Monday, January 31, 2011

The IPEVO point 2 view USB camera: a cheap alternative to the ELMO document camera

Ah. The ELMO. Teachers love the ELMO. It's a document camera with a light that plugs into your projector and allows you to share books, children's work, small things like bugs with a whole class of children. But. The ELMO costs several hundred dollars. Dollars which as you know we just don't have. Of course our school is not alone in being strapped for cash and searching the net led me to the IPEVO camera.

This is a neat little webcam that most importantly comes with a stand. It autofocuses, can take pictures and can be clamped to your computer. For us, it comes into its own as a document camera and a quick read of the reviews on Amazon shows that it is already working well in many classrooms.

Today, I had a go testing it in our library where we have a good laptop and projector (unfortunately it's one of the few places like that in our school). It was simple to set up. Pop the CD in the drive, load the software, plug in the camera and there you go.

Laptop and projector

A book under the camera

Image on the laptop

Projected onto the screen (looked better in real life than it does here).

The stand does need to be raised a little if you want to see the whole of a page. And I found that lighting levels also need working out. For example, sometimes it helped to have a lamp cast some extra light (the ELMO has a built in light) in case light levels have to be lowered for the projector to work. But overall this worked really well.

What does it cost? Just under $70. Less than a tenth of the cost of the ELMO (currently selling for over $700 on Amazon and that's a discount!). Add a lamp at c. $20 and for less than $100, we could kit a classroom out with a new way to share work, read together, look at objects, share scarce books and  photographs, Skype with other schools - so many ways to use this handy tool.

Of course we still need to get projectors and laptops into the classroom first....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our first tech work day

It was a gloriously sunny day in San Francisco on Saturday. So obviously what else would a small group of teachers and parents want to do, but spend it inside the school fixing things, installing computers and testing new hardware?

Thanks to that small group of teachers and parents, we achieved the following:

Two 3rd grade classrooms got more computers set up for the children to work on, meaning that access to the internet for research, or to Ticket to Read will be that much easier.

One 3rd grade teacher finally got her laptop to work with her LCD projector.

Three teachers have new art and math software loaded onto their classroom computers, ready for their students to use.

Sadly two non-functioning computers were diagnosed and found to have serious if not fatal problems. But at least we know that now.

And we set up and tested the Wiimote Whiteboard and an IPEVO USB Camera in a classroom. More on that later.

I suspect it may have felt to the parents with the technology know-how that they weren't doing anything special. But as the "runner" on the team, I know that what they were doing may come easily to them, but really doesn't to a lot of other people. There will be some very grateful people in school next week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Year and a new(ish) start

Life was busy in the library and computer lab over the break. The library now has a new floor, newly painted walls, and is gaining a 28 seater computer lab from the district, as a result of lobbying by Lisa Bishop, our Library Media Teacher. The computers will be c. 4 year old PCs running Windows and come with flat screens, which is a distinct improvement on the situation at the end of last year. We continue to dream of new Mac Labs and we will continue to work to get them, but for the moment, the open mouths of astonishment from teachers, children and parents alike when they first see the room show how much this development means to our school.

With the computers come office tables and chairs. Big thank yous are due to Corovan and Levi Strauss who donated the furniture, and in particular to the delivery man from Corovan who realised our school chairs wouldn't work with the new tables, and arranged the donation of 30 chairs on the spot. 

The computers that were in the library have now been moved into classrooms, so the advent of the new computer lab has had a positive influence not just on the library but also on the rest of the school. More on that later.

And of course we would still welcome donations of equipment or contributions towards the purchase of equipment. Any help you can give would be very gratefully received.