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Background: I teach Calculus at first year Engineering degrees in a large public University in Spain. I am introducing more and more active activities (no pun intended) so, to begin with, I want the students to do practical exercises. This is the right content to train since, in fact, the exam consists of several problems.

When I ask a student to write an exercise on the chalkboard (or even worse, I write it myself) I feel that I am teaching both the wrong format and the wrong skills, let alone having a terrible time management. So I think it is better if they all do the exercise on paper and then I could project one of them on the screen and grade/discuss it for everyone to see.

My question is not about the comparative learning effectivity of this technique (although any comments are appreciated) but I ask you to address my two insecurities:

Regarding the students, will they laugh at me as a complete technological dinosaur, as if I had intended to use the overhead projector (which, by the way, is still in the classroom)?

Regarding the management that should authorize the expense, can I use the argument that this technology is often used in top-tier Universities? Because I have no knowledge of anyone using it in the classroom, at least in my School.

So are document cameras often used in the classroom for projecting students' work?

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  • $\begingroup$ There is likely no global answer for this; it's likely to be site-dependent. Much like your overhead projector, it's either installed in the rooms by the institution or not. I would argue for not being insecure about the technology you have; if it's there and you have a use-case for it, then use it. $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Jul 28 '17 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ Where I teach it is often used in our "Introduction to Proofs Class". Inthis class students are required to present solutions to assigned problems a few times during the semester and using the document camera is a way to do this easily. It's especially useful if the student who was expected to present on a given day has a less-than-good solution to the problem and you ask for a volunteer to share a different attempt at a solution. $\endgroup$ – ncr Jul 29 '17 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ Chalk has many advantages. Can throw it at sleepers. Can make that squeeeeeeek sound. $\endgroup$ – Guest Jul 29 '17 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ Plus, you can use a doc cam to put students' faces on screen if they aren't paying attention (if the camera has a hinge). Always a crowd-pleaser. $\endgroup$ – kcrisman Jul 29 '17 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they are used. At my university, they are the latest technology and overhead projectors are far more common still... Regarding your plan: You should think twice before projecting a students solution and discussing it in front of the whole class. Even if you don't give the students name, he/she might still feel very embarrassed by having you point out the errors to everyone. This might result in really bad participation... Maybe grade all the exercises for yourself and then prepare something like "common mistakes" that you can then project and discuss. $\endgroup$ – Dirk Jul 31 '17 at 9:17
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I cannot speak to European usage, but document cameras are definitely used in many US classrooms. They are in fact quite flexible from the standpoint of not requiring any particular specific technology of students, and in principle one can even take "screenshots" with them and save to a zip drive. (They are very inflexible in other ways, of course.)

Honestly, it is quite good to use them in the same way as some of the best simple math videos (see Mooculus, for instance). That is, step by step writing or unveiling of things. For some reason students need to see that step-by-step process, and especially in a large room, or when having them write it out by hand (chalkboard or elsewhere) is too time-consuming, the document camera is a very good option.

The downside is when an entire solution is presented in one visual view and no one thinks they have any questions - so be prepared for thinking of something to ask to keep the class on their toes! But of course that is not about the document camera itself.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the "step-by-step process". That is really important and one of the main reasons why people still use chalk boards to slow the whole process down. $\endgroup$ – Dirk Jul 31 '17 at 9:15

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