audio visual equipment for teaching
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Traveling Textile Teacher: AV Equipment

January 8, 2020

If you choose to share your love of what you do and become a paid teacher you should consider what equipment will best help you to reach your audience. I teach surface design which is painting, dyeing, printing, and generally playing  around and creating your own imagery on cloth. Oh, and bead embroidery too. I also teach design principles, the thinking behind creating works of art. Sometimes I lecture. Sometimes I instruct students to follow verbal directions. Sometimes I need to show them, up close and personal, how the thing is done.

When you are looking at a screen or a book you can clearly see what the instructor is doing but in a live class you can be limited by the number of students, the lighting in the room, and the scale of what you are doing. I used to teach beading techniques by having six students at a time come to my table and watch me use giant pony beads to demonstrate what I was doing. Once all the students got the initial instructions I’d go around to each table and check and reteach the technique.

A digital projector and live video feed changed all of that!
Casio XJ-A141

Now I simply shine a giant picture on the wall and demonstrate to the entire class at once. We can fly through two times as many techniques during the same amount of time. My projector is 6 years old and still running strong. If you need a projector, my strongest possible recommendation is to Call the Projector People! They have actual sales people who KNOW ALL THE THINGS there are to know about digital projectors. Tell them what you will be using it for. Tell them what features are important to you. Ask a million questions. Call back a hundred times… they will assign you one sales person to talk to so that person really gets to understand your needs. Then support them. I’ve called back years later with questions and they have always helped me with expert advise.
I lecture and teach ART STUFF so my needs list is as follows:

  • color accuracy
  • brightness (teaching rooms won’t be dark!) = lumens
  • portability = weight and size. More on this below.
  • screen flipping = when I do demos, I flip the screen orientation upside down and the students see what I’m doing right side up. Weird – but trust me – it works.

Next is a tripod. Portability was #1 so this is the lightest weight tripod I could find, hunt for a backpacking tripod. It’s probably not the best tripod to use if you have a heavy camera . I like to tape the legs to the table so that I don’t bump it over. I should probably tape my dead tray to the table too

Sony HDR-CX190

Again – this is from 2013 so it’s probably not available any more. Here are the criteria that I looked for:Look for something that weighs almost nothing, has a swivel screen that you can move to where you can see it

  • weight – it can’t tip the tripod over
  • swivel screen – I move it so I can watch what I am doing through the screen
  • zoom – I can get super close shots of detail work
  • both power and projector connection ports – I don’t care about memory or battery because I am feeding my images live to the screen and usually leave the thing plugged in as I am working.

It will take a good deal of practice to learn to keep your hands in the frame while you are demonstrating and I still ask students to shout out if I’m off screen. Every once in a while the screen goes to “rest” mode but a quick touch of a button turns it right back on.

There are alternatives to consider for demos using a sewing machine. You can get a gooseneck mount that will clamp to a table and hold your smart phone, which you would then connect directly to your projector. You can bend it around until it is right in front of the needle where you can see it clearly.

My tripod is on the table above and in front of my hands. With a machine you will need the camera in front of the needle and is awkward with a tripod. I’ve done it when filming tutorials but I use a heavy and tall tripod on the floor in front of my chair and I end up straddling it as I work.

If you use this setup I’d love to hear and include your experiences in this guide.
The reasons I don’t use this set up:

 

  • The clamp might not fit on your table
  • These things are bulky and HEAVY (although sturdy enough to pack in your luggage)
  • They can bounce and wiggle as the machine is running or when you bump it
  • Only one cable – from your phone to the projector so you can’t keep a battery connected. I’m afraid I’ll run out of battery half way through a demo. I tend to leave my visuals on most of class so students can take a peek or I can run back to it on a moments notice.

A new addition to my setup is a strip of LED lights that I’ve wired to the inside legs of my tripod. They are super bright and much less bulky than the table top Ott light I was using. You need a light for YOUR workspace when you end up demoing with the lights in the room turned off so the students can see the screen much more clearly.

You can either plug it in to the power strip (I ask the guild to provide one for me) or power the light with a USB battery pack, the same thing you use to charge your phone.

Next up is an optional amplification system. I’ve just purchased a wireless Microphone headset to replace my wired lavaliere mike. I use it with a small brick type speaker. Sometimes a group is extra chatty (I love this!!!) and sometimes the classroom environment is NOT ideal. Ask me about the time I taught in a barn next to a motorcycle racetrack! The option to pull out the “loud voice” without actually straining your vocal chords can be a lifesaver.

 

Just so you know, if you click these amazon links I get a few pennies (literally) for the referral.

Last but not least is one of my most important pieces of equipment. This stuff is a serious investment and I treat it with care. My equipment stays with me and NEVER, EVER goes to checked luggage. I am happy to spend good money on really good luggage. This little gem has a great frame that protects my gear and fits my projector, iPad, two bundles of cables, the tripod, camcorder, the speaker, an extra bundle of cables and batteries and stuff you just might need if something else doesn’t work…. all in the back opening. My snacks, book, sketchbook, paperwork and water bottle all fit in the front pocket.

It’s a little heavy once it’s all put together so I’m glad it rolls. It can hook onto or fit on top of my other luggage before I check in. It fits under the airplane seat. In a puddle jumper it has to slide in sideways but still fits.

Seriously. Don’t skimp on luggage. I’ve got a Briggs and Riley carry-on that is still going strong ofter 35 years of HEAVY use. The pieces are guaranteed for life. I just sent in two pieces for repairs after my continual overstuffing finally ripped out a corner. No questions asked – they just repaired it. I love Briggs & Riley!

So. There you have it. Let me know if you have any questions or any brilliant tips or tech for me. What have you seen in a class that has worked well? What hasn’t?

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Patti Maxwell
    January 12, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Very impressive tech set up!

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