Learning made visible through 3D-printed document cameras

In today’s world of online learning, making the process of thinking visible becomes challenging. In classrooms, teachers can show their work on the whiteboard and check students’ work in real time. Kelly Davis, MLFTC instructor, says this process is critical in teaching, especially in mathematics. 

MLFTC professors considered a range of possibilities to help remote instructors and their students overcome the issue. First, they thought about having students take photos of their work and submit them to their instructors. This was quickly dismissed as it seemed clunky, time-consuming and inefficient. Then they thought about document cameras that display what students and instructors write on paper, but they are costly at about $100 each. The other possibility was digital whiteboards, but they don’t have the flexibility of writing and sketching that pencil and paper provide.

Enter 3D printing.

Davis learned about 3D-printed pocket document cameras, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to produce. IgnitED Lab wanted them.

3D camera

3D-printed document camera


The labs have created roughly 400 cameras for all of the MLFTC instructors and students in mathematics education method courses.  

“The IgnitED Labs are constantly seeking opportunities to support Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the community in innovative ways,” says Caitlin Jorgensen, design technologist of IgnitED Labs. “It is thanks to both the leadership of Jodie Donner and our fantastic team of Educational Technology Champions that we are able to provide these instructional aides to faculty and students.”

MLFTC students and faculty members can visit IgnitED Labs 4th Space, a virtual experience that replicates some of the labs’ services and offerings and provides support for teaching and learning with technology.

Learn more about IgniteED Labs