Teaching with Tech
Take Another Shot at Your Document Camera
Maria Andersen, December 2010
In many classrooms, the document camera has replaced the overhead projector. Indeed, a document camera can be used for just about everything that we once used an overhead projector for. But a document camera has many more uses than an overhead projector, and I explore 10 of those capabilities here.
First, some mechanics. A document camera typically has four light settings that you can toggle to: (1) light that illuminates the platform from above, (2) light that illuminates the platform from below, (3) a combination of both lighting options, and (4) no lighting. To use a document camera as a traditional overhead projector, you simply toggle to the light underneath the document platform. The camera also has a set of “zoom” buttons that allow you to focus closely on a part of the display (on my document camera, these buttons are labeled TELE and WIDE).The document camera should auto-adjust the focus for you, but be aware that a button toggles this on and off (in case you accidentally turn it off). Finally, a button allows you to rotate the projected image by increments of 90 degrees.
So, what can you do with a document camera?
Project activities or worksheets.
Make an extra copy of any activities or worksheets that you will cover in class so you can give hints or go over selected parts using the document camera. Two tips: Keep highlighters handy to emphasize key points, and make enough copies so that you can use a fresh copy of the activity or worksheet in each class period. I’d also recommend that you either tell students to bring highlighters to class or pass around a mug full of highlighters for students to borrow.
Project a problem right from the textbook.
When a student asks about a homework problem from the textbook, or when you want to have your students practice with one more problem, place the textbook directly on the document camera. It helps to use one of those black binder clips to hold the book open to the right page. Covering up the page below the problem with a blank piece of paper helps focus attention on the specific problem. If a textbook will lie on the document platform only upside down, use the “rotate” button to change the document camera display to make the projection right side up.
Avoid drawing another graphing grid or unit circle.
If your classroom has whiteboards, you can project directly to the whiteboard instead of a white screen. Download a blank graph (Google “unit circle” or “graphing grid” if you don’t have one) and project it directly to the board. Now you can sketch graphs on the axes projected there. An alternative (if you don’t have whiteboards) is to use a permanent marker to create a durable set of axes on a small whiteboard (don’t leave the permanent marker in your classroom or you will be the victim of an unfortunate accident). Set the whiteboard on the document camera, and use regular whiteboard markers to draw the graphs. Erase the graphs between examples (the axes and grid, drawn with the permanent marker, should still be there). Note: Displaying a whiteboard on a document camera does cause some glare on the screen.
Record a Lecture.
During a lecture, combine a document camera with a digital pen that records audio (giving a complete recording of the lecture). Sam Bazzi, from Henry Ford Community College, uses a Livescribe pen and notebook to give lectures (displaying these to the class via a document camera). After class, he uploads the notes from the digital pen to the Internet. A student can go back through the problems, hearing Sam’s explanation as he or she watches the writing appear.
Project your phone.
If your classroom doesn’t have a computer (or laptop hookup), you can still show websites and use programs such as WolframAlpha in the classroom by pulling them up on a smart phone and setting it on the document camera. Even if you don’t have a smart phone, ask a student to lend you one for a few minutes
Project a calculator – or several calculators at once.
You can stop carrying those calculator viewscreens around. If stuDents use a mix of calculators, you can project several calculators at once to explain the steps on multiple calculators. Just set them on the document platform. Remember that you can zoom in on the calculator screens.
Project manipulatives to help explain concepts.
Use a small whiteboard behind your manipulatives so that you can make notes in the same space as the manipulatives. You can also record these activities by using a small video camera (see the photo at the bottom of page 28). For example, I use an elastic hairband to affi x a Flip video camera to one of the document camera lights. Th is records everything I say and do on the document platform.
Project clicker questions.
If you’re not crazy about spending lots of money on clickers (or don’t like PowerPoint), but like the idea of using clicker questions, try this little low-tech hack. Handwrite or type each question then put the slips of paper on the document camera one at a time. For the easiest nontechnology clicker questions, pass out two index cards to every student. On one index card, write TRUE on one side and FALSE on the other. On the other index card, write A and B on one side (on opposite ends of the card) and C and D on the other side (also on different ends). When it’s time for students to decide, have them hold up their cards with the answer upright and pointing toward you.
Project objects that you'd otherwise have to pass around.
For example, we use wooden 3-D volumes in Calculus II when we talk about finding volumes by slicing. Although the document camera displays only a 2-D image, it is helpful to students if you hold the object under the projection lights and rotate it slowly under the camera. This allows them to see all the angles of the object.
Project the work of your students.
You’ve told the students to try a problem on their own and now you want to discuss it. Place the students’ work on the document camera to discuss what they did well and what they missed (you could let the class do this critique). To be fair, select the student work randomly and give the class fair warning that this is going to happen.
Using the document camera only to do what an overhead projector did is like using a calculator only to add and subtract. Take advantage of this tool’s capabilities for versatility in the classroom.
This column appeared in the December 2010 / January 2011 issue of MAA FOCUS.
Maria H. Andersen is a Learning Futurist for The LIFT Institute and a Math Professor at Muskegon Community College. She is also president of Edge of Learning LLC (formerly Andersen Algebra Consulting LLC), an educational consulting business. Follow her on Twitter @busynessgirl or visit her official website.