The Tower Handbook

6.6: Teaching aids

a: What is a simulator?

A simulator is a machine (usually containing a computer, but not necessarily so) that is capable of generating the sounds of ringing (rounds and methods). For use in the tower it must be connected to a sensor on a tied bell (or a dumb bell) that triggers one of the bell sounds while the others ring regularly at a predetermined speed. Some simulators can accept two inputs from handbells. Some have enough inputs for sensors on a full set of bells.

b: What are simulators used for?

Simulators are used for different things by different people at different stages. Ringing with a simulator:

c: How can I get a simulator?

Consult The Ringing World Diary for details of suppliers or The Ringing World for advertisements, or ask round your association for advice from someone who has one..

d: What is a dummy tail end?

It is a length of rope about 2 feet (600mm) long, folded double and tucked like a tail end. The cut off ends are usually bound together to stop them flapping. Some teachers use one to help bridge the gap between ringing a single stroke and ringing the handstroke while holding the (real) tail end.

e: What are handcuffs?

It (not they) is a loop of rope about 2 feet (600mm) circumference. If you put both hands through it and give it a full twist, it holds your hands loosely together. Ringing with handcuffs (as an exercise) prevents the arms swinging apart to catch the sally. You should be able to ring smoothly using handcuffs, but always supervise anyone for whom the exercise is necessary.

f: Our tower has a full length mirror, what was it used for?

A full length mirror is the traditional way to try to get ringers with handling problems to see what they are doing. The mirror shows them a view as others see them, whereas they may not be aware of what their hands and so on are actually doing. The idea is that if they can see what is wrong, that is the first major step towards starting to solve the problem.

g: Does the mirror work?

Sometimes. It can be difficult to fix at the right angle unless someone holds it. There are two main drawbacks. It is hard to show much other than the front view, whereas many handling problems are best observed from the side (eg throwing the rope forward). Also, it takes some concentration to look at the image in the mirror while one's hands, arms and brains are busy trying to ring. Both these problems can be overcome with a video camera (see below).

h: What would we do with a tape recorder?

Listen to ringing! It can be your own ringing or someone else's. While you are ringing, you (should) all listen to your striking, but once each blow has passed you tend to forget about it. You have to, to concentrate on what comes next. But it is useful to listen to your own ringing from time to time without this pressure to move on, so you can appreciate how good (or less good) it really is. It is much easier to be objective when you are not on the end of a bell rope thinking about your next blow. So record your ringing from time to time, and listen to it as a band. If you don't think it is good enough, try to decide the cause. If it is good enough then enjoy it.

If you want a quality recording, things get a bit more complicated. Most portable tape recorders have cheap microphones. Location can be a problem too. Outside you get cars, mowers and aeroplanes. In the ringing room you get rope noise (and people talking). The stairs or clock room are worth trying but can be reverberant. Try the roof, unless you have aircraft passing overhead.

As well as your own ringing, listen to other people's. There are several recordings of good ringing available. You can also listen to training tapes prepared to help you improve your listening skills, eg Listen to Ringing and Listen to Ringing Live.

i: What would we do with a video camera?

When you are ringing you can't see all that you are doing. You are not in the best position to see, and your mind is full of ringing at the time. If like many people, you develop any small (or large) quirks, or problems in how you ring, other people can see what you are doing, but you can't. If they tell you, you may find it hard to believe them. But ringing in front of a video camera and then viewing the recording lets you see what you do, with your own eyes. What you see you believe and are more likely to understand. That makes it a lot easier to go about improving. Also it is fun whether you are experienced or a beginner. None of us is perfect.

j: Do we need a model bell?

Having one is incredibly useful for learners and non-ringing visitors – but don't forget that there are several real ones not far away! If you do not already have one, a two-dimensional version (eg Sherbourne Teaching Aids) is much cheaper and can be as effective for many things.

k: What is a method maker?

It is an alternative to squared paper and coloured pens. It is a long board with a grid of pins (6 pins in each row for the six bell version and 8 in a row for the 8 bell version). A length of coloured thread is fastened to each pin in the first row, so each thread represents a bell. To make a method run each thread to trace out the blue lines of all the bells. Most people do one bell at a time from memory, with the check being whether at the end they have any pins with no threads or any with more than one passing by them. Alternatively, you can thread a row at a time using the place notation (see section 13.10q) and then check whether the blue lines are correct at the end.

l: Do we need a writing board?

Yes. You can manage without by using bits of paper whenever you want to explain things about blue lines, methods, calls and so on. But it is more fiddly, it is harder for more than one person to see at once. People are more likely to glance at things later in the practice if they are written on the board.

m: Is a white board better than a black board?

Black and white boards each have their strengths and weaknesses. Using black boards can create a lot of dust, but the chalk will not run dry while you are writing like marker pens always seem to. Chalk is cheaper too. If you have a white board you will need to replace the pens more often than chalk. Dry wipe boards are much easier than wet wipe ones, but they seem to vary in the ease with which things can actually be wiped off.

Whether you use black or white, get a fairly big one. Even a 3 x 4 foot board will keep getting filled up with things that are worth 'leaving on' in an active tower. And make sure you have several different coloured chalks or pens (so you can draw the line of different bells in different colours to show how they work together, for example).

n: Is rectangular marked paper better than squared paper?

Paper with squares of about a quarter inch (6mm) is easy to obtain and suitable for initial instruction, writing or drawing out methods. In later stages, where people are just using the squares as a guide to draw out blue lines, smaller squares will help them fit more on the page. Many people find a blue line easier to read if the distance between successive rows is about half that between adjacent places, as if the 'squares' were rectangular. You can do this with squared paper by imagining there are extra dots half way up the side of each square, or with very small squares, treating two adjacent squares as one. See section 15, figures 15.1-2 and 15.1-3 for examples of both styles.

o: What books should we keep in the tower

You can probably divide ringing books into:

This last group includes books that would normally be studied outside the tower, say by someone planning a quarter peal or a course of instruction, but they could also be interesting for others to dip into while in the tower.

You should also have topical items like The Ringing World, Guild or Branch newsletters, Parish magazines and so on, but these are probably best kept separate from more permanent books. They could be on the table with the visitor's book, ringing times record book, etc.

This Handbook covers all the categories listed above, so of course it should be in your tower. But then it must be or you wouldn't be reading it!

p: Are some books too valuable to keep in the tower?

Some towers contain historic books and periodicals like Bell News, early copies of Snowdon's RopeSight, or even Troyte's Change Ringing. These are valuable, and the tower may not be the best environment for preserving them. Many towers are too damp for preserving books.

Other books of value to the historian, if not monetary value, include things like old minute books and photographs. These would be better kept safely somewhere else and brought out for people to see on special occasions. Talk to your parish (or diocesan) archivist.


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