Friday, February 18, 2011

Document Cameras and Skype

In our district we have been working over the past few years to really ramp up the technology that is in the classrooms to benefit both our teachers and students. We have instituted a Classroom Solution specific to the grade levels with one design for the Elementary and one for the Middle/High Schools. Included in this solution we have chosen to provide document cameras as an additional input device for teachers and students to use.

Over the past couple of years I have blogged about the benefits of document cameras versus the traditional overhead projector. I have discussed its uses as a digital camera and camcorder as well as techniques to integrate it into classroom instruction. One thing I have yet to talk about is how the document camera camera can be used as a(n) webcam. Yes I said webcam.

The primary version of document cameras that we have in our district are made by the Lumens Company, but we also have others versions which will act in the same manner. When the document cameras are installed correctly and the included software is setup the computers will see them as webcams, depending of course on what programs or websites you are utilizing. In our district we have been using Skype as a method of global communications in which our teachers are collaborating with in and out of county schools, businesses, colleges and universities and interesting people.

You have to make sure that when you are using Skype the program must be able to see the doc cam and set it as the default visual device. To do this you will have to make sure that the doc cam drivers are installed on the computer you are using, see specific doc cam installation guide for setup informaiton. Once the doc cam is installed properly make sure that it is turned on and open the Skype program and log in. After you are on the Skype dashboard you will click on Tools--> Options and then Video Settings. In the video settings, depending on your setup, the live video should show up. Now one thing to remember on the video settings for Skype, in order to make sure you do not get any random video calls you need to make sure that your settings are checked to only accept video from people in your contact list. This alleviates any issues that could arise during a Skype call.

Now for two technical issues that have come up, in our district that is, when we have been using the doc cams with Skype. I will list them out and the solutions we have used to correct the problem.
  1. Image shows upside down in Skype - This usually happens when using older doc cams like the Lumens DC-133, 150, 155, 160 or 162. The solution is to turn the doc cam around and the lens unit turns down so that the image will be right-side-up.
  2. The image does not show up at all and you have an error on the screen - This has been just recently discovered. From what I have ascertained it is due to the recent upgrade of software by Skype to version 5.1 from version 4.1 - In our network version 4.1 is stable and has been the standard so what we have done is to uninstall the 5.1 software and reinstall the 4.1 which will then allow Skype to see the doc cam again.

Now this is just one of the things that you can do with your doc cam, but if you are looking for more ideas you can click on my LiveBinder below to get some additional resources.

You can also hear more about this topic and resources in our Weekly Podcast as WSFCS DIT Unplugged - Episode 11

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