Sunday, 9 December 2012

Using Webcams in Lessons

OK so while making this video I came across a PowerPoint I wrote for a CPD session on using webcams as cheap visualisers in lessons.

So without further ado I thought I would share some ways in which I have used these before. There is also a small section on data loggers so I might include that as well (I am too kind I know!).

So here is my set up at home...

It is basically a cheap webcam held in a clamp stand, the web cam was about £4 and the clamp (with boss head) was £15 off eBay. So altogether this was less than £20 to buy. Compared to more traditional visualisers on Amazon which can cost into the hundreds of pounds. Curiously flexicams seem to have come down in price to about £40 which is good! I also am aware that some visualisers have specialist software in them, however I am looking at plug and play situations to allow teachers to quickly show work.

So other than filming experiments and time lapses what other use is there to webcams in lessons?
The one I tend to use is in the showing of exemplar work - normally by just opening up webcam software and using the laptops built in camera to show when a student has completed a piece of work to a high standard.

Yes the second one is my own model of a neuron! Great isn't it...

However the power of using a visualiser for showing students work is when you annotate the work to show either good practise or ways of improving.

I know what your going to say, 'does that take long?' well no it doesn't. Especially if you copy the arrows and just paste them into the picture. It saves on repeating instructions and on drawing out diagrams on a whiteboard (or searching for a suitable one online). Plus it has the added power of being students work, students love to know that their work is being shown off - most students anyway!

Actually I summed this up quite nicely here;

Right now a very quick note on data loggers - this is more for science/sports teachers but I really love using them (and they always come up as an exam answer for improvements in methods!).

Now I often use them in small quick practicals where gathering data and manipulation of data can show something cool - melting ice, sound at different parts of the school, ambient temperature around the human body. 

As well as the classic heart rate...

What follows is a comparison of two heart rate graphs. One of a 16 year old year 11 student drinking and energy drink. The other of me drinking a cup of water.

They may not be repeatable or the most accurate graphs in the world but one thing the did was to spark a debate among my class and get the students questioning just what chemicals they are putting into their body and the long term effects it may have.

As well all know getting students to actively think for themselves and consider the merits of evidence is always a hard task. So I took it for the win!

It made me feel like...

Although in this instance I didn't!


  1. Hi

    Interesting article - I need to comment on the graph that you have used as an example of annotated feedback to the students. A good idea, but I am left wondering why you did not feedback that the y-axis is not contiguous, going from 8 to 12, then up in 2's. Nor did you comment on the fact that the bars are touching, rending this a histogram not a bar chart.

    The technology is great, but the feed back could be a bit tighter.


    1. Actually I missed the error on the axis - the fact he missed out 10 completely.

      As for the bars touching I was taking the fact that the student had attempted to draw the graph rather than screw the graph paper up and throw it at someone!

      Thank you for the feedback, I do feel a little silly over the axis thing now...

    2. Easily done. ;-)

      I once blogged about a great Excel resource I'd made - cut n paste anova analysis and did not link to the file. I wondered why no one had commented until a few days later some emailed me asking for a copy.

      The visualiser idea is great, a couple of years ago I wrote an Instructable on exactly this and now we have a "movement" at school were every time some one wants to buy one, I offer to make one for £10 instead... (I used a cheap angle poise lamp to house the webcam).