Document cameras are shaking up education and becoming a next-gen accessory of choice for educators looking to share teaching material in fresh new ways. As the name implies, document cameras are ideal for capturing and sharing real-time video of documents, textbooks, handwritten notes, and similar. But can doc cams thrive in uses beyond the written word? To sum up the experience of these five users: absolutely.
(Not So Weird) Science and Blended Learning
Sally Webb, a language arts instructor at Mt. Mourne Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina, developed a fresh take on science material using the inexpensive IPEVO Point 2 View USB Document Camera. A language arts instructor incorporating science lessons? It’s not so strange in the 21st-century classroom. “I am implementing differentiated and integrated learning stations in my language arts classroom,” said Sally. “It’s a way to incorporate blended learning into my instruction and promote student growth.”
Sally purchased a custom microscope adapter for her Point 2 View camera, and the results were immediate. “ I was able to set up an integrated science and language arts station,” explained Sally. “Students can visit the center, read about cells, and then respond to creative writing prompts related to the different types of cell images projected on the computer screen. This is a direct integration with our science curriculum, and I am able to help support the science teachers as they cover this topic in their curriculum.”
As for whether the students are thrown for a loop by this blended learning approach, Sally contends her students have actually embraced it. “They love using the microscope, and the enlarged projection of the cells is fascinating for my students, resulting in their ability to generate some strong descriptive writing samples while reviewing important science concepts.”
Intercultural Exchange — Travel without the Travel
Arlene Tucker is an art teacher based in Finland. She is also the creator of the Dear You art exchange program, which organizes classroom-to-classroom artwork sharing and cultural exchanges between countries. “It all started through letters and the exchange of pieces of art,” said Arlene. “Eventually, the project developed so fast and with so many more schools involved that we needed to add online meetings.”
Like Sally, Arlene has found a way to put the Point 2 View USB Doc Cam to good use. Through Skype, Arlene was able to use the Point 2 View like a web cam to create invaluable “face time” for students in classrooms half a world away (such as Finland to Vietnam). And because the Point 2 View features a detachable camera, Arlene was able to easily re-orient the camera and “zoom in” for nice, close-up views of particular students or their works of art. Dear You can thus share not only flat drawings and paintings, but three-dimensional sculptures.
Overall, the simple but powerful notion of providing a digital window into another classroom has given Arlene a high degree of professional satisfaction. “The cultural exchange has opened the minds of my little students,” she said. “Through simple questions, they begin to understand things many children their age know nothing about, like time zones, different languages, and traditions for specific holidays around the world. My students may be small, but their minds are anything but!”
High-Tech Birdwatching and Field-Tripping
One nice thing about the new-gen lightweight doc cams is that they’re ready to hit the road. Fold them down and they can travel most everywhere teachers do. And in some cases, they can even go where teachers can’t — like, say, into the middle of a tree.
Vin Hsieh of the National Pingtung University of Education in Taipei, Taiwan developed a rather unique approach to birdwatching. He took the Point 2 View doc cam, plugged it into a Febon WiFi AP router (which takes a USB input and allows streaming over WiFi) and then attached a 6-meter aluminum pole. With this innovative contraption, Mr. Hsieh was able to take his students on a nature-themed fieldtrip, thrusting the doc cam into trees to capture a nest full of chicks among other natural wonders. The live view was then streamed for the benefit of his students.
Even for those who aren’t inclined to Mr. Hsieh’s “arts and crafts” approach, there are plenty of extra-curricular activities where a plain old doc cam will see plenty of use. From hiking trails to history museums, the ability for doc cams to both capture and stream material will be useful if not crucial.
Devices with Screens and Live User Testing
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most modern doc cams are also adept at capturing devices with screens such as smartphones and tablets. With more and more classes becoming “wired” (or wireless, as the case may be) with iPads and similar, it’s easy to think of examples where the doc cam might shine.
But let’s take a specific example. Brenden Mulligan, a co-founder and designer at Cluster, describes on the TechCrunch blog how he used the IPEVO Ziggi-HD High-Def USB Doc Cam to capture live user testing:
“We were testing a mobile app, so it was important to record the user actually using the app. Although you can do this by plugging the app in and watching a screencast on the computer, it’s much better to actually see them touching their phone. We purchased a $100 camera for this [the Ziggi-HD Doc Cam], and it’s well worth the investment.”
For testing, tutorials, or anything that could benefit from actually seeing the hands of the user, doc cams are a smart choice to capture devices with screens. And even if it’s just for pure presentation purposes, a doc cam is still poised to help out. If your classroom only has one or two iPads, it’s much nicer to project that iPad for the whole class rather than have everyone crowd around the actual device.
Mathematics — the Formula for Success
Math teacher Lindsay Coren at the St. Luke’s Science & Sports College in Exeter, UK, has enjoyed using his doc cam in an regular exercise he calls “Past Paper Live.” “The students attempt a question in a set time,” explained Lindsay, “followed by watching — through the use of the camera linked to the laptop/projector — the ‘perfect’ way of answering the question (modeled by myself + showing the exam mark scheme).”
The hands-on, real-time nature of doc cam capture cannot be overstated. Real-time video brings the sort of interactivity and dynamism that static presentations can’t muster. The step-by-step process of working out algebra equations or word problems really foregrounds this advantage, and Lindsay can certainly attest to the success of his live demonstrations. “It has proved much easier and quicker than trying to do certain topics on the whiteboard (e.g. constructions, using a protractor, etc.) and students love having their work shown on screen (when they bring their work to my desk).”
Document cameras may have first been designed to capture documents, but it’s clear they’re equally adept at capturing everything from human faces to birds in a tree to cells in a Petri dish. Perhaps they should call them the Everything Cameras. But on second thought, doc cam has a slighter nicer ring to it.