Friday, March 11, 2016

A Clear Vision: Affordable Camera for VI Students

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Recently I went to a local conference called NCTIES here in Raleigh, NC. This is not the type of conference I typically attend, but I may add it to my roster from here out. NCTIES is primarily geared for our gen-ed students, and I typically attend the special ed oriented conferences. Turns out, I have been missing a lot of terrific opportunities.

As I was walking through the vendor area I stumbled upon the Ipevo booth.

Let me backtrack for a moment. One of the great frustrations I, and others experience in the world of Special Needs, is how expensive things can be. There is always a argument (possibly legitimate) about the small volume of production or the R & D driving up costs. Regardless, equipment is often really pricey. For example, I have some portable "video magnifiers" which cost over $2,000 which we use with a few of our students with significant vision issues. I chafe at the cost every time I look at the device.

So. Back to Ipevo. They sell a range of document cameras, along with other technologies. They DO NOT bill themselves as selling products for visually impaired students. But, nonetheless, I was curious to compare. Their products are a fraction of the price. My question was, would they do the job?

After sharing my thought process with the very knowledgable and friendly sales rep, Alex, he sent me away with a couple of cameras and an interactive whiteboard system to test.

So far I've been very impressed. As was our Visual Impairment Teacher (VI). She was quite frankly astonished. Refer to Fig. 2 for a side-by-side comparison
Figure 2

For enlarging work at a student's desk, we found the Ipevo camera did a good job (refer to Fig. 3 for 12x magnification). Where it struggled some, was magnifying work from the whiteboard (not what it is designed for), which the un-named camera did a great job.

Figure 3
There is also a question of durability over a few years. Middle and high school students will take their camera out of a backpack, set it up, break it down, and stuff it back into their pack easily 5+ times a day. The Ipevo camera is metal, with a high grade plastic neck and three hinges. It seems durable, but the more expensive competition is all metal with no hinges. But lets be honest, if the Ipevo product needed to be replaced every few years, it's still a pittance of the cost, and then you get the newest upgrades!

I am getting ready to assign the Ipevo camera to a student with visual impairment. He's an elementary student, so there is no issue of changing classes. Our VI teacher has given me the go ahead with regards to the magnification being sufficient. We will monitor the student's success with the device, and report back. 

I'm also interested in the iZiggi-HD Document camera by Ipevo, as it works wirelessly with iPads. I may have to try one of those next! Also, I ordered a magnifying lens for $19, which screws onto the bottom of any of Ipevo's document cameras, adding an additional 2X magnification. I'll report on that, when it arrives. 


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