Projection Technology Helps Enlighten, Expand Young Minds at Oregon Middle School

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There is nothing like seeing the world laid out before you. From the rigid Appalachian mountain range to the flowing waterfalls and colorful festivals in distant lands, geography is diverse, beautiful and ever-changing. As a geography teacher at Ackerman Middle School (www.ackerman.canby.k12.or.us) in Canby, Ore., I have found the most effective way to present the world to my students isn’t with a chalkboard or photos, but with a projector that allows me to present large, bright, crisp images that are truly representative of the world around us.

With school budgets stretched thin, my first experience with projection technology was an entry-level projector purchased by my school. The projector required setting my computer’s resolution to the lowest setting, which made for poor-quality images and fuzzy text that was impossible to read. However, I recently began using an InFocus LP130 (http://edu.infocus.com) in my class, and it has made all the difference.

Projector Potential

When I learned about the potential of the InFocus projector, the difference was like night and day. My students were amazed at how clear the images were and how easy it was to read text on the screen. The projector reduced my class preparation time by cutting down on the number of copied materials I would otherwise have to make for 150 students. This also helps save a few trees by reducing the number of printed copies needed for my class. In addition, my computer is now set on the highest resolution for projection.

During my lessons, it’s also not uncommon to hear me say, “let’s see what it’s like at Red Square,” if the class is studying Russia. Images of Red Square are then projected for the entire class to see. Having the ability to take my students around the world in one class period is just amazing.

Additional uses of the projector include preparing for the National Geography Bee by projecting the daily “GeoBee” quiz, which is available on the National Geographic Explorer Web site, as well as playing video clips from Internet news sources and student-produced projects. Projecting news clips throughout the class period also allows us to stay up-to-date on breaking news.

Skilled Students

My students have become quite skilled at creating video projects and slide shows that demonstrate what they’ve learned. Their video projects have even been acclaimed by leaders in our state as some of the best work of its kind in Oregon.

One my class projects is called “Student Peace Advocacy,” which is a group of students who study the works of Noble Peace Prize winners and create several of their own “peace promotion” projects throughout the year. In May 2004, these student advocates created videos and slide shows for the opportunity to be featured at the annual community festival, which brings together the public and students to promote peace and harmony. The videos were evaluated by a panel of judges, including a state senator, a school superintendent and a chamber of commerce director. Eight students from my class were chosen as winners. Their videos were shown at the festival and at the annual Ackerman Peace Prize Presentation, which is also held in May.

Oregon’s state superintendent of schools proclaimed the videos to be inspirational, and encouraged schools and communities to follow the lead of Ackerman Middle School. If we didn’t have our InFocus projector, there is no way we could have presented these powerful images to more than 500 people without losing important effects.

In addition, my students and I have been asked to present at a number of conferences by educational organizations such as the National Middle School Association, the Northwest Council for Computer Education, and the Oregon Council for the Social Studies. My class also hosts annual family geography nights. Having the projector for these events has proved invaluable.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Since I first began using the technology, the school district has purchased a number of InFocus projectors, making it possible for other educators to continue finding new ways to use projection technology to enlighten and expand young minds. The fact of the matter is, I am proof that an old dog can be taught new tricks. As I enter my 25th year of teaching, I feel as fresh and invigorated as I did at the start of my career. I look forward to the work produced by my students and the ability to appreciate their efforts with the use of technology in their presentations.

- Tony Crawford

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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