Don't shun your audience by misusing the projection screen

Are you using a projection screen as a visual aid or a virtual wall? Schoun Regan discusses how to use the screen to enhance the learning process.

Should you use a projection screen in your class? Those trainers who answer yes say a screen enhances learning. Some trainers say no, remarking that it reduces teacher effectiveness and allows students to "watch TV." There is a fine line between a projection screen and a “project-shun screen." Here’s how to walk the tightrope and teach a better class as a result.

Tommy, can you see me?
Obviously, a projection screen helps students focus their attention and see exactly what you are doing. A screen aids students with vision impairments, and large classrooms also are well served.

On the flip side, there are managers that see projection units as having no place in the classroom. They view projection units as an unnecessary cost and a chance for the instructor to slack off. Here’s the image they conjure up: The instructor who previously traveled around the classroom now gets to sit in one location and move the mouse around while talking.

While managers often have no clue how positive the use of the projection unit can be, they do have a point when it deals with the instructor sitting down. When you introduce a projector into a classroom, you must take care not to habitually sit. Walking around the classroom is still important, and failure to connect with the students in this manner can justify the manager's remarks. Since your goal is to consistently prove your manager wrong, make sure you don't get "projector seat.”

Screen for you
So we've decided a screen can be useful. Good. Let's talk about where to place it effectively. Most important is the lighting. Any backlight from a window or doorway can wreak havoc on viewers’ eyes. Blinds should be closed to minimize outside light.

When planning for a projector in the classroom, pay attention to the maximum cable length. Placing extension cables on the unit may lead to "ghosting," where the ghost of the manager pokes his head in and says, "I told you so." Tape any cables to the floor to avoid those nasty lawsuits. I saw a $6,000 projector have its proprietary cable ripped out of the connector by an instructor simply moving the projector. The manager nearly "ripped" the instructor’s paycheck.

Time for my close-up, Mr. DeMille
Once the projector is installed, it should not be used as the sole teaching device. There is no substitute for traveling around the room, gesturing, and making use of the whiteboard or drawing tablet. Point to items on the projection screen with your hands and the mouse.

Bait and switch
Some places can only afford one or two projectors but have many classes to teach. Get together with your fellow trainers and decide which classes get the use of the projector before classes begin. Graphics classes get the first vote as visual learners often make up the majority of the roster. Technical classes are next because two or three machines may need to be hooked up to display different scenarios. The classes that probably least need a projector are word processing and database classes. Turn off the lights in these classes, and you’re inviting sleep.

You have chosen wisely
Remember to use the projector wisely to avoid second-guessing. Don't get caught sitting down on the job. Use the projector as you would any other tool. You can enhance the teaching experience with it, but you could also do the class without it. So project away!
If you use a projector for your training, what types of classes is it used for? What has been the benefit of using one? Do you have any creative uses for the projectors? Please post a comment at the end of this article to provide your feedback. If you have any suggestions for future article topics in the TrainingRepublic, please send us a note .

Schoun Regan is a consultant to training firms and travels across North America educating people for CompleteMac Seminars .

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