A couple months ago, I was thinking about how I could get my hands on a document camera. For those of you who may not know, a document camera connects to a projector. Whatever the camera is pointed at can be projected up on a screen. This piece of technology can be very handy in the classroom to project books for the kids to read together, or to demonstrate a science project, show a child’s math work, share a child’s piece of writing, artwork, etc. Document cameras project color unlike overhead projectors and there is no need to make transparencies as the camera just picks up the object’s image to display. Most document cameras cost between three hundred and five hundred dollars (they have more of an appearance of an overhead projector in size and shape) and then you have to buy a projector to display the image. That can cost you well over a thousand dollars for both pieces of equipment.
I decided I could make a document camera out of a cheap webcam and some type of arm that is easy to manipulate like an easy to position desk lamp. I started looking online for parts. While I was cruising the net, I stumbled upon a company called IPEVO. This company marketed a document camera for about seventy dollars. I couldn’t believe my eyes. No, it was not pretty or large or fancy with lots of buttons and switches but the company maintained it would project objects and papers. I read the reviews. For the most part, they were positive. The company had a money back guarantee so I ordered one.
When my projector arrived, I set it up displaying a variety of images across my dining room wall. I projected money, kitchen objects, paper clips, plant leaves, and children’s books. I played with the arm, the exposure, and the zoom. I elevated the camera by putting a box under it so I could project even larger objects. With the click of a button on the camera, I could focus or I could set the camera up on autofocus. Another button allowed me to take a photo of the object being displayed. The photo was stored on my computer for future use. This handy little document camera draws power from my computer through a USB connection. There is no need to plug it in.
The only thing left to do was try it out with my classroom kids. Once we got through having to put everyone’s face up on the big screen, we got down to business. Students shared patterns, tens and ones work, books and pieces of writing. Since that first day, we have used the document camera each day for a variety of purposes.
I love technology and its many uses within our classroom but I don’t like the high cost. It was great to run across something that is so useful for such a reasonable price.