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Latest on the blog

Using a Document Camera to Teach Math Virtually

Being on the technology committee has its advantages. The head of Academic Technology gave me a new document camera to play with. It’s from a brand called IPEVO.⁠ You can see it in the photo above.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Overall Review

It is not as powerful as the old Elmo document camera that I have, but it’s much more affordable. High-quality Elmo document cameras can cost over $500. This IPEVO camera is less than $200. It’s very lightweight and easy to connect to a computer through the USB port. The software is free from the app store.⁠

How do the Students at Home See

I connected the doc cam to my personal tablet/PC (yep the PC that I paid for with my own money – that’s a story for another post) and opened the IPEVO software.

The PC is connected to the projector so that the students in the room can see what's on my computer screen.

I joined the Google Meet from my PC and shared the screen so that the students at home could see.

I also joined the Google Meet from my school-issued Macbook (not shown in the photo above) so that I could see the students at home. Using two devices is the best way I have found to be able to see what I am sharing with the students and see the students themselves.

I have also used a computer with an iPad. You can read about connecting an iPad to a MacBook here.

⁠⁠Advantages and Disadvantages

I used more paper with the document camera than I do when I teach by writing on my PC (read about my experience writing on my Lenovo tablet/PC here). 

Because I have more than one section of each course I teach, I had to print multiple copies of my notes so that I could annotate them fresh for each class. I build my lessons in PowerPoint (I am using my lessons from last year (aka pre-pandemic)). I printed a skeleton version of the lesson; it had the definitions, theorems, examples, etc, but it did not have the worked solutions to the examples. During class, I would fill in the blank or work through the problem as needed. The students had a similar skeleton version of the notes. 

I didn't love having to keep up with the extra paper, but I had fewer issues with technology. My tablet/PC gets a lot of use when I write on it with the stylus and it feels like at least once a day my PC will freeze inexplicably; rebooting the PC wastes time and frustrates me.

What I mostly loved about using the document camera is that it's easy to bring the calculator onscreen so that I could go through some calculator steps.⁠ Also, if a student asked a question about the homework or a question for which I was not prepared, I could grab a piece of scratch paper and do a bit of work.

IPEVO vs. Elmo

Two main features that I miss from the IPEVO document camera that the Elmo has is the light and the zoom knob. Obviously to zoom the image with the IPEVO I have to adjust the distance from the camera to the paper. You will notice in the photo above that I keep the computer in front of me so I can ensure that the students see what I want them to see.

There is no way to adjust the light on the IPEVO, but there is a button on the top for exposure. I can increase the exposure and it lightens the image.

The Elmo that I have in my classroom is over 10 years old and the only software that it works with is very outdated (if I were to buy a new one, I would go for this model). Eventually, once the operating system on the computers gets updated, then the software will no longer work and I will have no way to share the image from the Elmo document camera with my computer.

My 2007 Elmo document camera connected to my Macbook


I will continue to use the document camera as long as they let me. If we have to go full virtual in the future, I will take the document camera home with me so that I can use it while teaching remotely.

Do you have a document camera that you like?⁠ Let's continue the conversation. Join me in my Facebook group.

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