Let's say, I'm introducing a new artist to students.
It's large size art prints if I have them, or perhaps prints that I've made from my computer, or pages from a calendar. Perhaps I have a book or a story to read to my students about the artist. And we look at the work, and discuss what we see. I ask questions about what they see, what they note in common about the work on display, what unique characteristics they see, etc. I also ask them whether they like it or not, and why or why not. Kids take turns coming up to the bulletin board to look closely. I might have them discuss at their tables what they see, perhaps in a 'think/pair/share' situation. As a class perhaps we will take turns noting and discussing what we see, with kids going up to the board and directly pointing things out, asking and answering questions. Generally, this is a lively time of give and take, and I find that the kids remember what we've discussed. Learning is taking place.
During this time, kids notice things that I didn't even realize were there, such as the time I had a selection of images from a Faith Ringgold calendar hanging on the board, and a student excitedly said "Look, I see Vincent van Gogh in this quilt!" And lo and behold, in a field of sunflowers, there indeed was Vincent, among the flowers, holding flowers. And I hadn't even noticed this when I hung up the images. Here's the quilt:
(An aside here about Vincent van Gogh: when my students learned about him, and saw the painting of him with his bandaged ear, we discussed mental health, and had a good conversation about what is generally believed to have happened. Meanwhile, a teacher had given me a set of rubber facial features, and we used the ear this way - when someone wanted to share something they had noticed or learned about van Gogh, they said 'lend me your ear'. They would then be tossed the rubber ear, which meant they had the floor to speak. They then would pass the ear to someone else who wanted to share. Everybody loved the rubber ear, and consequently, van Gogh became memorable. I believe that the introduction of a tactile experience during the discussion became an aid to learning.)
Let's say, I'm demonstrating a new process or technique to my students. Maybe you use a document camera, to make it very easy for everyone in the room to see. I've tried this, with very limited success. Again, there's a certain degree of separation, seeing the process from my hands to a screen to your eyes. I prefer, no matter how crowded, the 'gather around' style of demonstration, where it goes directly from my hands to the students' eyes, without stopping at a screen first! "Let me show you this weaving process. Let's pass the weaving around the room, and let each person have a try at weaving the needle in and out of the warp threads." Or "let me show you how to put papier-mache on your armature." I'll pass the bucket of 'dog drool' around the table, and let each person dip a finger in, squish it around on their hand, and wipe it off on their art shirt or a paper towel. I'll hand my demo item to several kids to have them add a strip of gooey newspaper to it. Immediate tactile experience for everyone! The kids will remember the gooey paste once they have actually had it on their hands!
Perhaps I'm teaching 1 point perspective to my 4th graders for the very first time. I tried using the document camera, really I did, but the screen space is so tiny!! I found that I preferred dragging out the old 'dinosaur' overhead projector, with the scrolling roll of wipe-off acetate and Vis-a-Vis pens. I can sit at a table, demonstrating step by step, with it projecting on a screen behind me, and but I am seated, facing the students, watching them as they follow my steps. And in between steps I can get up and circulate, make sure everyone knows how to hold their ruler securely, point confused students in the right direction, and somehow feel closer to my students than when using that document camera. I don't know why. Does anyone else have this same reaction to using a document camera vs an old overhead projector?
What about you? Do you rely on electronic media for presentations of new topics? Or do, like me, prefer the intimacy of give and take discussion, and interactive demonstration? Do you find that overuse of electronic media creates a degree of separation and a loss of that intimacy with your students? Thoughts, readers?