The 24 Days of Christmas, Day 15:  “All I [don’t] want for Christmas” (Part 2)

Though it might seem not in the spirit of Christmas to be criticizing well-intentioned projects and efforts, unless we are willing to be critical of mis-direction, we will not find the best direction for student learning. Yesterday I talked about my long time dislike for SmartBoards, a high priced product that was limited in its capabilities and even more limited by underutilization by teachers.    It’s like the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry bought his father a PDA (remember PDAs), but the father only used the device as a tip calculator.  

Today’s device is one that I once thought might be a valuable adddition to a classroom, and teachers seem to use it, but it seems to reinforce old models.  So I add to the wall of shame…the document camera.

A document camera is simply what the name implies.  A camera captures documents and other objects on a platform, and the images can appear on a computer screen or projector.  The device allows a teacher to show “legacy” documents that aren’t in digital form, three-dimensional objects, or demonstrations.  Though these devices originally were expensive (ranging from $700 -$900), but they have come down to $100 or less.  Will falling prices, more and more schools have installed document cameras in classrooms.

However, when I see the device in operation, I often feel like we are taking a step back to the days of the overhead projector.  I see few innovative uses and a lot of filling in paper worksheets and actually writing notes like we used to do in the board.  Like an overhead, the device ties the teacher down to a “nest,” and the focus is on the platform and not the students.

Changing what is used but not what is done is a trap, and only through ongoing aggressive evaluation and question can we truly change education.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Image:  http://img-aws.ehowcdn.com/615×200/cme/cme_public_images/www_ehow_com/photos.demandstudios.com/getty/article/154/82/AA004853_XS.jpg

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Date: Friday, 16. December 2016 6:13
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    I dislike both of these devices and just had this discussion with Brian yesterday- he agreed. I could go on and on about the waste of money!

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