Visualise this!

Those of you that know me will know that I have something of a soft spot for visualisers. The fact that not every classroom has one of these built into it does actually bring a small tear to my eye. The common data projector (death by PowerPoint aside) has in my opinion achieved a lot in its quest to replace the ever ageing overhead projector.

There are only two times I feel myself ever wanting to use an overhead projector. These are when I actually want to display a piece of realia to students (or the shadow at least), or when I quickly want to draw something over a slide. There are numerous touch screen technologies to enable the writing over of slides which I have seen used to great effect by academics at the University of Derby. However, to use these touch screens requires technical nouse and surprisingly a touch screen connected to the computer. At the University of Derby, this facility is only available in the major lecture theatres.

I come from a technical background where construction of circuit boards and mechanical units are taught on a regular basis. We all like to get our hands on physical pieces of equipment to fully understand what it is (I regularly point out to my young daughter that she looks with her eyes and not with her hands). But in cases where there are large amounts of students, or where very valuable items of equipment are present, you might not be able to pass them around for all students to get a closer look.

This is where visualisers come in very handy! Essentially a visualiser is a camera mounted on a stable base. This means that any piece of realia that you want to show to your students can be placed under it. This is where the true value of a visualiser really comes out. They (usually) have very good cameras installed so you can zoom into a tiny piece of realia and “blow it up” so everyone can see it.

Here are some picture examples of a visualiser zoomed in on some electronics equipment as well as a diagram from a text book.

It isn’t just classes where visualisers can be used, however. Something that I have been investigating recently is the creation of online support/teaching materials using a visualiser. Here is a video providing a brief overview of a jigsaw teaching activity recorded using a visualiser.

I have also worked with a business lecturer to use a visualiser in class while recording the session for later use (Visualiser used at 3:19)

If these examples have piqued your interest in using visualisers, or if you already use visualisers, please comment below as we would like to hear your experiences and work with you to further use this technology across the University.

7 thoughts on “Visualise this!

  1. I like the visualiser examples Ben. It opens up lots of possibilities, I guess – just needs a bit of creative thinking.

    It’d also be nice to superimpose extra graphics / data / animation on top of those – or any video material.

    • I think this use of visualisers certainly has a place in HE and FE. In the second example video, the lecturer in question, as well as showing a text book, also at 5.32 shows a student’s attempts at the referencing task.
      I have also tried to do this in my teaching. I encountered a few problems mainly due not not having a built in visualiser, so I ended up showing the students work upside-down.

  2. Hi Ben
    Well done a good intro and hopefully will encourage everyone to consider using them, including myself!!


  3. There is something visualizers can’t do that old fashioned OHPs can that is demonstrate aspects of using light. I still use an OHP for demonstrating the use of cross-polarisation with a large sheet of polarising filter and a second polarising filter initially on top of the large sheet then providing a glass filter putting on the lens can then show how plastics and specimens e.g. mica change as rotate polariser so showing birefringence and cross-polarisation.

    See examples in my photolibrary at

  4. Pingback: Top Posts of 2012 | The University of Derby Learning Technology Blog

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