ISTE 2012: Hands-On With AVer's Sphere Software
While attending the 2012 ISTE conference, I had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with AVer's new Sphere software. After meeting with a rep at the show, I took the document camera to my hotel room and gave the software a test drive.
With AVer's new Sphere lesson delivery and creation software, flipping your classroom just got a whole lot easier. Using this solution, teachers can integrate a document camera, web camera and supporting media files onto one screen, record a lesson, and distribute it with the click of a button.
What Sphere Can Do
Sphere gives users the ability to display and record up to three feeds at once by splitting the screen in a flexible and configurable way. Now, users can combine what's under the document camera, a live image of the speaker and additional media (such as videos or images), and create a lesson that's more engaging for the student. Sphere is also fully integrated with five leading social media sites, including YouTube and Facebook, so once a user's personal account information is set up, digital content can be seamlessly uploaded with the click of a button.
Included in Sphere is a robust set of camera, screen annotation and presenter tools. The annotation tools are particularly useful for marking up images. Users have access to shapes, highlighter pens, lines and text. Presenter tools afford users the ability to spotlight or highlight a particular area of the image. Instead of using a piece of paper to hide and reveal images under the doc cam, users have access to a digital "visor." Capture mode offers users the ability to set up a time lapse photography session. Just set the time interval and Sphere will snap a photo every second, minute, hour, day, or any time gap in between.
Document Cameras and the Flipped Classroom
Lately, the conversation in education has turned to the notion of "flipping the classroom," or inverting the traditional classwork/homework model. Instead of the teacher standing in the front of the classroom talking, lessons, videos or screencasts are made available to be viewed at anytime and anywhere. This frees up more class time for clarifying concepts, problem solving and collaborative learning. Thus, more instructors are turning to online tutorials, screencasts, and looking for tools to help them create their own digital content and delivery solutions.
Sphere's "Split screen mode" plays well into this new model of flipping the classroom because it adds a whole new dimension to document camera recordings and tutorials. By giving the presenter the option to share the screen with up to three feeds: doc cam, web cam, and other media — such as videos or images — one hope is that students will more easily "connect" with the instructor visually, as opposed only to hearing a voice and watching what's under the doc cam. Being able to watch the teacher's facial expressions and visual cues could, in turn, make the experience of watching online content more interesting to the learner.
To record what's beneath the document camera, users simply tap the record button in the main menu. Clicking "stop" not only stops the recording — it simultaneously saves the recording locally and immediately displays a "Publish Setting" dialogue box with options to upload to five leading social media sites such as Facebook and TwitPic.
Sphere is a free software that only works with AVer document cameras.
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