Computer - You are likely to take your own laptop computer, or try to use one that is made available. Using your own normally reduces software problems, but getting it to work in a new place can be troublesome. If you use somebody elses computer you need to get your presentation slides there. It is a good idea to take a separate mouse to plug in to notebooks. The touchpads and other laptop ‘mice’ can be hard to use in presentation settings.
Data Projector - If possible get a high quality data projector that will connect to your computer. If this is not possible, use an LCD panel on an overhead projector, this will appear a bit dark. Worst case use a computer to TV converter, this will be the least expensive, but the graphic quality is very poor. Your slide fonts and images will need to be 50-100% larger.
Word Processor/Publishing Software - You may opt to convert your presentation to HTML or PDF. Most packages support these formats. I use Adobe Framemaker, although Microsoft word is a popular choice, and free alternatives exist such as Star Office (www.stardivision.com). The word processor typically needs to be able to include equations, and figures.
Browser - If presenting in HTML you will need a browser. There are a number of excellent browsers available today, but the two best are available from Netscape and Microsoft. Both can be obtained at no charge. Either will do for the students, and this software can be used as a presentation tool in class.
Application Software - I have used packages such as Working Model, and Mathcad to support lectures. Anybody using the browsers for course notes will need copies of application software to included files. These files will allow the notes to become interactive, visual, experimental, etc. For example, in Statics I have used working model to illustrate the slip-tip problem. There are a large number o packages that offer low cost student editions, or even free demonstration versions that still be used for viewing.
Digital Camera/Scanner - A scanner can be very useful for capturing images on paper. But this should be discouraged. Scanned documents are very large, and can be very slow when downloaded for viewing. Scanned photographs also tend to have a poor quality. A very good option is to buy a digital camera that captures images directly to digital format. These cameras come in a variety of prices, but a good midrange camera can be purchased for $600 that will give good quality photographs. Within a short period of time these costs will drop quickly, and real time video capture will be an option. Other poor options include camcorders with image capture hardware in a PC. This gives grainy pictures or low resolution.
- Television output is a common option on many laptops but it is not commonly used. These outputs will normally connect to an S-video connector on a normal TV projector which might not be available at the podium. A long video cable would often be needed for this option. Television projectors are poor for data projection because the pixels are set at 60 degree diagonals that make an image blurred, even when well projected.
- each projector has unique controls. These are sometimes manual adjustments, or buttons on the unit, other times a remote control is needed. These can be annoying to set, and try to get them set ahead of time. The ‘off’ button is often hard to find on projectors, you can’t just kill the power, it needs to cool when done. Ask somebody to show you. (Note: the buttons get harder to find when the lights are low)
- Light from these projectors is still quite dim, so a darkened room is almost essential. Find your lighting switches before the presentation. Some rooms may be all or nothing. One trick I have used is to turn off the lights, but use an overhead projector to create ambient light
- cables between the computer and data projector can be a nuisance. Try to position these so you don’t trip over them during the presentation. A table large than the laptop, near the projector will allow you to also use a separate mouse and lay out notes on the table.
- Power management features in laptops will cause them to quit or go to sleep if idle for a few minutes, especially when unplugged. Turn these off before the presentation. If your computer stops during the presentation it will take a while to get it back. Windows NT is very slow rebooting and may cause your presentation to pause for a few minutes.