Traveling teachers’ tools

If you are a traveling teacher like me, you don’t have an office to stash all your equipment.

Plus, you visit a bunch of places – schools, businesses, and conference rooms, not knowing what equipment they have, or if it is actually functioning (a blown globe in the projector again!)

I need to carry all my equipment with me. Not just pens, worksheets, books, markers, spare paper, but also either a computer or tablet, small data projector and audio system for listening tasks.

An audio system for teachers without an office

I don’t want to cart around large CD audio or DVD video systems and a projector when I walk or catch public transport to my classes. I need a compact, light and easy to use solution. Preferably one that avoids disks of all kinds – I always forget them!

The traveling teacher - my portable AV setup.

The traveling teacher – my portable AV setup.

At the beginning of each semester, I make MP3 playlists for each of my classes and textbooks that I’m using and load them onto my phone and tablet. I always have one or the other device with me, because they also function as my dictionary, calendar, photo album, and notebook.

A simple, short audio cable works with most portable speaker systems and MP3 players. But these speakers are often not strong enough – the sound doesn’t fill the room, or the voices distort. Not something you want in a listening exercise!

Although the JBL OnStage had decent sound through the iPod dock and was certainly portable, the sound through the aux input was dreadful – far too quiet! I couldn’t use it for video sound from the tablet. After trialling a couple of other mid-range speakers and not being happy with the quality of the sound in larger rooms, I found my favourite portable speaker, although it is very expensive. Now I wouldn’t choose anything less!

The best portable speaker for the traveling teacher – the Bose Soundlink is cable-less. Once paired using Bluetooth with up to six devices, it just works – no fussing around with (or forgetting) audio or power cables. It works with both my phone and my tablet (and my laptop if I wanted to cart this around).

Sound quality of the Bose is perfect – the first time I used it in each of my classes, I got happy comments from my students. It was the first time they had done listening exercises without struggling to hear and understand the voices. It works well in both small rooms, and large classrooms with high ceilings.

It’s small, a little hefty for its size, with a leather (or nylon) cover that doubles as a stand, and has an aux input port for things that don’t have Bluetooth. The battery life has been fantastic – lasting for several days of classes. An extra bag would provide a bit more protection for the back speaker grill and ports. But packed carefully in a separate pocket in my bag is good enough, and saves on extra bulk and weight.

It also been fantastic as a portable speaker around home!

A mini-projector for the traveling teacher

I’m not overly happy with my little projector – the Philips Picopix 1430 (no longer available). It works well in properly darkened rooms. But in lighter rooms or with the lights on, the LEDs are not powerful enough for the students to both see a worksheet or textbook and the video.

Attached to a Joby Gorillapod tripod with the ball head (originally for my camera), I can point the video in any direction, necessary when you have to position it around doors, windows, shelves and other furniture.

Before I got my tablet, I loaded videos and photos onto an SD card, although the quality had to be minimized or the video would lurch from second to second. Using a couple of adapters, it connects to my tablet, where all the videos from the textbooks and any that I want to use in class are in playlists. After all, I don’t want to have to cart around a DVD player as well!

Next semester, I plan to upgrade the projector. The rooms I’ve been assigned are not dark enough for video textbook activities.

What portable equipment do you use in class or recommend for teachers who commute?

Let me know in the comments below!

Please share this article if you know a teacher who would be interested.

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