- The computer
- PowerPoint version
- Internet connection
- Your presentation files
- The data projector
- Portable equipment
- Setting up
Find out what type of computer and projector you will be using for the class. If you can, make arrangements well ahead of time to reserve the equipment. Presentations created on a Macintosh will run on a PC, and vice versa. Images can, however, be problematic, and you should do a test run on the teaching machine. Copy the presentation onto the machine and run it from the hard disk - this should give a smooth transition between slides.
Find out what version of PowerPoint is loaded on the teaching machine. If it is the same version as that on your computer, there should be no problems. Any presentations created in PowerPoint 97 should work with PowerPoint 2000. If you created your presentation in PowerPoint 2000 and need to run it in PowerPoint 97, first Save the presentation as a PowerPoint 97-2000 & 95 Presentation. You also need to check that your template is available for PowerPoint 97. Do a test run on a computer with this version of PowerPoint.
Despite these checks, there are other potential danger areas. The teaching computer may not have copies of all the fonts that you use in your presentation. The simplest solution is to use common fonts (e.g. Arial, Helvetica).
If you have inserted hyperlinks into your presentation, check that the teaching computer is linked to the Internet
If you can install your presentation on the computer before hand do so. Either way, when you reach the venue, install it on the computer before running it. If your presentation fits on a floppy disc, take two copies. If your presentation has a lot of multimedia it may not fit on a single floppy disc:
- Can you split it between two or more discs - you can put links in a presentation to daisy chain then together or simply reassemble the presentation into one file on the presentation computer
- Write to a CD - leave plenty of time to do this and ensure that the presentation computer has a CD player!
- Place your presentation on a Web server or network drive so that you can download it onto the teaching machine.
- Use several of these approaches to allow for one failing.
Is it an old one? Old projectors often have low light output so your carefully created images may be faded. More importantly, older projectors have fewer colours so those colours in your presentation that it does not support will default to those that it does, which could result in black text on a black background.
If you are working with a laptop and portable projector then there are additional pitfalls. Check:
- Power points (the other sort in the walls or floors)
- Do you need an extension cable?
- Room lighting, windows switches
- Have you got all the cables for connecting laptop/desktop to projector? Cables often stray from their cases. Do you know how to connect the computer to the projector?
- If you need access to the Internet or local network, is there a live port in the room? Do you have cables and IP addresses necessary for connecting to the network? Is the network cable long enough?
- Seating - make sure the students it close enough to read your slides
- If at all possible, try it out before hand.
Obviously it is better to have your technology set up and running smoothly before your students arrive but sometimes this is not possible - a previous class overruns so you cannot get into the room. You do not really want your students sitting idle while you spend perhaps 5 minutes plugging everything in and downloading files. You are also more likely to make mistakes under those conditions and cursing and struggling with cables or trying to explore file directories is not a good start to a session.
There will always be situations when the technology fails you in ways you cannot plan for. Always have a backup that does not rely on the technology even if it is another activity entirely.
For your first few on-screen presentations, you might consider having an AV technician available for the first 10 minutes of the session to set things up while you engage with the students. Try to have an activity prepared for this time even if it is just distributing marked assignments. In some cases it might be appropriate for them to list their preconceptions on a topic before your presentation. The technology should not get in the way of what you are trying to achieve and with a little planning it won't.
Following a checklist like this even when you have become confident with the tools will reduce the chance of disaster. Listing the potential problems in this way can be intimidating - it highlights that there must be good reasons for using the technology that outweigh the possible problems. All the more reason to make sure that your use of the technology is effective in achieving the learning goals.