“It just makes it a lot quicker,” says Paula Giran, a Gifted Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teacher of 5th and 6th graders at Hillcrest Intermediate School in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. “I don’t have to go running around the room to check every kid’s microscope to make sure that what they’re looking at is what I want them to be looking at.”
Giran’s search for a document camera all started when she got tired with the hassle of making transparencies for an overhead projector. She purchased a document camera solely for her classroom, but that camera and the next were just glorified overhead machines. Only when she was selected to receive her Epson DC-20 document camera as one of the four winners of the “Epson Document Camera in the Classroom Contest,” did it become a vital teaching tool.
“It makes it a lot more interactive for the students,” Giran notes. “In the past, kids would be focused in on something and I had no idea that they were actually looking at their eyelash because it’s on the eye piece. So now, when I project a cheek cell from my microscope onto the board, they know exactly what they should be looking at with their own microscopes.”
Not only does the document camera keep the whole class on track, but the students know how to hook it up and use it themselves. She has six groups of students throughout the day, and they do a lot of their projects between classes. “One class will film an ongoing project with the document camera and then when the next group comes in, they’ll pick up where they left off,” Giran says.
The camera easily displays a variety of things to share with the whole class: microscopes, Skype, a student’s desk, even Madagascar hissing cockroaches. “Rather than have an entire class crowded around a desk while we’re showing how things work, we have a student come up and do it while it’s being projected live on the board.”
Her students’ favorite lesson so far using the new document camera was the “Ship-A-Chip” project. Groups of the kids were given one Pringles potato chip, along with a limited budget and materials, and were tasked with creating a package that would allow it to survive a journey through the mail. They shipped each packaged chip to local Norwin High School, where, using Skype via the document camera, 9th graders talked over the success of the younger students’ packaging, and gave reasons why some things worked better than others. “The kids cheered whenever a package was opened to reveal a whole chip, or if a chip was just chipped a little bit—no pun intended,” Giran explained. “That definitely wouldn’t have been possible without the document camera. The high school students may have taken pictures and the teacher could have emailed them to the kids, but with the camera, the project came to life.”