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What can I do with a document camera?

January 13, 2011

Who remembers the opaque projector? After you inserted a book or magazine you could project the image onto a screen – as long as the room was dark enough. I remember Mrs. McKenna using one in fourth grade. It was huge and heavy. The light inside was so hot that if you left something inside too long it began to smoke.

Today we have the document camera (a.k.a. visualizer). It is safer and much more versatile than the ancestral opaque projector, although the latter has matured and is still in use. A document camera is often connected to a projector or other type of display, but may also feed directly into a computer. After everything is hooked up and turned on, place an object below the camera (many cameras can also be pointed away from the stand). The device may include a light source that can be used as needed, and the camera should have zoom and focus controls.

We have an increasing number of document cameras at Notre Dame, similar to the Wolfvision model at right. Unfortunately, I am convinced that relatively few faculty have a good sense of what they can do with the devices. Presented here for your edification is an overview of many wonderful ways in which one might use this versatile technology.

General techniques

  • Show a flat document, like a magazine
  • Show a more substantial object, such as an archaeological artifact
  • Zoom in on fine print or a small object – product label, postage stamp, fossil, insect, leaf, etc.
  • Project a ruler or coin along with other objects to convey a sense of scale
  • Point the camera away from the stand to show a large object or capture students at work
  • Project a kitchen timer or watch to help with time management
  • Start from a blank page or graph paper, lined, music staff, etc.
  • Capture still pictures for later use
  • Send an image to a “guest” during a videoconference

Show students how to …

  • Draw or paint
  • Operate a camera
  • Dissect a fish
  • Read a scientific instrument
  • Use an iPhone app
  • Graph with a compass and protractor

Have students …

  • Work out a math problem
  • Annotate a text
  • Manipulate a room layout design using pieces of paper
  • Fill in country names on an outline map
  • Sign a song from sheet music
  • Act out a scene with clay figures, finger puppets, or tiny dolls

More objects you might project

  • Flat documents
    • Newspaper, or dictionary
    • Clipping – chart from USA Today or editorial cartoon
    • Photo – loose or in a coffee table book
    • Student work
  • Other objects
    • Circuit board, thermometer or calculator
    • Work of art
    • Prism or magnet
    • Toy or board game
    • Model rocket
    • Handheld game or DVD player

More ideas

[The opaque projector image comes from a 1955 issue of Educational Screen. I got it from Curtains, carts and the mobile screen]

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank Kemmer permalink
    January 6, 2013 9:47 pm

    If you get a proper document camera, you can also:

    1. Use it as a webcam
    2. Use it to record video, eliminating the need for a camcorder.
    3. Use it as a still image digital camera
    4. Use it as a “facecam” to focus on a student who is giving a presentation.

    I would recommend a doc camera such as the Elmo MO-1 for these features. It is small and compact with great clarity and a relatively inexpensive price:

  2. January 13, 2011 2:15 pm

    looks very big and useless camera…did anyone saw that before?wolfvision is more practicle thanks


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