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Pocket document cameras improve remote teaching and learning

Early this semester faculty member Kelly Davis sent me a message about 3D-printed document cameras and asked who might be able to provide these for her, other instructors, and mathematics students. Eager to take on this challenge, I connected with IgnitED Lab staff members to start planning how our labs could create these for the mathematics program.

Document cameras (doc cams) are cameras that display video of whatever is in view of the cam. These attach to a laptop screen, and, with free supplemental software, reflect the surface below the webcam. When learning mathematics, this is significant because students can show their written work or their use of manipulatives using the cams. Instructors are able to make remote teaching more engaging and effective by displaying and modeling their thought processes and work live during instruction. An Instructor is better able to understand how the student is learning and provide targeted guidance when able to see the students’ written problem-solving. Doc cams are well over $100, but a pocket doc cam made of a 2”x2” mirror and 3D-printed materials costs about $5 to produce. 

The IgnitED Labs has 3D printers as part of our emerging technology experience options in our three lab locations. I asked our educational technology champions (ETCs) to test some prototypes for different laptops and start production. Pinak Padman, an ETC at Tempe, discovered a flexible design that would fit multiple laptop screens, so they progressed with manufacturing that design.

An image of the keyboard of the laptop from a document camera

Our rollout followed soon after. Faculty members were the first to pick up their doc cams. We then scheduled times for students to pick up cams from the IgnitED Lab Tempe location. The ETCs developed an instructional guide for setup and use. For those students who could not make it to campus, Ashley Goernitz, Lead ETC at Tempe, developed two videos to guide students in making their own doc cams with easy-to-access household items like a toilet paper inner roll and a compact mirror. Jeffrey Derrick, another ETC from Tempe, also worked to print and distribute the cams.

Kelly Davis and Photini Spanias collaborated to create this video that features their use and students’ use. IgnitED Labs is proud to have contributed to this, which is just one story of resilient and creative collaboration from our college community.