This article still gets picked up by people searching for a guide to make their own visualisers from USB web cams – the Logitech camera I used is sadly not available any more. A similar shaped and reasonably priced camera is linked above.
I’ve never written a blog piece “on demand” so to speak , but Danny Nicholson peaked my interest. Over at The White Board Blog Danny calls for a “ UK Education Tech Blog Carnival” – a group of bloggers create entries on a theme (in this case technology) and post him the links. He then blogs all the links and hence creates the “carnival”.
What is a visualiser?
The basic answer is a computerised OHP / flexible web cam / microscope viewer. A good overview here.
But in a nutshell a visualiser allows you to project and/or capture stills/video from your teaching area onto your whiteboard / IWB via a data projector.
About June 2010 I was lucky enough to be given a visualiser – a Promethian one, just like the picture to evaluate for the school. After some faffing about (as we have Windows 7 throughout), the drivers installed and I was “good to go”.
Immediately I was smitten.
As a Science teacher, the ability to project a demo from your front bench, to the whole class, who remain seated, is priceless. Preparing slides, cutting blocks of sodium and wiring 3-pin plugs are just some of the “big screen” demos that I’ve enjoyed recently. Showing student created cheek cell slides is far more motivational than peering down a badly focused microscope.
But, being able to record your demos is even better. Instant plenary material or when you have to re-explain for the fifth time, how to prepare an onion cell, you can just replay the original demo. Priceless.
I’ve time lapsed seedlings growing and made stop-motion animation showing ionic / covalent bonding. Again superb – especially when up loaded to YouTube.
…but wait, they cost £350+ would I actually buy one?
The model we have costs circa £350, but the prices rise to over £1,000 for a high resolution visualisers. Are they worth it?
In my humble opinion – No, and I’ll show you why.
You can make your own, that will do 80% of the functionality of a commercial one (being realistic, 100% of the functionality that you will actually use) for about £40.
- USB Web Cam
- Flexible neck desk lamp (cheaper the better as you’ll be re-purposing it)
- Software (the excellent MyScreenCam is perfect and free)
- Basic tools (Dremmel / hand drill, screw drivers)
1) Tear down the lamp
i) Remove the inside of the lamp shade
ii) Remove any electrical wires
iii) Unscrew the lamp shade from the flexible neck
2) Tear down the web cam
i) Remove any leg / stand from the camera body.
What we are aiming for is just the camera.
Modify the lamp shade
Enlarge the central core with whatever tools you have to hand. A drill bit / dremmel would be best.
Thread the USB cable through the shade, remembering that the camera wants to site inside the shade.
(In my case, the web cam fitted so snugly that I did not glue it in there – you may need to attach the camera with some hot glue)
Plug in the USB cable and fire up the software.
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- Point 2 View camera @ David Terron
- Fiendishlyclever » Using low/mid range visualisers for chemistry demos and why homemade might be best.
- The Inaugral Ed Tech Blog Carnival | The Whiteboard Blog