06 October 2010

On doing it myself

I was teaching from 4.30 to 6.30 this evening. Naturally (!) it was all supported with projected presentation material, so I had to set up my netbook and pipe output through the data projector. Half of the session was a micro-teaching exercise, which needed to be videoed so that the student could review his teaching and tell us about his evaluation next week. This was the first time I had used this equipment (my own, incidentally) in this room, so I needed to set up a backup system just in case... Sound is more of a problem than video.

(The car park "automatic" exit barrier broke down as I arrived causing a substantial tail-back of people trying to leave, which in turn caused delays for those of us trying to enter and park--so I was 15 minutes behind my planned schedule to begin with...)

So I was scuttling around the classroom, plugging in bits of kit. blessing my prescience in bringing an extension lead, setting up a tripod on a table at the back (and pleased that no-one commented on my climbing onto the table via a chair, as a violation of health and safety regulations...), attaching the backup camera to the window (yes--it's brilliant, see here, and this is not a paid endorsement) and then wrestling with getting my netbook to engage with the university wifi network... After the session, I spent ten minutes with next week's micro-teacher checking that the system could access streaming video.

A student drifted in early and asked innocently, "Don't you have technicians to do that kind of thing?"

Yes, we do. And I'm delighted to say that ours are very helpful and knowledgeable, and go out of their way to make things possible. But apart from the issues around their availability at these hours, I'd rather do it myself. Because;
  • many or even most of the students do not have access to instant technical support in their work-places. Modelling good practice is an interesting issue on this programme, but some aspects are clear. Being able to make the kit work is basic and applies to all settings, so I ought to be able to do it, too.
  • Technicians have to work to institutional policies. Dropbox is a brilliant tool, but here colleagues can't use it on their work machines because they do not have "administrator" privileges to instal it.
  • And if I have some idea of what is going on "under the bonnet/hood", it is more likely that I can fix it with least disruption to the class.


  1. Or, as we Engineers say, if you want a job doing right....

  2. I've been using Dropbox at work for a couple of months and managed to install it without problem (so far) on a computer where I don't have administrator rights. I'm no entirely sure how, but everything was above board during the installation.

  3. That sounds extremely familiar to me James. I don't give lectures very often as a Fine Art 'lecturer' but when I do I frequently use video and sound. As you mention, sound often causes more problems than video because most seminar rooms are simply set up for Powerpoint presentations and the sound has usually been fiddled with. Anyway, the last time I had to set up I didn't have any prep time in the room. Luckily I had the idea of kicking off with a group task which I could leave them to do while I set up the projector and sound. Simple trick worked a treat and saved me a lot of stress into the bargain.




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