Adjust the Projector Level. Usually, but not always, the projector feet needed to be adjusted or something needed to be stuck under them so that they would be level and high enough for the image to show on the screen. We kept little bits of illustration board specifically for this purpose. Erasers worked, too.

Step 6: Log in. I still need to log in to the computer in my classroom, but I can do this ahead of time if I plan well. I can't log in to a computer before it is plugged in. Often I also needed to fiddle with the connection between the projector and the computer because they didn't always communicate with each other on the first try.

Step 7: Light. Turning off the lights was actually easier in the old studio, but if there was still too much sunlight coming in from the windows I had about six semi-broken blinds that would need to be lowered and twisted closed. We now have three blinds that are easy to close, but the projector and screen are both far enough away that blind adjustment has so far been unnecessary.

Step 8: Collect the students. All of this is taking place in the design studio which is next to my clay classroom. The projector and screen won't fit in the clay studio so I have to invite my students to come next door. Sometimes I have to call them in more than once. Obviously they cannot watch from their wheels and must decide to come in or stay.

Post-Video Step 1-4: Shut Down, Unplug, Store and Return. Of course, after a video I would then have to shut down the computer and projector, rewrap the cord and wheel the whole cart into an office or storage room, since Media Services didn't want me to leave the cart in an unsecured separate room, but also didn't want me to leave the cart in the clay studio during class. After class I had to wheel the beastly thing back across the sidewalk of doom, back through six sets of doors (an extra doorway now, between where I stored the thing and where I used the thing) and up the elevator.

I suppose this means the new studio saves me about half an hour each time I show a video in class, counting travel time. I'm glad it does, but I'm also looking forward to the time when my time savings are not counteracted by the time I spend trying to fix or track down the things that worked just fine in the old space (kilns with erroneous gas lines, kilns with missing plugs, and mixers that still don't attach to electricity).

Pedagogically, the new projector, computer and screen mean that I can show student videos I wouldn't have tried to share during class last year.