Last August, my building colleagues returned to their classrooms to find each outfitted with a new Elmo document camera connected to a ceiling-mounted data projector. Elmo cameras, like the TT-02RX models used in my school, have deservedly become such classroom staples that many teachers refer to all document cameras generically as “Elmos.” The TT-02RX, a fairly typical Elmo model, sells for around $700.
A decent document camera can certainly do some impressive and useful stuff, from facilitating split-screen “before and after” demonstrations to capturing still images and recording video. Users can also create time-lapse sequences and stop-motion animations, and to project microscopy. I was curious, though, about how many teachers actually used their document camera’s more advanced features, so I recently polled our staff. Everyone who responded reported that they used their document camera in pretty much the same way they once used their overhead projector—for live presentation of primarily two-dimensional material. In other words, they now do basically the same stuff on opaque paper with their document cameras that they once did using acetate transparencies on their overhead projectors. For most it stopped there. Less than half of the teachers who responded had ever used their document camera for anything beyond that. Thirty-seven percent had used them to capture still images, 14 percent had used them with a microscope, and only five percent had used the split-screen function.
So clearly, not every educator actually needs an expensive, feature-packed document camera. Those willing to settle for the basics can now do it on the cheap with the IPEVO Point 2 View USB document camera.
The Point 2 View (Model # CDVU-03IP) is basically what I call a “webcam-on-a-stick”-style document camera. Very similar to the Califone Diggiditto I checked out back in October 2009, the Point 2 View also has no display output for direct connection to a projector. So to use it in the classroom, you have to connect it via USB to a projector-connected PC or Mac running the provided Point 2 View software. If you can get past that, read on, ’cause it’s about to get better. Unlike the $675 Diggiditto, the IPEVO Point 2 View isn’t wildly overpriced. In fact, it’s just $69. What do you get for 69 bucks? You get a two-megapixel camera with a continuous/single-click autofocus selector switch and a physical image capture button on a weighted, multi-jointed articulating arm that’s very adjustable and particularly handy for getting close-ups in macro mode.
There’s also a monitor clip so you can use the camerahead as a webcam, though it’s worth noting that the unit lacks a built-in mic. The software is clean and simple. It lets you select from six levels of resolution ranging from QVGA (320 x 240) to UXGA (1600 x 1200) and six levels of digital zoom up to 3x. There’s a mirror function for flipping around the image orientation, a full set of standard image quality controls, and a capture menu for saving stills. There’s no split screen function nor is there video capture, though video recording is possible through various third-party apps. I used Picasa, for instance, to record some test clips which compared well to the Point 2 View’s live images.
For those who want an entry-level document camera, cost is no longer a barrier. Consider the ultra-cheap, but very serviceable IPEVO Point 2 View.