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Why I don't teach with slides

I grew up with slides. All the family vacation photos were in slide form. We used to joke that the only reason our parents ever took photos of us was to use us as scale against larger buildings or sculpture. I like slides for family photos. It means we can all sit around together and all look at the photos as once, no matter how many people are in the room, taking breaks for shadow animals along the way. It's a good social way of showing off pictures. I've never taken slides myself. I've always used print film, so the resulting images are easier to handle, and can be casually put in envelopes or albums.

For teaching, I've been using overheads, and have been since I started. Even as a TA I used them now and again. They're flexible and don't require a great deal of planning ahead. Five minutes before class, if the photocopy machine is working, I can run off more overheads. They're easy to make.

Today, for the first time, I taught with slides. I put together the carousel last night, ran through the images, everything worked fine. It was in good working order for today's class. Today was a different story. Everything worked - except for the light bulb which makes slides visible on the screen. Not having a backup plan - and not being able to give the lecture properly without all the images about which I'd intended to speak - I was able to locate my advisor, who generously came to my rescue. It wasn't just me. The bulb was out and the spare bulb in the case turned out to be the wrong kind of bulb. I borrowed a key and fetched the other slide project which - thank goodness - functioned, give or take a malfunctioning reverse button. I gave the talk "only" twenty minutes late.

I like slides, but projectors just weren't made to be lugged around. They're relatively delicate, with multiple movable parts compred to overhead projectors. The image quality is much better, true, but making slides requires planning well ahead. They're a good long term investment. (Or would be if Kodak hadn't recently announced that they will no longer be making slide projectors.) I might be willing to teach with slides if I had a classroom with a dedicated, mounted projector or two and backup parts and pieces. I might be willing to teach with slides if I had the time and planning to assemble a relevant collection. For now, however, I'm sticking with overheads.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2003 03:26 pm (UTC)
computer slideshow programs seem to be replacing the outdated slide projector more and more these days. I've noticed that K'zoo no longer offers slide projectors to lecturers. Everything is computerized these days.
Oct. 24th, 2003 01:30 am (UTC)
Which, from the art historian's point of view, isn't so great--I *still* don't think that digital images projected manage to equal the projection quality of a slide projector. Also, while in other fields powerpoint and other digital presentations may be effective, I have yet to see a really good, effectively done art history presentation that is digital, except by a Pre-Columbian prof who was able to use two digital projectors. Otherwise I find that objects end up *so* small and just not in good quality. I've been to far too many seminar presentations where the people who use powerpoint have endless problems and the people who use slide projectors face, at the worst, a bad bulb (which in a dedicated slide projector room isn't so bad, because there are generally good bulbs to replace them with).

Personal preference, I suppose!
Oct. 24th, 2003 07:52 am (UTC)
Digital imagery has reached the point where it's possible to present slide-quality images. But most people don't, given the expense. A friend of mine locally is involved in a digitization project for her professor's slide collection. The requisite resolution is something like 3 million pixels - mayeb 4 images per CD.

It's possible to do a good powerpoint presentation, but most aren't.

C. spent much of last evening drooling over digital SLR cameras - for the first time, one's finally under $1000, including the lens. Still pricy, but at least heading in the right direction.
Oct. 25th, 2003 12:51 am (UTC)
The capability is out there, but as you say, most people don't bother--and if the university won't invest in a decent digital projector, no matter how hard the scholar tries, their presentation won't be up to snuff visually. I have found a few museum sites (I think the National Gallery is one, but I'm blanking--maybe it was the Rijksmuseum) who present a few of their works in absolutely incredible resolution, to the point that you can focus in on individual brushstrokes in certain images. Still, the cost and space for those images really is prohibitive for most collections--not that all collections produce good slides of their work either.

I would sincerely love for powerpoint presentations to be as effective as mundane slide projector ones, because the flexibility and relative ease are so great, but at this point I refuse to sacrifice image quality for that ease of use (and at UT it wasn't so easy--I won't tell you the number of times a fellow student and I had to show the same students in our class how to use the computer for presentations. Two weeks before class ended one finally figured it out on her own...). Once art historians are ready to learn how to use the technology properly AND the technology is up to snuff, then I'll completely back digital presentations!

And I drool after digital SLRs too...
Oct. 24th, 2003 07:44 am (UTC)
K'zoo does offer slide projectors. In past years, a good quarter of the talks I've been to there involved them, and they're still listed on the AV request sheet for this year's conference. Fortunately.

juniperus? Any sign of flagging demand for slide projectors?
Oct. 24th, 2003 11:16 am (UTC)
well excuse me. I was wrong. Go ahead and shoot me.

I thought the sheet said that slide projectors were no longer available.

Obviously, I read incorrectly.
Oct. 24th, 2003 10:00 pm (UTC)

Maybe you'll have a better day tomorrow?

The question of whether or not there was flagging demand for slide projectors was worth asking.
Oct. 25th, 2003 03:12 pm (UTC)
Oct. 24th, 2003 09:25 am (UTC)
*nods* Yup, I'm an overhead fan, myself. Slides are beautiful, and you get more colour and so forth, but overheads are just easier. I'm glad your lecture came together OK in the end, even if it was late.
Oct. 24th, 2003 01:28 pm (UTC)
Nope, not really a reduction of projectors requested, overall, from my albeit limited memory.

I checked in with the Assistant Director (who is the person who actually processes [thankthegodsinheaven it isn't *me*] the requests and schedules the rooms based on AV needs) and she agreed with my observation that computer-related requests have really gone up, but that's largely with the lit folks and historians - the art historians are still using slides.

Another reason why the computer requests may be going up, besides the enchantment of So Pretty Power Point, is that some groups have noticed that to be scheduled in Fetzer (prime space) one must need advanced AV, and some put requests in for equipment they never intend to use to get into the building they prefer. (this, of course, is a Very Not Nice practice considering all of the folks who *do* need the equipment, and I personally hope all of the cheaters end up scheduled at 8:00 A.M. Sunday just so they can enjoy their karmic rewards *snark snark*)

Oooo, I'm cranky. It must be Friday...;)
Oct. 27th, 2003 09:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the information. It's good to know that, despite Kodak's lack of support for them, slide projectors are still going strong.
Oct. 24th, 2003 04:34 pm (UTC)
Of course, one problem with a dedicated overhead slide-projector (or AV) is when it's mounted on a ceiling far far above your head and it breaks. Or the circuit for that part of the ceiling goes.. (or its connected to a dedicated computer in a locked box that you can't get into!!)

I _always_ create backup overheads now. The only time I didn't was the time I needed them, and I've only been doing this for half a term. I also take blank ones with me as well just incase I need to draw. Paranoia? Perhaps. One less ting to worry about? definately.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )