Look, it's going to bubbles!

The ancient history of audio-visual instruction 

Once upon a time, boys and girls, just after God said "Let there be light" and there was light, the filmstrip projector came to school. It sat on top of two fat dictionaries on a desk pulled into the middle of an aisle.  Beside it on the desk sat a can holding a roll of film and knowledge, and a little easy-reader booklet.

What is film, Ms Nancy?...Never mind. We'll just skip over this part.*

In the Late Cretaceous, the filmstrip was accompanied by a 45 rpm recording with beeps in the narration indicating when the filmstrip should be advanced to the next black and white image. The beeps caused the student deputized to operate the projector to instantly forget which direction was forward and which was back. [This is similar to the nursing home phenomenon of elderly patients with tv remote controls.]

Why were film strips important?  Because film strips promoted napping at school. Napping is good.(1)

Nebraska was one of the first states to begin educational broadcasting. All the students would walk in two straight lines with their hands clasped behind their backs down the hall to the Eastridge Elementary School library, then sit on the cork-tile floor to watch Dolores Dudley read classic picture books like Rex Parkin's The Red Carpet, and Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats on the school's lone black and white television.  Mrs. Dudley was at the peak of her powers with Marcia Brown's Stone Soup. (2)

That's when I first wanted to be a storytime lady when I grew up. 

Creating bulletin boards was a competitive sport for elementary school teachers. An opaque projector enabled teachers to enlarge a student drawing on a big swath of butcher paper.  Then kiddies could paint the big image with runny powdered tempera paint mixed up in metal orange juice cans. (3)

Every December all the Eastridge students would file into the auditorium to watch a film about the composing of "Silent Night".  The film was quite blue, with people crunching around in the snow.  The highlight of this annual event was the inevitable breaking, splicing, and rethreading of the film into the projector.  We kids would be all hyped up on holiday anticipation, and be anything but silent.

At Millard Lefler Junior High teachers began using overhead projectors.  Students missed the chances to make dusty messes with the chalk erasers.  At least we still got to sniff ditto papers. And wouldn't The Sniffing Dittos be a good name for an oldies cover band?

In Speech class we were allowed to use a tape recorder for the group project "radio broadcast". The technological biggie was the foreign language lab. Each student sat in a carrell that looked like a prison visitation booth and put on headphones. While Srta. Diaz allegedly eavesdropped on our performances, we repeated phrases like

 I would like the chocolate cake.  Yo quisiera el pastel de chocolate.

High school brought new AV technology. Learning to drive meant sitting in a simulator watching films of roads and turning the steering wheel.  Each simulator looked like a cross between an opaque projector and an immovable carnival bumper car.  Crazy that twenty years later my young sons were"flying" simulated dogfights on our computer games with realistic graphics.

Ah, college! Dark lecture halls. Watching art history slide shows. Remember, napping is good. To this day I don't use the exhibit audio tours at art museums. It would be so embarrassing to fall asleep and start snoring and drooling...

Fast forward FF. I still can't cope with the tv remote, but I'm making computer slideshows for my young art students. Trying to connect with kids who can scroll on an iPhone before they can wipe and flush. Trying to connect the raccoon's tail without too many technical diffooooculties.

What do my students like best? Look, Ms. Nancy.  It's going to bubbles!


(1)  Concurrent technology available in homes included single view handheld slide projectors, and tray or carousel slide projectors for subjecting the neighbors to long evenings reviewing your tent-camping trip to Yellowstone. Comic relief came in the form of slides loaded upside down or backwards.

(2) We also watched Mercury and Gemini blast-offs in the library.

(3) The View-Master was a concurrent "educational slideshow".  Children could click through images of Our Nation's Capitol including Jackie Kennedy's White House renovations, Disney's Peter Pan, and Yellowstone geysers.

*Judge Maxwell: I think I want to skip over this part, too. 
Howard: That night, I went back to my room and she was in the bath. 
Judge Maxwell: Who was there? No, don't tell me, just go on. 
Howard: When Eunice walked in and the drapes caught fire, everything burned. They asked me to leave. I really don't blame them. 
Judge Maxwell: Good boy. Is there more? 
Howard: Sure. 
Judge Maxwell: There's more. 

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Kim said...

I definitely quisiera the chocolate cake. I am baking a pumpkin pie today instead, though. Happy Holidays Ms Nancy!

Kathleen said...

Merry Christmas, dear, bubbles and all! Loved the synchronized swimming video. I did this, when it was called "water ballet" in my town. This reminded me of some moves I still do and plenty I'd forgotten!


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