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Photo of a student speaking into a hand-held microphone and pointing to a chart. A teacher is recording the student, and the image is displayed on two television screens.
Photo courtesy of U of T Archives
Our History

Your Education Will Be Televised

A U of T library student delivers a high-tech talk

In the late 1960s, closed-circuit television offered faculty members at the U of T Library School (now the Faculty of Information) a novel way to support their teaching. This photo illustrates two ways faculty used the technology: to train students to operate the equipment and to record presentations – allowing students to see themselves on screen and improve their delivery. Profs also recorded their own lectures for viewing.

The reel-to-reel video recorder pictured here used one-inch reusable magnetic tapes to capture up to an hour of footage. “It was the latest and best video technology for industrial and educational use in 1968,” says Keith Thomas, a former lecturer in the faculty. It was also considered relatively sleek. The owner’s manual for the product – the Ampex VR-7000 – noted that it was “portable” at 100 pounds.

In January 1969, the Media Centre opened in the old Library School building at 256 McCaul St. under the direction of Prof. Donald J. Forgie. “Don was a great proponent of TV as an educational technology,” says Thomas. When the new Library School at 140 St. George St. opened in 1971, Forgie was instrumental in creating a professional quality recording and editing suite with cable distribution to classroom TVs.

In the 1980s, Thomas collaborated with Forgie on adapting a crossover technology called Telidon, which combined features of television, phones and computers. “It seemed to have some promise for distance education,” says Thomas, “but of course the Internet blew it all away.” The Ampex VR-7000 now resides in Media Commons – a testament to technology’s longstanding and essential role in library science.

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