Friday, February 18, 2011

Document Cameras and Skype

In our district we have been working over the past few years to really ramp up the technology that is in the classrooms to benefit both our teachers and students. We have instituted a Classroom Solution specific to the grade levels with one design for the Elementary and one for the Middle/High Schools. Included in this solution we have chosen to provide document cameras as an additional input device for teachers and students to use.

Over the past couple of years I have blogged about the benefits of document cameras versus the traditional overhead projector. I have discussed its uses as a digital camera and camcorder as well as techniques to integrate it into classroom instruction. One thing I have yet to talk about is how the document camera camera can be used as a(n) webcam. Yes I said webcam.

The primary version of document cameras that we have in our district are made by the Lumens Company, but we also have others versions which will act in the same manner. When the document cameras are installed correctly and the included software is setup the computers will see them as webcams, depending of course on what programs or websites you are utilizing. In our district we have been using Skype as a method of global communications in which our teachers are collaborating with in and out of county schools, businesses, colleges and universities and interesting people.

You have to make sure that when you are using Skype the program must be able to see the doc cam and set it as the default visual device. To do this you will have to make sure that the doc cam drivers are installed on the computer you are using, see specific doc cam installation guide for setup informaiton. Once the doc cam is installed properly make sure that it is turned on and open the Skype program and log in. After you are on the Skype dashboard you will click on Tools--> Options and then Video Settings. In the video settings, depending on your setup, the live video should show up. Now one thing to remember on the video settings for Skype, in order to make sure you do not get any random video calls you need to make sure that your settings are checked to only accept video from people in your contact list. This alleviates any issues that could arise during a Skype call.

Now for two technical issues that have come up, in our district that is, when we have been using the doc cams with Skype. I will list them out and the solutions we have used to correct the problem.
  1. Image shows upside down in Skype - This usually happens when using older doc cams like the Lumens DC-133, 150, 155, 160 or 162. The solution is to turn the doc cam around and the lens unit turns down so that the image will be right-side-up.
  2. The image does not show up at all and you have an error on the screen - This has been just recently discovered. From what I have ascertained it is due to the recent upgrade of software by Skype to version 5.1 from version 4.1 - In our network version 4.1 is stable and has been the standard so what we have done is to uninstall the 5.1 software and reinstall the 4.1 which will then allow Skype to see the doc cam again.

Now this is just one of the things that you can do with your doc cam, but if you are looking for more ideas you can click on my LiveBinder below to get some additional resources.


Tim Cooper said...

Nice idea on using document cameras with Skype! The idea hadn't even crossed my mind, but you can bet I'll be doing that now! Thanks!

eherreid said...

You are very welcome Tim, I actually came across this by accident with the new DC166 series and then went back to see if it would work on the older versions and have been able to make it work on DC150, 155, 160, 162 by Lumens. AverMedia 300AF series, Dukane 210 and 335 along with SMART/Elmo and ActiView doc cams. If you run into any issue let me know.

Jim Rosen said...

I have teachers with Actiview and we cannot get the Visual Presenter V2 work with Skype. When we choose the onboard webcam, Skype works fine but if choose the Visual Presenter V2 camera, Skype says another program is using the camera. I have disabled onboard webcam in device manager, totally removed it, and done some other troubleshooting steps looking to see what program could be using the camera and it does not look like anything is. If you guys have any clues, let me know.

eherreid said...

Hello Jim,

What I have found is that when you allow Skype to update to any version after 4.2 you lose the ability to use the Doc Cam as a webcam. That is an issue with Skype since it was taken over by another company. You can use this link to take you where you can download the 4.2 version.

Another thing that might be causing you an issue is that the ActiView doc cam from Promethean is based off the Lumens DC 155 design which uses the V1 presenter as its lens driver. You may have to go through the uninstall procedures to remove all the driver software so that you can reinstall the V1 presenter software driver. You can use this link to take you to the Lumens page where you can just get the V1 presenter driver or if you want you can get the whole Queue software package. Either one has the driver installer in it.

Let me know how things go or if you need any additional help.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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