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Teaching ASL:  Technology:  Getting a PC laptop to work with a projector

In a message dated 10/13/2010 2:20:01 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, an ASL instructor writes:

Hello Bill,
I started using a new curriculum that came with a disk with "PowerPoint" slides for teaching.  I do not have a laptop computer so I did a lot of transparencies and writing on the board—I will not do that again—it was exhausting. I plan to buy a netbook or laptop soon and wanted to pick your "technology" mind for a minute about what you would suggest that I look for to use in the classroom.  I would like to keep it lightweight, a reasonably cost and would love to be able to get a net book, (my husband doesn't think that would work).  At the workshop you and I both attended I noticed that your little computer looked pretty nice—I meant to ask you about it at the workshop but I had to leave. I am new to using PowerPoint during teaching and may need a little help to get going.
[Name on file]

Dear [Name on file],
If it were me and I were looking for a new 'puter to use as a "classroom tool" I'd most likely opt for a netbook and then I'd pick up an "external CD/DVD/Blueray player." The disk player would connect to the netbook via a usb cable.
I'd do it in two stages, first I'd buy the netbook and I'd take it to the classroom and see if it "played well with others" -- meaning, if the netbook would easily project to the overhead LCD projector. After pushing the right "function key" combination a few times and trying several different resolution settings if the netbook still wouldn't get along with the projector I'd have to assume that the video-card was incompatible with the classroom equipment and I'd take the netbook back to the store and get a different brand.
I'm sure some computer technicians would balk at that idea and "keep trying" different arcane configurations or workarounds until they got it to work. But here is the thing. That technician isn't going to be with you "on location" in every classroom you teach.  So find and use a netbook that is highly compatible with LCD projectors.
If the netbook worked with the classroom projector, next I'd try to see if I could get the teaching materials onto the netbook. This could be a challenge since most netbooks don't have DVD players. I'd copy the transparencies to a desktop computer, then from there to a USB drive (thumb drive), then from that to the netbook's hard drive. I'd also try to copy any of the videos from the DVD's to my netbook using that same process. If none of that worked out, I'd then go buy the external DVD player and use it to play whatever videos I needed to play.
I'd also buy and install onto my netbook a "high end" video player program (software).  Such a program is similar to Microsoft's "Media Player" but has additional features like variable speed.  These programs can be found via or similar sites. Likewise, many large electronics stores carry such programs.
Finally, I'd test it all out again in real life prior to stepping foot into the classroom.

Lifeprint Institute