Today’s Instructors Should Be Prepared for Classroom Technologies
Every instructor has had “that moment” – the one where you realize you are missing a critical item and are going to have to adapt to a less-than-ideal situation. Most of today’s classrooms are well-appointed with internet access, LCD projectors, SMART™ boards and other technologies. But as any experienced instructor knows, relying on the training facility to provide everything is a recipe for failure. Let’s review some of the things an instructor should be familiar with, and keep handy.
Your Personal Kit
Educators living in today’s technological world should keep certain items handy. A soft-sided briefcase or an old laptop computer bag works well for transporting these items:
- A surge-protected power strip, preferably one with a lighted on/off switch.
- 8” long cable (zip) ties
- Matte black 3” gaffer/rigging tape (tape engineered to avoid peeling paint or leaving marks)
- Scissors and a utility knife (if you travel by air, be sure these go in your checked luggage)
- Black permanent markers (broad and fine point)
- Dry-Erase Markers in your favorite colors, along with board cleaning wipes
- A set of small powered speakers – not all projector audio output is strong enough for the rooms they are used in
- An audio headset (USB or mini-plug) can be handy if you use web-based phone/video calls or conduct webinars
- A USB mouse or presentation remote
- Minimum 6’ Ethernet and USB printer cables
- 6-10’ USB extension cable
- Small Phillips and slotted screwdrivers. As an alternative, consider carrying a small “computer tool kit”.
- Power & Electrical
- AA, AAA, and 9V batteries (most pro wireless microphones use 9-volt batteries)
- 6’ Extension cord (higher quality)
- 6’ or Longer IEC Female to 3-Prong Male AC Power Cable (this is the type of connection that fits most projectors, amplifiers, laptop power supplies, etc.)
- A spare charger for your cell phone. If you have room, spare mini- and micro-USB cables are always handy. At some point, you will be a hero to one of your students if you can lend them a cell phone charger.
- Video Cables
- VGA Cable, minimum 6-foot length
- HDMI Cable, minimum 6-foot length
- RCA Cable Set (Red/White/Yellow to Red/White/Yellow), minimum 6-foot length
- Audio Cables & Adapters
- 1/8” (Mini) Male to 1/8” (Mini) Male for connecting to projectors and some audio systems
- 1/8” (Mini) Male to RCA (red & white) for connecting to portable speaker systems
- 1/8” (Mini) Female to 1/4” Male adapter
- 1/4” Female to 1/8” (Mini) Male adapter
- 1/8” (Mini) Male to Female XLR adapter
- RCA female-female “bullet” style adapter
- 1/8” (Mini) Female to 1/8” (Mini) Female “bullet” style adapter
Now that we’ve discussed the “mission critical” items every instructor should have available, let’s turn to items that not every instructor has need of, access to, or the ability to carry. If you have the budget and transportation, though – carrying additional items relevant to your program can be a lifesaver. This list is not exhaustive – talk with other instructors to identify problems they’ve encountered.
- 20’ Extension Cord – if you have space, carry several.
- More zip ties, in a variety of widths and lengths.
- Large, heavy black cloth cut into sections for use as blackout curtains. If you have time, install grommets along one edge. This will allow you to use zip ties to hang the curtains instead of tape; this is especially useful if the classroom has a drop ceiling.
- Cord runners / protectors. These can be handy for protecting your investment in extension cords, plus they help prevent cords from being a slip, trip and fall hazard. Investing in these helps save money on rigging tape.
- An LCD Projector, with spare bulb
- Portable PA / Speaker Setup such as the Fender Passport™
- Generic 20’ Microphone cable (either ¼” or XLR type, depending on what you most frequently encounter)
- At least two sizes of projector screens, one for smaller audiences (such as a 36” x 48”, 60” Diagonal) and one for larger audiences ( 108” x 108”, 153” Diagonal). Carrying these two screens allow you to cover room sizes up to 18’ and up to 54’, respectively (distance from screen to farthest seat in the room). 
- Brightly colored tape (3” rolls) in bright pink, yellow, or green. These can be extremely handy for marking areas in skills training or role-playing.
- Bottled water
- A first aid kit
Presentation Backup Plans
Finally, every instructor should have one or more backup plans for their specific presentation materials. Don’t just copy your PowerPoint presentation to a thumb drive and assume that will be sufficient. Use PowerPoint’s “Publish” feature to copy not only the presentation, but all related video and audio files to a CD, DVD, or USB drive. If you have space in the “cloud”, consider placing a backup copy of your presentation and all related files there. Consider what may happen if your computer is damaged, stolen, or infected by a virus.
Never assume you will have internet access. Remember, especially in a conference environment, bandwidth can be very limited due to the number of presentations, vendors, and attendees using the site’s infrastructure at any given time. If at all possible, save any Internet content locally so that there is minimal need for internet access. If your need for access can’t be avoided, consider using a dedicated connection.
Tip: If you travel frequently, you’ve probably had to pay for internet access at a conference center, hotel, or airport. If offered by your mobile phone provider, consider purchasing and using a device called a “mobile hotspot”. Some new mobile phones (smart phones) have the “hotspot” capability built in. These devices allow a number of secure wireless connections to the internet through your mobile data network. Most carriers offer a monthly data plan, allowing up to five gigabytes per month on their network. If you’re paying more than a couple of hotel fees a month, the savings could be substantial.
Being prepared takes many forms. In addition to practicing your presentation and delivery, you also have to consider the environment in which you are presenting. Taking time to familiarize yourself with the environment, and anticipating things that can either go wrong (such as a dead battery) or things that simply are unavoidable (the DVD drive in your computer fails) will help you recover quickly.
 Projector Screen Size Selection. Draper, Inc. http://www.draperinc.com/