Old technology.SparkCBC (image modified). Creative Commons.

5 New Uses for Old Technology in the Classroom

It’s time to raid the A-V closet and find some hidden gems among dust-laden and outdated technology.

Step foot into many of today’s classrooms, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of technology that didn’t exist a decade ago. With any number of devices that can program, project, and/or parlay information, there are a lot of antiquated devices that have been pushed aside. While students and teachers find themselves wrapped up in the nuances of modern conveniences, there are a host of not-so-modern machines gathering dust in A-V closets across the country. It’s time to liberate that discarded equipment of yore and give new life to what was once the latest tech of its time. These 5 ideas for dusting off and repurposing old technology components can make great use of forgotten materials while engaging students in newfound ways, with a dash of retro.

  1. Overhead Projectors — The game-changing projector of yesterday can now be the makeshift light table of today. A great activity center for the younger grades when sorting or creating patterns. Overheads are also the perfect light source for science or health classes working with x-rays. In a pinch, they can even be used to complete large tracing projects for murals, set designs, etc. by projecting a transparency of the needed design/outline on a new surface.
  2. Filmstrip Projectors & Films — Nothing says retro quite like the still image films and tone-advancing cassettes of the old filmstrip. Add some modern fun and creativity to these outdated viewers by having students add a new soundtrack. A great opportunity for history classes to research an event formerly shared on a filmstrip and add new narration. Science classes could also research and add a new audio component to showcase knowledge of the topic being shared. Have students get creative by narrating and/or adding dialogue to develop a new storyline based on the unfolding drama of old images.
  3. Slides — An old carousel of slides can become a hidden gem for creative writing and/or theater classes. Let a story unfold on the page or on the impromptu stage from a single image. Actors can exchange the dialogue associated with a slide or give the captured moment new life in a short dramatic portrayal. A perfect warmup or closing activity that will boost creative thinking.
  4. VHS Tapes — While some have created ways to get crafty with the actual tapes, not everyone may find a need for recycled floral décor. The plastic cases containing most tapes found on the A-V shelves can have a host of repurposed uses in the classroom. By labeling the outer spine of the case, a new library with limitless options can be created. Assign students and/or groups a topic (g., plants, animals, elements, historical figures) and have them place an image on the outside of the case and information about it on the inside. Also a great way to keep delicate samples of plants, insects, animal furs, etc. dust free and safe.
  5. Makerspaces — When in doubt, use equipment that was headed to the recycling bin to build up the materials in a school or classroom makerspace. VCRs, film projectors, tape recorders, tube televisions, record players, etc. can all find new life as their transformations or obliterations lead to new forms of problem solving and creativity. A makerspace can be the ultimate destination for the repurposing A-V materials.

An update to technology doesn’t have to be the end of the road for antiquated equipment. Finding unique and creative ways to repurpose forgotten apparatuses and their accessories can bring new life to these outdated innovations. By utilizing any of these 5 repurposing solutions, a whole new generation of students can benefit from the classroom contraptions of yesteryear!

Related articles