Improving learning in the classroom or online with a Wi-Fi document camera

College students sitting in rows looking at a professor lecture

Ever walked into your class and felt overwhelmed by the weight of having to cover so much material in so little time? I have felt that immense pressure throughout my career. But I have recently implemented a tool that has helped tremendously with my class efficiency – a Wi-Fi document camera.

My journey began when I purchased a small, portable Wi-Fi document camera to display primary source materials in presentations. During one of those presentations, it occurred to me that this inexpensive, fairly simple device might replace the marker board or overhead projector in my classes. At least I wouldn’t have to go home covered in vis-à-vis or dry-erase ink. Little did I realize the impact it would have – not only in improving class efficiency, but also in improved student understanding!

I began to write everything in class in a notebook under camera. I quickly realized an unexpected perk. Like my students, I now had a journal of exactly what happened in each class. If needed, I could easily return to anything from any prior class! As I began to play further, inspiration followed.

One fun revelation has been that I no longer spend as much time going over homework. Rather than working through entire solutions, I now show answers from the book for even-numbered exercises, or solutions I have worked prior to class. We can then focus on addressing whatever issues students were unable to resolve themselves.

But where the fun really begins is that this Wi-Fi camera comes with a whiteboard app for the iPad that allows you to write on live images. I no longer have to transfer diagrams, graphs, or tables from notes or book to board or, in this case, paper. I can interact with the figures as printed by placing the book or document under the camera and writing on the live image using a stylus on the iPad.

For example, I have used this functionality to teach Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean theorem. I place a hard copy of Euclid’s figure under the camera and then draw over the figure on the iPad using different colors to build each stage of the proof. Another fun use of this functionality is with teaching function transformations. Rather than graph the base function, such as y = x2 and then a shifted version, such as y = (x – 3)2 + 2, I place graph paper under the camera, draw the curve of the base function y = x2 on the iPad and then shift the base function’s curve by moving the graph paper. This allows me to quickly and easily show multiple examples without having to redraw each example – saving time and allowing for more examples!

Students can interact in the same way and genuinely seem to enjoy the novelty of it. Since the camera is Wi-Fi and battery powered, I can take it to their seats and let them show solutions from their seat. Or, take them the iPad and let them write or draw on something under the camera.

Another fun use is that I, or students, can manipulate objects under the camera, so that everyone can see the manipulation up-close. For example, I can easily show calculator keystrokes as well as the screen results. Or, show screens from student calculators.

The icing on the cake is that the camera can record, capturing audio as well as anything written on the iPad. It also comes with an app for editing that allows you to add a second camera to do split screen if you wish. This is extremely handy for answering questions outside of class or for Internet courses.

The ability to draw or write on any text media, photo, or object live in a completely flexible way has been a game-changer for me. I get through more material in less time and my students grasp ideas faster and in greater depth than I have experienced in the past. If you are looking for an inexpensive, fairly simple and intuitive way to make your class a little more efficient, consider a Wi-Fi document camera. They are a lot of fun!


Professor Carson will be speaking at ICTCM 2017. Register today and join your colleagues either in Chicago or virtually to discuss many mathematics topics.


About the Author
Thomas Carson

Thomas Carson

Tom Carson earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching Mathematics and a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina. He has taught collegiately at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina as well as at Columbia State Community College in Franklin, Tennessee. While at Midlands Technical College, he served as coordinator of developmental mathematics and on the board of the South Carolina Association of Developmental Educators. He was also honored with a NISOD Excellence in Teaching award and a Who’s Who Among American Teachers award. He has authored textbooks such as Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra all published by Pearson.