The Doc Camera Revisited- Still more ways to enhance your distance learning using this versatile tool.

The Doc Camera Revisited- Still more ways to enhance your distance learning using this versatile tool

By Doctor Sam Bommarito

I am putting the Literacy Practices Series for this blog on hold until after Thanksgiving. This gives me some time to make arrangements to talk to two different educators from Australia about their literacy programs. Today I want to revisit the Doc camera. I have done blogs about the doc camera before. LINK1 LINK2 LINK3. Here are some new things I’ve learned since the last time I wrote on this topic.

Remember that a doc camera is not the same as a web camera. This is a picture of my doc camera.

As I described in my previous blogs, the doc camera allows me to do real-time activities with my students. For instance, I can share a book, make & break magnetic letters, and even create language experience stories.

As I indicated in those blogs having the doc camera allowed me to move magnetic letters in real-time as the students I tutored watched. It allowed me to help students create their own stories, stories that they dictated to me based on pictures and other prompts. I then typed their stories into a publisher doc that made their story into an actual book.  There was a great deal of reader interest in all three of these blogs. Readers wanted to know where I got my camera and what brand it was. Some readers loved the idea but expressed concern about the cost. Let me briefly address those two issues.

I got my doc camera online.  It was an InSwan. At the time I purchased it, the cost was about $100.  Like many things in 2020, doc cams are periodically in short supply. My particular model is sometimes not available or available only at a much higher cost.  But there are a number of different doc cams out there. When shopping for them, look for easy connectivity (mine was plug and play), high definition,  and make sure the display is instantaneous (some older models lagged in the display picture). But what if you don’t have $100 to spare?

If you have a smartphone, you can use that as a doc camera. You read that right. The simplest way to do that is to use the EpocCam Pro app ($7.00). Load that onto your phone, follow the three-step setup process, and within two minutes, your smartphone becomes a doc camera that you can use with Zoom or other similar platforms.  Search YouTube, and you’ll find any number of videos on how different teachers make contraptions that they use to mount their smartphones for use as a doc cam. The most interesting one I found was a teacher that used a stack of textbooks. She made the stack high enough to hold the smartphone in the air at the proper height. She then placed her phone in the stack so that it stuck out. She put a couple of more textbooks on top of it. Voila- a free smartphone holder. When I created a doc cam for my wife, I spent $30.00 for a smartphone holder.  Just look for an adjustable phone holder on Amazon or any similar website. Here is a picture of the one I got.

So, if you have a smartphone, it is possible to have a webcam at low cost.  I spent just under $40 for my wife’s stand and the software to connect her smartphone to Zoom. Or you can create your own phone holder and use your smartphone to join Zoom as a separate participant. If you turn off the audio for the phone, the phone can be used as a Zoom camera. Here is a link to a pdf I found online which tells how to do that LINK . This method gives you a no cost webcam.

My latest use of the Webcam for literacy involved using my doc camera in a sketch note activity. I found out about sketch notes during recent sessions of the Write to Learn Cyberconference. They were given by Tanny McGregor.

Sketch notes can be created in many ways.  Tanny’s book is full of ideas on how to do them and what they can look like. Here is a LINK.  The book includes research demonstrating the use of sketch notes as an effective instructional technique. For my class, I did a live read of a book. As we did that, we constructed a simple sketch note about the book in real-time. The format I used in this particular lesson allowed me to talk about the main ideas and details as we make our sketch note of the book.  The students watched me in real-time. They made their own sketch note at their seat as I did mine. I was Zooming into the class, and they could see my sketch note on their classroom’s smartboard.

Afterward, I asked them to make sketch notes about the next book they were reading. All this was done in a whole class distance learning setting. I couldn’t have done it without a webcam. Here is the sketch note we made.

So  these are my latest idea on doc cameras, how to get them and how to use them.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a. the doc camera guy)

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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Write to Learn Conference Announcement:

Open Mic at Write to Learn is back, and it’s free!  It’s Thursday, Dec. 3, at 8:00 p.m. at the end of Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook’s final workshop session.

Come to read, come to perform, or just come to listen.

Here’s how it works:

Just send an e-mail to Write to Learn Conference Coordinator Willy Wood at  

In the subject line of your e-mail. put “Open Mic,” and in the body of the e-mail, just say that you plan on attending.  You will receive a Zoom link.

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