I think I threw the baby out with the bathwater today. I took a picture of my document camera and added it to Instagram. My caption was something like:

I’m going old-school today, and using a document camera.

See, I have an Apple TV in my classroom and I love being able to use AirPlay wirelessly. It feels like I’m teaching in the future when I type on my laptop (a laptop just sitting there, without any cables or adaptors), and it appears on my classroom TV. I can just as easily share whatever is on my phone; one swipe and I can walk throughout my classroom while my students see what’s on my phone.

So when I need to sit in the corner of a dark room to write on a piece of paper (aka using a document camera), it feels antiquated. When I shared that picture and thought that thought, I got carried away. I was obsessed with the new and shiny toy. Fortunately, I have some good friends that set me straight. Some were surprised that I considered a document camera old-school, and others thought that documents cameras were new and shiny toys. Either way, I need to remember that.

Any technology–high tech or low tech–can be a tool in the classroom. Heck, at some point a pencil was high tech. It’s no longer fancy, but I still use them in my class. I need to keep that in mind as tools get newer and shinier.

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  • Mr. Theriault

    My students still make old-fashioned Found Poems on paper and then we shoot these up on the display screen. It’s also a great way to grab student writing and share it with the class. No need to run to the copier, throw that poem straight from the book up on the screen. Lastly my doc camera light was used as the side “fill” light for my GTA application video- you can see it if you look closely. It worked perfectly.

  • Love the idea of using a doc camera light for video!

    As soon as I wrote the draft to this post, I started using my document camera more. I just gave it a bad wrap.

  • I’m going to speak up in defense of Bill’s original instinct. I’ll be the first to tell people that the document cam and the projector are huge steps in integrating technology into the one-computer classroom, for all the reasons that Bill and other commenters have listed, however that doesn’t mean it’s not “old school.”

    In the age of mobile devices such as tablets, phones and iPods, and being able to display wirelessly to your Apple TV, Chromecast, or Laptop via AirServer or the Reflector App, any tech that requires you to be tethered (wired in) and bound to a particular location in the classroom could be argued to be outdated. We all know that we are more effective as teachers when we are moving among our students, which is why so many teachers have come to the conclusion that interactive white boards are not such a good teaching tool. Traditional document cameras also require you to be at that one particular teaching location in order to make use of it.

    With mobile apps like Skitch, Educreations, and Belkin’s Stage and incredibly high resolution cameras on almost all the mobile devices available a teacher can gain all the same benefit of the traditional document camera, but with the added benefit of mobility, non-destructive annotation, archive, and the ability to create real-time review videos as you go. Edit and publish straight from the device as well. Have a moment to sit down, or need to hold the camera a little more steady? Belkin’s Stage device (can you tell I was pretty impressed by this product?) will hold your iPad at just the right height and even provide a power source while you project.

    I used the camera app on the iPad and Airplay to the Apple TV as a way to walk around the room and display student work from their screens in the computer lab, something that a doc cam wouldn’t be able to do at all.

    So when Bill’s feeling “old school” because he’s wired in and stuck to a specific location just to use his technology then I think he’s justified. And when your administrator or colleagues proposes they order any more $600 – $1000 document cameras politely giggle, and then remind them they could buy 2 ipads for the same price with the Stage platform for all the same functionality and much more.

    Document cameras are what Alton Brown would call a Uni-tasker, and not worth spending any more money on.

  • Ditto on using the light’s for video… very cool. I tried using the light on the old transparency projector the other day at a Key light, but all it did was blind me and throw a huge shadow up behind me. I can see that the doc cam lights would be much more appropriate for this. Thanks for sharing.

  • cmoor4

    The document camera can be the technology gateway drug. Lots of folks who were resistant to tech became a bit more tech friendly once they got their first document camera.

    My newest toy is a doc camera (sort of).


  • Dustin Ellis

    I totally agree with you, especially when I see a Doc cam connected to the projector, and nothing else. In this case I think, “why did we replace the overhead?” and sadly, this is what I see most frequently in my district.
    If I was to see the doc cam, the computer and the AppleTV all connected then I would have a very different feeling. Everyone feels at home with different modalities, and many take so much time to switch to what I would consider normal. I am with you, I use an ATV and whatever device I like, I even found AirParrot so that my PC brethren can play too!
    Some still need it, like art teachers, ceramics teachers, woodshop teachers, in fact lots of teachers that teach manual skills, but for most of us, we just need good evangelists! So lets all continue to preach the good (tech teaching best practices) word!

  • Tim and Chris, I think you’re both right. A document camera isn’t overwhelming to tech-phobic teachers. It looks and behaves like an overhead projector. At some point (hopefully), teachers new to this tech begin to get frustrated with the limitations that Tim mentioned. It’s frustrating for me to see so much money poured into a single device that had a single use, but it can be a good baby step.

    After reading through the thread, I’m going to switch things up. I’ll leave my laptop connected to the projector, and use Reflector to mirror my iOS devices. I can then use Skitch or Educreations to annotate.