Sunday, September 20, 2015

DIY Document Camera

I tweeted a picture about my DIY Document Camera this week for #teach180.  Here's a little more about it:

I use guided notes frequently with my students.  Prior to this year, our district's textbook was written all in German (even for first year) and even then offered very little in terms explanations of concepts.  It was basically like teaching without a textbook, so my students needed a lot of additional teacher-created material in order to have an opportunity for success.  It was a lot of work!

This year, we have a new MUCH better textbook.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped in the textbook adoption process!)  Our new textbook, Mosaik, is designed so that it can be used at either the high school or college level.  It is very well written and I like it a lot, but some of my students still need some support to go along with the book.  So, we do foldables and guided notes.

It works best for me to fill out the notes with the students as we talk about new topics so that they can see what they need to write down.  Which means I need students to be able to see what I'm writing.  

Back when I first taught math and physics from 1999-2001, I used an overhead projector for this.  When I returned to work in 2011, I started as a half-time English as a New Language aide in my children's elementary school.  (Which was a fantastic way for me to go back to work after being home full time for 10 years.  I learned SO much from those fantastic elementary teachers!)  The teachers there all had document cameras, and I immediately fell in love with them.  It was like an overhead projector but so much better.

When I started teaching high school German in 2013, I was dismayed to find that the high school teachers didn't have them.  I asked and asked for one, but apparently it was viewed as an elementary tool.  So, about mid-way through the year, I came up with a way to make my own.  At that time teachers had iPads, and we have AirServer in the buidling, which allows me to project whatever is on my iPad to my computer screen and thus onto the projector for students to see.  All I needed was some sort of stand to hold the iPad at the right height so that I could write.  After some trial and error, I found that two cabinet shelf thingies from Goodwill would do the trick nicely.  

I put this on an old wheeled overhead cart, and because it's cordless, I can move anywhere in the room.  There's normally no delay between when I write on my notes and when the students see it on the screen.  Once in a while AirServer gets cranky, and it freezes for a few seconds, but then it catches up.  Occasionally AirServer won't work at all and we have to go old school and use the chalkboard, but that's only about once or twice a month.  I can definitely live with that!

And, just recently, I've tried using my iPad in this way to record a video of our notes for students who are absent or need a review.  More on that in another post!

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