by STEPHEN GOLDSMITH
If is an unfortunate fact that in too many teaching situations the possible use of Audio-Visual Aids is immediately discounted, either on the grounds of expense or even sometimes because it is felt that a.v.a. is a mystique reserved for the favoured few who can devoutly chant the magic litany-rear projection, side projection, viewing angle; amps equals voltage into watts, etc., etc.
While it cannot be denied that the use of audio-visual aids can involve both expense and technical know-how it is by no means the be all and end all of the subject, and many teachers successfully use visual-aid methods with no money and little experience.
Basically, a visual aid is used to teach through seeing rather than or as well as hearing. A concept that will be very familiar to us through our own memories of school blackboard and Sunday school pictures.
The Chinese have a proverb: "I hearI forget. I seeI remember. I do—t understand," and this is a motto that might well be written in gold over the desk of every teacher preparing a lesson.
The simplest form of visual aid is, of course, a picture. and these are cheap enough and simple enough for any teacher to have sufficient confi dence to use. When choosing a picture for a lesson it is important that we think just how we are going to use it. Just to illustrate a Bible story? There are many teaching pictures that will do this, including the Elsie Anna Wood series at 2s. 3d. each.
Large-class pictures, with the merit of being meticulously accurate, but they are also rather crowded, and the experts remind us that children, particularly of primary age, can only absorb a limited amount of detail without losing the meaning Well. in that case, there are the Rochette pictures from France. These are simple, bold outlines, on a black background, so simple that they do not even have features They are 4s. each.
An excellent compromise are the sets of pictures drawn by the Benedictine Sisters at Cock fosters. A compromise in style, size and price, at 25s. for sets of 15.
But there are many other pictures that can convey a Christian message. beside Bible stories, and some of the best of these come from the colour supplements, or newspapers, surely the cheapest of all methods of obtaining valid teaching pictures, for we must never forget that Christianity should be
as interested in what is happening now, as it must be in the events of 2,000 years ago in Palestine.
Here is your chance to put Christianity in its rightful place in the world, As well as producing your own news pictures, it can be quite helpful. and even salutary, to ask your students to bring along their own, and to state the reason for their choice.
Perhaps a montage could be made of the result. Pictures, although cheap to buy, and easy to hold up, should always be used with the same careful preparation that you give to the rest of your subject. Even the most docile child can quickly become bored with ”Wasn't that a nice story? Now here's a picture of it."
Projected aids at once raise the expense bugbear. And it is. alas, only too true that in many churches the education of tomorrow's members is regarded as the Cinderella when it comes to allocating funds—a shortsighted policy that might well prove disastrous in the next generation. However. it is a fact so how can we use projected aids?
First, let us assume that you are lucky enough to have a modest budget for Sunday school or R.E. work. A really good filmstrip and slide projector will cost you about £60. But a perfectly adequate model for school or small parish use is the Ilford Elmo. which costs only £27 10s.. including tax, while for small groups there is a new projector by Ilanimax which costs less than £10.
I have stressed that all these projectors take filmstrips because, at present the bulk of teaching material is in filmstrip form, which has the advantage of being cheaper than the equivalent slides. Also. if you have a filmstrip and slide projector you can make use of the very extensive hire library service, offered by such organisations as S.P.C.K., the Church Army or Concordia Films. Between them these libraries can make available almost every religious filmstrip produced in this country for a matter of 4s. or 5s. per showing —a fact that in itself should justify the cost of this type of projector.
However, if you have not yet managed to persuade the powers that be to invest in a projector, all is not lost. In these days of 35mm. cameras, someone in the church or among your friends should have an ordinary slide projector. The range of actual transparencies produced in this country for R.E. is rather small. but there are a few. and nearly all the Continental material is produced in slide format, but these tend to be expensive. The best answer is to buy filmstrips. and cut them up. mounting them in the special half-frame masks that can be bought for that purpose.
The last word on slides is the same as on pictures Cull over your own or your friend's slide collection, and see how riiany shots can be twisted into a meaningful visual for your particular group.
What family cannot produce a baby slide? How can it be used: Baptism, new life. joy. parent hood, responsibility. helplessness. and so on, or that picture of grannie. sitting by herself? Old folk, loneliness, caring?
The possibilities are endless, and only limited by your own imagination. Here again is an opportunity to ask the class to produce their own sessions; you may well be surprised at their perception and awareness. having obtained a projector and filmstrip. what are we going to project on to? Well, there is a lot to be said for a white wall; at least it will not fall down at the critical moment, and it does come. builtin, free with the building. If you want ta he more sophisticated a 40in. x 401n. tripod screen can be bought for around £7 and table models even cheaper.
A white or lenticular surface will probably suit you best. If you should have light difficulties, then some form of rear projection screen may be the answer. This piece of jargon means exactly what it says. The projector is placed behind the screen and shines through it, giving a clearer and more brilliant picture.
To buy one costs from about £5 upwards, but they can be made much more cheaply, and, in fact, a perfectly adequate emergency screen can be made from a cardboard carton and a packet of greaseproof paper for about 2d.
A tape recorder is an added refinement that can be acquired eventually. or very easily borrowed from one of your young people, who will also be thrilled to come and work it for you. It can be used with a pre-recorded tape. if supplied. and also if, and only if, you think that it gives the commentary that you want. Or it can be used to make your own commentary, either simply spoken, or elaborated with music, sound effects. etc., as you feel inclined and your. or your operator's technical knowledge permits.
Which brings me, finally, and with very little space, to the whole question of the audio side. As well as the taperecorded commentary, and the dramatised situations that will immediately occur to you. You must not ignore the importance of music as a mood-setter, nor will you be allowed to ignore the entire new culture that is springing up around pop music.
To be frank, ou should not want to. since, whatever may be our own opinions of this type of music, it is a very important part of the being of the young people that we are trying to reach.
As Professor Goldman has been saying for a long time, the place to meet young people is on their own ground; then we can lead them whither we will, according to our ability.
It is also a fact worth noting that a large number of today's top twenty have some social or even religious connotation "Everybody Get Together," "All Kinds of Everything," "Years May Come, Years May Go"—all these can have positive teaching value, as well as such old faithfuls as Pet Clarke's "Thank You," "Little Boxes," "Blowin' in the Wind," "There but for Fortune," and dozens of others. I would think that Top of the Pops should he obligatory listening for anybody really trying to communicate with youth today.
To sum up then, the material is there, at a low or even negligible cost if necessary. It is simple and easy to use, requiring only imagination and common sense. It is. as we have quoted in our title, one of the ways Our Lord Himself used, and what better example could we have? "Look on the fields. they are white already to Harvest." It is up to us to use every means within our grasp to ensure that they are duly and profitably garnered.