All the Classroom’s a Stage
Who says you need an expensive document camera to turn papers and physical objects into a digital stream for a projector? Not with Belkin’s $200 Tablet Stage, an innovative device that can turn just about any tablet into a better visualizer.
Instead of a dedicated document camera costing $500 or more, Tablet Stage can transform an existing tablet into a powerful document camera. It’s a little more involved than using the less expensive Juststand tablet holder, but it is so easy to put Tablet Stage together that you probably won’t even need to read the directions; figure it’ll take 5 minutes to assemble. After that it takes a moment to reattach the tablet to the stand.
There’s a weighted 13- by 15.3-inch base with a stage big enough for a good sized book, a page from an atlas or a calculator for demonstrations. It has rubber feet and can be screwed into place on a tabletop for a permanent installation. There's a vertical aluminum column and adjustable tablet swing arm along with places to stash cables to keep them out of the view of the tablet’s camera.
The key is that the swing arm has an innovative tablet holder with padded adjustable jaws to grip the device. It works with a variety of tablets that have between 7- and 11-inch displays, although it’s too big to hold an iPhone and too small to accommodate Acer’s Iconia W700P.
I used Tablet Stage with a full size iPad as well as a Mini, a Samsung Tab2 and a Lenovo S2110. It can work with many still in their case and hold them securely in place. Unfortunately, the holder’s jaws are able to only loosely hold the iPad Mini in place. I ended up using a rubber band to secure it in palce.
At any time you can adjust the arm up or down (to zoom in and out) or rotate it to get to a better view. The camera arm can even be angled from horizontal to vertical orientation to get the right view, say of an art project. This can also replace an articulated tablet holder and allow the slate to be for small group work, video-conferencing or taking pictures.
For use in a darkened room, such as a lights-off lesson with a projector, Tablet Stage comes with a three-element LED light that runs on three AAA batteries that are included. It’s mounted on a gooseneck arm to make it adjustable. It works well, but, like standalone doc cams, you need to adjust its angle carefully so that it doesn’t produce a hot spot.
Because you’re working with a tablet that is horizontal, the screen is free and perfectly positioned for writing, drawing or annotating. This makes augmenting and highlighting the image much easier than is possible with a PC, but Tablet Stage allows the slate to wobble while tapping or using your finger on the screen.
The stand really comes into its own with Belkin’s free Stage app. It’s only available for iPads, so Androids can only use the device to hold the slate in place and capture images or video. The app lets you add labels, annotate in several colors and line widths, erase items and point out an area of interest. At any time you can snap a screen shot, but to capture audio and video you need to pay an extra $2 for Belkin’s upgraded software; the add-on makes it easy to upload of videos to YouTube’s EDU section or other sites.
Good for displaying everything from a chemistry lab to the details of an antique map, Belkin’s Tablet Stage put learning material front row, center by turning any tablet with a camera into a visualizer.
+ Replaces an expensive document camera with a tablet
+ Easy set up and use
+ LED lighting
+ Works with variety of tablets
+ iPad app
+ Can hold tablet at a variety of angles
- Doesn’t hold some slates securely
- No Android annotation app
- Tablet wobbles