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Tool Review: IPEVO Document Cams and IWB Alternative

About a month ago, Gary Cheng -- an IPEVO account manager -- reached out to me through Twitter and asked if I was interested in taking any of IPEVO's products for a test-drive.

As a representative for a company trying to make inroads into the school technology marketplace, Gary's primary goal was to get feedback from a practicing teacher on the quality of the products for classroom use.  My primary goal was to get my hands on a document camera -- something that I'd always wanted to have in my classroom but never had the cash to purchase on my own.

#winwin

I told Gary that in exchange for the products that he was sending my way, I'd write a review for him and share it on my blog.  Not only would that give Gary something meaningful in exchange for sending me free stuff, it would give my readers a sense for whether or not IPEVO products were worth exploring.

Gary sent me three tools to play with:  The basic Point 2 View document camera that IPEVO is best known for, a heavier-dutier IPEVO document camera called the VZ-1 HD, and IPEVO's IS-01 Interactive Whiteboard System.  Here's what I thought of each product:

IPEVO's Point 2 View document camera is one of the most versatile tools that I've ever used in my classroom.

With a small footprint and light-weight design, it took up almost no space at all on my desk or on any of the presentation tables where I was using the device to project content to my kids.  Because it was so darn portable, I found myself using it more than I ever expected -- and I almost never used it to project documents.  Instead, I used it to give students a closer look at experiments or lab samples that we were working with in class.

The device projects an image resolution that was more than adequate for my purposes and I was never disappointed with the quality of what my kids were able to see in class.  I also used it to capture still-shots of lab activities and as the primary webcam for a computer dedicated for bringing a homebound student into my classroom -- making it a useful "all-in-one" replacement for several tools that I typically used to complete digital tasks.

The primary weakness of the Point 2 View is that it ain't rugged.  I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't concerned about how long the device will be able to endure the inevitable banging it's going to take in my middle school classroom.  For $69, however, it is more than worth the risk that I might have to replace it at some point in the future.

IPEVO's VZ-1 HD document camera has earned a permanent spot on my desk.  

It is really well-built, addressing my primary concern with the company's better-known and more affordable Point 2 View camera.  What I love the best about the design of the VZ-1 HD is that the camera is mounted on a fully adjustable neck, making it easy to position for viewing objects at any distance and in any direction.  The VZ-1 HD also comes with a built-in light -- something missing from the Point 2 View model -- making it possible to project images in poorly lit spaces or darkened classrooms.

The VZ-1 HD can also be connected directly to the VGA port of any data projector -- making it possible to project images without needing a computer.  While I haven't used that feature at all -- I have a dedicated laptop that is already sitting next to my data projector that I can run the VZ-1 through -- anything that can make a device more useful in more situations is a good thing.  Like the Point 2 View, I was more than satisfied with the image resolution that the VZ-1 HD offered.  I was also pleased with how easy it was to capture still shots with the VZ-1.

If I had to point out a weakness of the VZ-1, it would be that I saw little difference in the image quality produced by the VZ-1 over the Point 2 View camera.  If you are making your purchasing decision on image resolution only, I'm not sure the additional cost that the VZ-1 carries will make it worth your while.  If you are looking for a device that has a bit of beef behind it, though -- that isn't likely to break the first time a kid gets his hands wrapped around it -- the VZ-1 is worth a look.

IPEVO's IS-01 Interactive Whiteboard System was a let-down.

The IS-01 is generally designed to be mounted on the top of a data projector, which presents the same challenges that classrooms trying to use IWBs without ceiling mounted projectors face:  You are constantly standing in front of the very screen that you are trying to interact with.  While teachers can get used to standing to the side of the projected image, that behavior never came naturally to my sixth graders.

I also found the IS-01 to be less-sensitive than it needed to be.  Interacting with any projected content -- launching a web browser, clicking on links inside of content, using the annotation tools included in the software package -- required multiple firm taps.  That caused frustration for me because I couldn't interact with the projected content in a smooth way -- and worse yet, it ended up causing the IPEVO stylus to break within a week.

By far the best part of the IS-01 is the price.  At $149, IPEVO has made it possible for you to drop IWBs into your classrooms without breaking your technology budget.  While I'm not a believer in spending any money on IWBs (remember THIS post?), if you are hell-bent on buying them, the IS-01 is worth giving a look.

It's also worth noting that every one of these devices was a BREEZE to install.  Having had more than my fair share of bad experiences with getting new tools up and running, I had literally set aside an entire 90 minute planning block to fire up Gary's gadgets.  All three were running in less than 10 minutes.

I'm also super impressed with the functionality of IPEVO's Presenter software.  It's easy to use primarily because it is stripped down.  By making it easy to access the core features of the tool and by avoiding the temptation to clutter the program with unnecessary features, menus or windows, IPEVO has built a product that no one is going to be intimidated by.

My favorite feature of the Presenter software is the fact that any content that you capture with your IPEVO camera can be synched with your Evernote account.  So if I grab a still image from a mini-lab on light, I can instantly file it away in the collection of light resources that I'm building in Evernote.  The simple fact that the hardware I'm using "works and plays well" with the software and Web-based products that I use to organize my life is a huge benefit of IPEVO's document cameras that I didn't see coming.

Anyone else using IPEVO's products?  Whaddya' think?  

Anyone have better alternatives that are worth considering?

________________

Related Radical Reads:

Tool Review: Using Canva to Teach Visual Influence

 

1 Comment

Carissa commented on December 31, 2013 at 1:37pm:

Love it!

I received an IPEVO doc cam a week before break and LOVE IT!  It was super easy to install, and I was finally able to demonstrate different art techniques without cramming 27 bodies in close enough to see what I was doing.  A class that often struggled during demonstrations was entranced and mastered the material much quicker that they otherwise would have (since those who couldn't see well were typically poking and proding each other by this point).  Now, I have no experience with other doc cams to compare it with - but I would highly recommend the ipevo doc cam.  I think I have the mid-grade model, but don't remember exactly (boy, what a few days off school does to your brain!)  I appointed a student photographer to snap photos occasionally in hopes to turn them into a quick review for absent students (haven't had time to test this use yet) and the whole class was quickly involved - "wait! stop and take a picture!"  All the student had to do was hit enter on the keyboard - and instantly the image was filed away neatly.  The camera tucks away easy on my projector cart, and I can set up anywhere in proximity to my projector/laptop cart.  Once I, hopefully, can get my hands on a wireless projector it will open the opportunity to demonstrate from every corner of my classroom!  A wonderful tool for my middle school art classroom! 

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