New Life for Document Cameras

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Document cameras are a critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of classroom technology. Used as a replacement for overhead projectors, these simple cameras connect to most computers through a USB port and allow teachers to project hardcopy documents and objects onto a digital display.

Though major brands (such as Elmo, Ladibug, and Hovercam) are often used as shorthand for the name of the device, there are many cheaper alternatives in the document camera market. In the past, these cheaper options usually lived up to the saying “you get what you pay for”– they simply weren’t very good! Lower-cost cameras were generally plagued by unwieldy camera arms, poor resolution, slow frame rates.

Thankfully, this has started to change! In particular, a recent offering from iPevo, the ZiggiHD, comes with a build quality and features high above its $99 price tag. The device itself is small– folding up to roughly the area of a cell phone –and it supports a sturdy and flexible arm. The camera is amazing, sporting full HD resolutions with a wide range of quality options for various exposures and other details. It even allows free 360-degree rotations of the image, so no more worries about lining up your documents just right!

Perhaps what impresses me most with the ZiggiHD is that it has a built-in microphone, which is something I never thought to include in a document camera– but this is a feature that changes the game entirely. The bundled software offers a recording option, meaning you can record a video of your lesson for a quick uploading to YouTube. The camera swivels upwards, so your could even record the rest of your classroom and the student response and interaction! In a pinch, a camera like this could even substitute as a webcam for remote and distance learning.

While I have been praising the ZiggiHD, I also like some of the more recent offerings from Hovercam as well. Next time I might try and do a comparison of their features– though if nothing else, the $99 price tag of iPevo’s camera is hard to beat.


Interactive Whiteboards — No Board Needed?

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

A while back I had brought up the many interactive whiteboard alternatives to the traditional SMART Board setup. However, even just in the span of a few months, the landscape is already changing when it comes to this in-demand technology!

For one, most of those “interactive projector” options seems to be doing away with the “projector” aspect entirely when it comes to their product! Several of the products I have recommended before– namely Epson and InFocus interactive projectors –are now discontinued. At first I was distressed, as I thought there products were great. What reason could these big companies have for getting rid of a product people need? Well, it turns out that other emerging companies are creating their devices without the projector bundled in. This means they’re getting cheaper. A lot cheaper.

Companies like Mimio seem to be seeing continued success with their projector-less devices, along with new offerings like Ipevo. These devices still use a projector to make an interactive display, but the benefit is that they can connect to just about any digital projector. Old projectors, cheap projectors, it doesn’t matter– you can turn them into an interactive display.

This is especially tempting with the Ipevo IW2 device, considering it’s a jaw-dropping $169.00. $170 dollars to create an interactive display in your classroom! That’s a far cry from the thousands it used to take for an old interactive whiteboard installation.

I’ll be getting some of these devices within the next couple weeks, so soon I’ll post my thoughts and hopefully some demonstration videos!

SMART Boards — Be Smart with Your Budget!

Friday, October 16th, 2015

The SMART board—the classroom fixture that has cemented itself as a long-sought pinnacle of educational technology. Instructional value aside, these devices have often been viewed as a status symbol simply due to price alone. Teachers dream of incorporating the boards into their lessons; programs dread incorporating them into their budgets. Thankfully, new innovations in classroom technology have made SMART board-style technology more affordable than ever!

In fact, “SMART board” is probably not the best term to use, as it refers to a specific brand that is no longer the only game in town. From here on out, I’ll be referring to these devices as “interactive whiteboards.” For those unfamiliar with these boards in the first place, an interactive whiteboard is a device that projects an image—typically a shared screen from a PC or tablet –and allows users to interact with the projected screen through touch alone. Since this concept is hardly proprietary, several new options have surfaced within recent years, many of which are rather affordable!

Without delay, here’s a budget-conscious guide to some interactive whiteboard alternatives:


Promethean boards – Hardly a new name to many school districts, Promethean boards are a direct competitor to SMART boards, offering a very similar design and functionality. Solidly built, these devices can often be cheaper (sometimes in the range of thousands) to their SMART counterparts. They also come with strong software support, as Promethean Planet has similar offerings to SMART Exchange when it comes to finding pre-made lesson plans for your new board.

Sample Model — Promethean Board


Interactive projectors – These are all-in-one devices that consist of a single projector. Any surface you shine the image on—a wall, whiteboard, anything –becomes an interactive surface! The only real downside is that instead of being able to touch the display directly, you have to use a special ‘pen’ or ‘wand’ to interact with the screen. The mobility can’t be beat, however, as these short-throw projectors can be placed on a small cart and wheeled between multiple classrooms. Several companies offer these devices, such as Epson and InFocus, and the prices barely scrape above the $1000 mark from most distributors.

Sample Model — Epson

Sample Model — InFocus


Mimio – A Mimio “interactive whiteboard” goes a step further, taking out both the whiteboard and the projector out of the equation! These devices function similarly to interactive projectors, but do not come with a projector themselves. Instead they are simply a small plastic bar you attach to your existing white board, and you use your own digital projector. This is another great mobile option for sharing between classrooms, and the lack of extra equipment often keeps its price just under $1000.

Sample Model — Mimio


Those are some of the main alternatives, and most check in for a fraction of the cost of a SMART board! There are no specific prices listed as costs will vary between districts and distributors. Likewise, I am also not knocking SMART products—they’re pricey for a reason, and they are excellent tools if your school chooses to go the traditional route.

Of course, obtaining a board is just the beginning. Soon we’ll dive into actually making lessons that let students take full advantage of the technology!

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