Getting Started Teaching with Document Cameras and Original Primary Sources

By Heather Smedberg / For those who teach with and about original primary sources, document cameras can be a powerful addition to your toolkit and can help you bring active learning techniques to your instruction even when a hands-on experience is not feasible. Document cameras are mounted cameras that take real-time images and/or video of an object for display on a screen, making it easier for students to see closely what you are referring to on a page. You can zoom in on details or show interesting 3D elements of books or artifacts, without having to create a slideshow of photos in advance. This live approach creates a more engaging experience. Document cameras can make a lecture hall feel smaller and used in online classes can bridge vast physical distances between students and collections. Even when a hands-on component is possible, you can use them to scaffold in useful content or skills to help students succeed during a subsequent in-class exercise or assignment. Students can also use your document camera to present their findings or lead a discussion with original materials. Document cameras often have built-in capability of capturing images or recording audio and video of your demonstration session, which can come in handy if you want to post a recording of your presentation whether for post-class assessment or to create online learning objects.