Monday, December 15, 2008

My Fingers Are Peachy Again!

One day in the teachers' lounge, I looked down at one of my colleagues hands, and noticed his fingers were colored purple, red, green, and blue. As I listened to him describe to another teacher his overhead transparency woes, I reflected how only a few months ago, my own fingers used to look exactly like his! Having access to the SMART document camera for the last few months has revolutionized the way I teach, not to mention that it's given me back my natural, fleshy coloration.

I used to have to run to the lounge to make a simple transparency. Now, any time I want to show students a handout, a drawing, student work, realia, or any other visual aid, I just fire up "Notebook 10," SMART's whiteboard software, flick on the document camera and take a snapshot of the image. Just this week, a student brought in his pet gecko as part of his visual aid for his oral news report. The little guy was a mere two inches long, but under the SMART document camera, he was as large as a poster. I then saved the image for later use. If I ever need a picture of a gecko again, it's right there.

By combining 5.2x optical and 8.0x digital zoom, the SMART Document Camera displays images that are sharp and vivid. You can also automatically focus your images and adjust the brightness for varying light levels. The document camera’s head and arm rotate, so you can easily view an object from different angles. The camera lens can also be aligned to the eyepiece of a microscope without requiring an optical adapter. The SMART Document Camera’s control panel is intuitive, with a simple interface that allows you to conveniently control all the camera’s functions. You can also control it directly from a menu in Notebook software 10. The LED lamp even allows you to use the camera in a darkened room. You can save images even if your document camera isn’t connected to a computer by using an SD Memory Card (not included).

The camera connects to any digital display device, such as a computer monitor, projection screen or television, using a VGA cable. You can also connect it to a SMART Board interactive whiteboard through a computer using a USB cable. The document camera weighs only 6.4 pounds (2.9 kg), so it’s easy to move around the room. You can also secure it in your room with a Kensington cable lock. The SMART Document Camera comes with a standard five-year warranty.

Pros: The SMART document camera works seamlessly with SMART's Notebook 10 Whiteboard software. Cut back on the amount of time you spend preparing lessons by creating digital content instantly during a class. You also don’t need to fuss with transparencies or markers for overhead projectors. There are numerous display options, including USB and VGA.

Cons: Occasionally, the one light used to illuminate objects beneath the camera can cause certain glossy images to produce a glare. The price tag is steep. The SMART 280 lists at $999, but can be found in the mid- $900's on the Internet. The price is even lower when purchased as part of a package deal from a local SMART dealer.

Overall impression: Prior to using the SMART document camera, many teachable moments had to be tabled because there was simply no way to show a tiny image to the entire class. Teachable moments were put on hold because making an overhead transparency was impossible until the next break. Now, with the click of a button, even students in the nosebleed section can see even the smallest details. And when the moment requires that a given image be displayed quickly, it can happen lightening fast! But perhaps the best part is: my fingers are peachy again!