Most of the document cameras made in the last two or three years have a very cool feature that is often overlooked. Typically, the document camera is hooked up to the computer projector and the computer is hooked up to the document camera. The signal from the computer passes through the document camera, and the teacher (or student) switches back and forth between the two devices by pressing a button on the document camera.
However, it is possible for many of these document cameras to connect them to the computer and have the image from the camera appear as a window on the computer. If you are using an interactive white board, this lets you use the screen capture and annotation tools of your white board software to work with the live image from the document camera. You can also directly capture images and video from the camera.
In order to do this, you need two things – the right cable and the right software. The cable to connect to the computer is not a video cable, but a USB cable. It is the same kind used for connecting printers and external hard drives. It will have a standard flat USB plug on the end that connects to the computer, and a more square-shaped plug that connects to the document camera.
Next, you need the software. Finding the CD that came with the camera is often a lost cause, but all of the manufacturers of document cameras have software download areas on their websites where you can obtain the latest version of the software. Once it’s installed, you can do everything you could on the projector right there on the computer – with improved options for capture, markup, and more. The only downside is that the refresh rate on the computer display will be choppier than through the projector. If you’re showing rapidly-moving objects like tadpoles, stick with the projector connection!
-- Conn McQuinn