Slide/Tape Synchronization and Carousel Projectors: Dated Technologies or Useful Teaching Tools?

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This research paper will examine the effectiveness of specific methodologies that are being phased out by modern technologies: the carousel projector and the slide/tape synchronization method. We will examine the history, material, the methodology and utility, the pros and cons of these teaching methods, and how these methods can be used successfully today.

Let's take a brief look at our first traditional technology: the carousel projector. A carousel projector is a device in which a card-changing carousel provides intervals of time that interact with other independent variables, for example tape recordings. Slide pace can also be manually controlled by a remote control. The use of carousel projectors can be useful, yet there are limitations with this considerably dated type of technology primarily used in the 1960’s onward (Arenberf & Surwillo, 1966). The carousel projector may be useful for visual learning centered on visual aids, such as Art and Art History. However, as of 2007, color 35mm slides, which are required for carousel projection, must be prepared by a corporate art department and/or outsourced to a service bureau and could cost up to several hundred dollars per slide, which is and was expensive (Gaskins, 2007). Additionally, Color 35mm slide presentations offered less flexibility, were often timed, and were appropriate for formal speeches to larger audiences and required minimal audience interruption, making lessons much less collaborative than modern technological counterparts allow (Gaskins, 2007).

In order to historically contextual the use of the carousel projector and to better understand its usages, it is notable that during the 1960’s it became optional to utilize a carousel projector with self-timed and self-paced visual displays (Arenberg & Surwillo, 1966). However, even during the era when carousel projection slides with self-paced timers were at large in the teaching field, such devices were limited to minimal time intervals, which could be undesirable when paired with other independent variables such as the verbal presentation of data (Arenberg & Surwillo, 1966). Thus came the introduction of the remote for the carousel projector, making it easier to navigate slides as the instructor saw fit. Regardless of the initial downfalls associated with minimum timing intervals and automatic slide change, the simplicity of the carousel projector and what it could offer, with or without the cam-timer, was a breadth of teaching solutions not previously known. The carousel projector with concurrent cam-timer proved useful in self-paced trials for psychological studies as well as minimally aided lesson plans and was a precursor to the modern-day PowerPoint presentation.

In addition to the carousel projector came the concurrent usage of slide/tape methodology and videotape techniques largely popular in the 1980s. The slide/tape system consists of a slide projector and a specialized cassette recorder synchronized with the slides. It can be set up as such that the teacher can actively record the lesson on one track of the tape while signals are laid out on the other projector via a cord that becomes responsible for advancing the slides accordingly (Pembrook, 1983). Therefore, the methodology become optimal and could be used with virtually all age groups. Slides that documented music recordings, competitions, photographic lessons, and Art and Art history utilized this method (Pembrook, 1983). 

Evidence proved that the slide/tape methodology, especially when accompanied by music, was an effective learning technique for these types of lessons in the early 1980’s (Pembrook, 1983). Three components of the slide/tape system included 35mm camera, a synchronized cassette recorder, and a slide projector, which made the system portable and easy to use. However, the slide/tape system required photography skills and the knowledge of how to accurately lay down tracks, both of which were easily taught in the 1980’s when the slide/tape system was at peak usage (Pembrook, 1983). In the 1980’s the equipment for slide/tape projection was relatively inexpensive. However, today, since the technology is older and almost phased out of classrooms, it is likely going to cost substantially more than modern teaching tools at the university level at which universities are typically well-equipped to handle modern technology.

In today’s technology-based society, any educator can tell you that dated methods simply are not enough if you are to engage student creativity and engage students in subject matter when used incorrectly. However, modern technologies often fall victim to the same pitfalls as old technologies like the carousel projector and the slide/tape model (Gaskins, 2007). In fact, “Most complaints we hear about presentations today were current then too: ambiguous and repetitive bullet points, speakers reading their slides, no proper audience handouts, and more” (Gaskins, 2007, p. 15). However, subject matter, content, and individual motivation can affect whether or not learning through modern technologies versus learning through dated technologies like the ones discussed here are all independent variables that affect student learning. Especially, when the sheer number of diverse learners in the education systems are taken into account

The benefits of modern technologies in learning are as follows and cannot be mimicked by carousel projectors or slide/tape technologies, which are limited to the lecture-based teaching model. Among the educational benefits of technologies via the World Wide Web, for example, are: 24-hour access to the learning environment, unrestricted access to a wide range of informational and international resources, the pace of learning and interaction is by-and-large controlled by the learner, and opportunities for interactive learning are made possible, such as small-group discussions and collaboration via technologies only the more recently modern world can offer. Access to carousel projection learning and slide/tape learning is limited to the time the teaching takes place. Access is restricted to a single source or resources directly provided by the instructor at the time of lecture. Small-group discussions are not made possible, and collaboration is not promoted unless the lecturer allows the possibility after the presentation. However, wide ranges of benefits are offered by these teaching methods, which may vary by subject matter and nevertheless need to be highlighted.

While learning via modern technology is obviously beneficial and can supplement lecture-based learning successfully and competently, the benefits of traditional, lecture-based learning via carousel projector and slide/tape technologies are uniquely beneficial as well. In fact, with regards to online educational effectiveness, as of 2005, experimental studies concerning the effectiveness of online educational techniques “have produced weak and inconclusive evidence for any superiority of hypermedia in achieving learning outcomes” (Frederickson et. al., 2005, pg. 647). In fact, when evaluating a beginners level, university level psychology course, satisfaction ratings were higher in the lecture-based model (Frederickson et. al., 2005). This means that students in many instances prefer the interactive and straightforward learning techniques of physically sitting and interacting at the classroom level, including but not limited to carousel projection and slide/tape learning. 

Additionally, the carousel projection tool and the slide/tape lecture tool can be comparable to another lecture-based tool, which is in actuality phasing out the use of these technologies: the PowerPoint presentation. While Power Point may present better image quality than carousel slides or slide/tape presentations, its usefulness is limited in the same ways that these old technologies are limited if the lecturer does not go beyond its very basic presentation capabilities (DenBeste, 2003). 

When presenting lecture material using either carousel projection slides and/or slide/tape technologies, it is useful to utilize handouts as well. In fact, in Frederickson et. Al.’s study, those receiving the lecture as opposed to those receiving a web-based seminar were given handouts that needed to be filled out in order to have comprehensive notes of the lesson while the lecturer ran their presentations (Frederickson et. al., 2005, pg. 649). In the lecture version of the experiment highly specific oral collaborations and elaborations of the history lesson took place whereas those receiving the web-based lesson did not embark on highly specific elaborations and collaborative discussion points. If time is left after the utilization of cam-timed or un-timed carousel projection slides and/or slide/tape projection slides, the lecturer then has the opportunity to close with discussion and collaboration of recently viewed material that is still fresh in learner’s minds. This type of learning cannot be mimicked by web-based learning alone.

Therefore, the necessary support materials for implementing a highly effective carousel projection and slide/tape presentation implies a variety of factors. First of all, utilization of these technologies should involve several things. The lecturer should utilize handouts that class attendees can fill as the lesson progresses. It also does not hurt, if time allows, spending some time on having the students not only engage with one another but also utilize online-based learning in conjunction with what is presented during the lecture. However, the lecturer should be careful as to not include any and all information in the online platforms. This eliminates the possibility of students gaining the full collaborative and learning experience without attending the lecture. Students that attend classes in which a lecture is utilized generally do much better than those who simply use the web-based platform allowed by the lecturer. 

In general, comprehensive learning can take place if any technology is utilized in the best way possible using proven effective teaching methods including the conjunction of online learning today. Lectures that utilize carousel projections and slide/tape technologies have pros and cons. Pros include enthrallment in lesson, person-to-person interaction, well-planned and well thought out lectures, timed and visually and acoustically stimulating material, and necessary engagement if students are interested and care about subject matter. Cons include the inability to access learning materials 24/7 from practically anywhere as well as the inability to visually see innovative and technologically flashy lecture materials. In order for carousel-based and slide/tape based lectures to be the most effective, dependent on the subject matter, lecturers must be careful to utilize the technology to the best of the technologies capabilities while remaining focused and keeping students engaged. Carousel slides and slide/tape technology can be effective teaching methodologies. While expensive to maintain in the modern era, learning can have tangible positive affects on interactive learning that can be reflected in the ways in which student’s grades can improve when a variety of teaching methods are utilized. 


Arenberg, D., & Surwillo, W. W. (1966). A device for paced and self-paced visual displays. The American Journal of Psychology, 79(1), 1966, 120-123.

DenBeste, M. (2003). PowerPoint, technology and the web: more than just and overhead projector for the new century? The History Teacher, 36(4), 2003, 491-504.

Frederickson, N., Reed, P., & Clifford, V. (2005). Evaluating web-supported learning versus lecture-based teaching: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Higher Education, 50(4), 645-664.

Gaskins, R. (2007). PowerPoint at 20. Communications of the ACM, 50(12), 15-17.

Pembrook, R. G. (1983). Music for the eyes: Slide/tape and videotape techniques. Music Educators Journal, 69(5), 55-57.