One of the tools I use quite a bit in my English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classroom is a document camera. While I tend to use a lot of computer based tools, it is still easier (and in some ways better) to have students work in pairs and groups on writing projects with pens and paper. This allows the entire group to be active during the writing time instead of staring at their screens or letting one person do all of the typing. Also, I find it helps me see what problems they have with their writing since they aren’t relying on autocorrect or spell checking. Lastly, it also allows for a level of creativity that you don’t normally see when they are using the computer. I know, I know. It is possible with tablets and apps, but I am dealing with a situation where things are not equal with the students in regards to technology, so this allows for a level playing field.
When talking with teachers who are limited in their technology resources, such as not having a document camera, I try to find alternatives that do basically the same thing without the expenditure of another tool to buy. In the case of the document camera, I have used my smartphone plus Dropbox and PicMonkey to do something that even adds to the experience. Here is how it works:
- Students work on their projects with coloured pens and white paper. I tend to use markers instead of pens and pencils for many reasons, mainly it is easy for others to read.
- Once they are done, I take a photo with my smartphone of the project. On my phone, I have installed the Dropbox app and have the settings set to automatically upload images to my Dropbox account. For those not familiar with Dropbox, this is a ‘cloud-based’ storage site that synchronizes whatever you put in there with all of your devices. Example: I have Dropbox installed on my Macbook, by Android phone, my Windows 8 laptop, and my iPad. When I put a file in my Dropbox folder on any of those devices, it automatically copies that file to Dropbox’s online storage site which then sends a copy to my other devices. Therefore, I don’t have to use a USB drive to copy my files between my devices and, in this case, I can use it to store photos from my smartphone and have those photos automatically appear on my computers as well.
- After taking photos of all of the paper-based projects my students have been working on, I go the computer hooked up to the projector at the front of the class and I go to the PicMonkey editor which does not require an account to use. From there, I open my Dropbox folder (after giving PicMonkey permission. This only has to be done once) and open the photos I just took with my smartphone. With PicMonkey, I can edit the photos (brighten, crop, zoom in, etc.) and I can also annotate them (type in titles, add arrows, etc.) on the projected screen while the students give me their feedback as a class.
- Once I am done with each photo, I can then download it to my computer or I can save the edited version back on Dropbox. I normally choose Dropbox since I can then get a link to the photo to post for our class on Edmodo. If I don’t, I will save it to the computer and then upload it to Edmodo. Either way, the students have access to the edited/annotated image for later.
- If this sounds really complicated, it isn’t. Do it once and you will find it is very quick and streamlined. Students like to be able to access all of the projects, not just their own and it allows from a lot more discussion in class. The only thing you have to sign up for is a Dropbox account. You can do that here for 2.5GBs of free storage.
If you use this idea, post a comment below and let me and others know how it worked (or didn’t work) for you and what you used it for. Share your ideas! Thanks.