Alexandria Online

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Shared Text / The Networked Text

Today, my colleagues set up a high-power projector to connect to our network. Anyone with this projector's address can now direct their video output there.

Fifteen years ago I learned that our state-of-the-art copier could make copies on "transparencies." Now, for you youngsters who don't know what a transparency is: it is an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of transparent plastic that can be written on with erasable markers or copied onto and then placed on an "overhead projector" that shines a light through the transparency and casts a  projection through an overhead prism onto a surface. They are still for sale at staples but are fast being replaced by document cameras and projectors.

I was teaching 10th grade Latin at the time and I bethought myself to copy the entirety of Cicero's Oratio in Catalinam onto transparencies. It was only about 15 pages even with notes. Every day I would darken the room -- something new and eerie for my students -- and project the words of Cicero in huge font onto my wall. Students came up to the projector when called upon and, with a pencil as a pointer, explained the significance of each word in front of their peers.

In the Classics Department of The Episcopal Academy, teachers are still projecting Latin and Greek words onto their walls, screens and whiteboards using computers with VGA connections to projectors. There is a big difference between everyone looking at the same line in their own books and everyone looking at the same word that the instructor is pointing to in huge letters at the front of the class. There is qualitatively more unity of thought, group focus and team-work.

But with this advance into network availability, the wired projector, we are changing the game significantly. Now a teacher can pull up a text, a diagram, a problem on his laptop, place it on the desk of a student (as long as his battery is charged) and ask for what used to be called, "a recitation," meaning -- the student talks and the teacher listens.

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