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A new app allows teachers to use their iPhone or iPad as an overhead camera on Zoom

Teachers who have found themselves keeping class over Zoom have probably already figured out clever hacks to show students their documents, but there is now an app designed specifically for that purpose (via 9to5Mac). Overview was created by developer Charlie Chapman, and it allows teachers (or anyone, really) to easily use the phone’s camera as a replacement for an overhead document view.

If a minute has passed since you were a student, or if your school did not have these overhead devices, it is basically webcams that point straight down that allow teachers to show students a printed document, book, hand drawing or other piece of writing or picture. . It is a useful ability to have, but many teachers work from home because of COVID and may not have access to one as they would in the classroom.

Top view of a printed book, shown in a Zoom conversation

The participants in the Zoom call only see what the camera on your phone sees.

Overviewer works as a replacement by taking advantage of Zoom’s built-in screen sharing feature that works with the iPhone when connected to a computer with a zippered cable, or wirelessly via AirPlay (at the moment, it does not appear that Zoom offers this feature for Android users). It displays a stream from the phone’s camera on the screen, without anything else getting in the way. The feature also gives you the ability to turn on the phone’s flashlight if the lighting situation is not ideal, as well as the ability to change which camera is displayed.

In a heartwarming blog post about how he developed the app for his wife, who works as a kindergarten teacher, Chapman explains how he saw his wife use iOS ‘built-in camera app to do the same, and how she was frustrated by the lack of horizontal support and all the buttons placed on the screen:

So when I was the dorky man, I quickly built an app that does nothing but show what the phone camera sees with zero chrome, and rotates the entire app so you can share it in the landscape by zoom. This did the trick, and she actually used it!

It’s pretty tailored to just my wife’s use case, but I think it would be pretty common for teachers to be in right now in our current virtual teaching world.

If you are a teacher, or thinking about other uses for the app, it is available for free in the App Store. It is worth noting that if you are using a Mac, Zoom will ask for permission to record the screen and must be restarted in order to share the phone screen (this is because Zoom only displays the phone screen on your computer, and then catch the window).

For more information on how the app works, the developer has created an instructional video, which you can watch below.

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