I have recently fallen back in love with one of my older classroom tools – my visualiser. I have used a visualiser for a number of years, but have spent more time recently using I Pads and Apple TV as a classroom camera. However, I still try to keep the visualiser permanently connected to my whiteboard, and when I stick to the habit of switching it on at the start of the day, I find a multitude of uses during lessons.
It is possible to spend a small fortune on a visualiser, but few department budgets would stretch to this. At the end of the day – all a visualiser is merely a digital camera on a bendy wire with a few tools and controls in the base. Even the most basic models (retailing around £100 or so) do come with basic functionality like zooming, freeze-frame, screen capture and split screen.
I use my visualiser mainly to quickly display a student’s work to the whole class – perhaps to model a particular piece as good practice I have spotted – or to offer a sample to the class for constructive criticism as peer assessment. I have used it a lot recently with year eleven students – dissecting exam questions and applying mark schemes to students’ attempted answers. However, it is also regularly used to show extracts from textbooks, maps, daily newspapers, pictures and photographs, and also objects such as rock samples.
The visualiser is particularly helpful in allowing fragile rock or fossil samples to be shared with the students, and is great for showing detail such as crystal structure to the whole class, labelling the image (using the whiteboard tools), before freezing the screen – and then passing the specimens around for the students to handle themselves.
A visualiser can also allow the class to see quick experiments and demonstrations without having to leave their seats and fight for a place around the teacher’s desk. Things like acid reactions on carbonate samples, acidity testing of liquids and the like can be made easily accessible to all.
Visualisers are not necessarily new additions to the classroom – when I first started teaching back in 1980, I had the use of what was then pretty impressive technology – an epidiascope. This worked on the same principle as a desk camera – projecting an image up onto the screen – but was an enormous shiny silver contraption that resembled a baby armadillo and took up a complete table by itself. Technology has certainly come a long way since those days!
I use an Aver Vision camera, but there are plenty to choose from in the marketplace today. IPevo make a popular range of good-value cameras, and I have also had recommendations from colleagues for Genee Vision and Easi-view models.
I regularly use I Pads in my geography lessons, and love the way Apple TV or apps like Reflector and Air Serve allow all the functionality of a visualiser, in addition to giving each student a chance to take control of the screen and share their work. The camera in all I Pad models is so good that combined with pinch-finger zooming, produces an amazingly sharp close-up view of a section of a map or photograph, or a sample of writing. I recently invested in a specialist stand to hold a single I Pad for use as a visualiser, but if you search on You Tube, there are some great short films that show how an old OHP can be converted to perform the same function.
If you haven’t yet made use of a visualiser in your lessons, try to get hold of one to start the new academic year. Set it up to be ‘live’ each time you fire up your lap top or desk PC, and I guarantee you will soon be using it throughout the day. It won’t be long before you are wondering how you managed without it!
Let me know if you come up with any novel ways of using your visualiser in the classroom, and I will include them in a later blog!