GuruBook Answers

A new, next-generation classroom ‘teaching machine’ makes its debut.

INTERVIEW| by Victor Rivero

GuruBookSince its debut in 2010, over 100,000 HoverCams are used in North America classrooms. The device does more for teachers than a traditional document camera, as it is also a scanner, grading machine, video recorder and high-resolution web camera — and all that for half the price of traditional document cameras. As a classroom tool, it also enhances lessons and saves time. Now, Kamille Franchomme, Product Marketing Manager at Pathway Innovations and Technologies, Inc., makers of the HoverCam, discusses yet another brand-new tablet-like tool making its debut in classrooms across America: the GuruBook. It looks a bit like one of those ancient overhead projectors without the box and magnifying lens — though you’d be mistaken if you thought it was anything but a sleek, high-powered next-gen device. Is it a useful “teaching machine”? That’s for teachers to say, but here’s an in-depth look at what it has to offer.

We want to ensure we equip teachers with the best tools out there and that we are presenting knowledge in the best way possible.

Victor: How is the GuruBook 5 different than other tablets?

Kamille: GuruBook 5 is the first device of its kind, actually. It is the first seamless integration of an ultra compact document camera with a high quality 10.1” Android tablet running Jelly Bean OS, designed especially for educators and those dedicated to educational technology. The live video preview from the HoverCam document camera is processed in real time by the tablet, making it the world’s first fully intelligent document camera. It features a free companion app that will allow teachers to utilize its multi-touch capability to directly annotate, record video, zoom-in and zoom-out. Teachers can download virtually any number of other apps as well, so they can take advantage of the built-in HoverCam document camera with their favorite apps. This unique combination makes the GuruBook far more than just a tablet or document camera. This is rather an all-in-one turnkey “teaching machine”. The unique combination of software apps and the HoverCam enables the GuruBook to practically replace laptops, interactive whiteboards, wireless slates, document cameras and even exam grading bubble sheet scanners. This is a very exciting next-generation teaching device.

Victor: How does the GuruBook 5 compare to an iPad?

Kamille: While the iPad is great for watching a movie, checking emails and browsing the Internet, the GuruBook offers more for teachers. We wanted to push the tablet concept further and create something that delivers a little bit more to a classroom setting. When we were developing the GuruBook, teachers and educators were our main source of inspiration. We believe they hold very special and important jobs and they deserve to have a device specifically designed with their needs in mind. With the GuruBook having a built-in HoverCam, teachers can utilize this high performance document camera while having the full processing power of a tablet at their fingertips. By the time of our commercial release, we will have a more powerful camera than what is currently found in today’s tablets.

Victor: The GuruBook 5 has a built in document camera. Is it heavy?

Kamille: We have most likely developed the most advanced and patented digital imaging engine for the next generation document imaging technology. By having done so, it has allowed us to achieve extremely high image resolution and great video performance without the use of bulky optical lenses. So the form factor is not heavy or bulky at all. The thickness is less than 7mm or less than 1/4″. And when the built-in camera arm is fully retracted, it is not even noticeable, making the GuruBook look and feel just like traditional tablets. The GuruBook weighs in at 33 ounces and most of the weight gain is from the long running battery pack. The battery life can give users a solid 8 to 9 hours of video viewing time.

Victor: How does the document camera in the GuruBook 5 compare to other popular document cameras?

Kamille: When we release the GuruBook 5, it will come equipped with a 5 Megapixel document camera. This is equivalent to the performance of our very popular model, the HoverCam Solo 5. However, expect to see higher end models that will offer an amazing combination of higher resolution at full motion HD frame rate of 30FPS for the commercial release. Our models will bring about some very healthy competition against the Elmo MO-1 and a few other ELMO models.

Victor: What are some unique uses for it?

Kamille: The GuruBook allows teachers to have an interactive whiteboard right in the palm of their hands. They will no longer have to turn their backs on their students to face a whiteboard. Teachers can sit facing their students and annotate directly on the GuruBook screen (with the supplied stylus or their fingers). And should a student be at home sick, teachers can even put their classes online and at real-time. Teachers can share their tablet’s screen online with up to 10 people. The GuruBook now becomes a virtual interactive whiteboard so that students both inside and outside of class are able to watch a live camera view.

It is also worth noting that teachers can put the GuruBook on a student’s desk, and use the built-in MiraCast capability to beam video wirelessly to a TV or projector. Even though the GuruBook comes with an HDMI output that can brilliantly mirror the tablet onto an HDTV, the wireless feature makes it far more convenient. This wireless feature will allow teachers to move around their classrooms more freely and potentially transforming teaching so that it becomes far more engaging.

GuruBook’s built-in document camera is posable and can be pointed in any direction to record videos, capture live presentations and class activities, scan documents and bubble sheet tests, which can then be easily shared on a class website or even emailed to parents directly. This type of functionality will help to increase feedback, recognition and parent-teacher collaboration.

When you combine a great document camera with the full intelligence of an Android tablet, the variety of uses are almost endless.

Victor: Generally, what are your thoughts on technology in schools these days? 

Kamille: We are at a point right now where schools are accelerating the adoption of technology in their classrooms. However, at the same time, they are also wrestling with older model desktops, bundles of confusing peripheral cables, driver conflicts and overwhelmed tech departments. What schools and teachers need now is a fully integrated, multi-functional device like the GuruBook that is both cost effective and will save teachers and tech teams time.

Educators shouldn’t have to struggle with piecing together incompatible technologies. They already have enough to worry about. 

Victor: Any advice for educators looking to incorporate technology into their classrooms? Words of wisdom?

Kamille: Technology pushes us forward and helps us discover new and exciting ideas. Because of this, it is essential to have technology in today’s classrooms. Students need to be engaged and taught in creative, out-of-the-box ways. It’s time to really start utilizing the power of tablets and really integrating them into everyday learning. It’s inevitable. If you don’t, students will start to demand it anyway. They live and breathe these devices everyday outside of the classroom and we have to learn to adapt to these changes.

And as for us technology makers, since we create devices that educators are expected to use, we should be mindful of them. What are their needs? Where can we help them? We, too, should learn to adapt and design devices that truly cater to their needs. Educators shouldn’t have to struggle with piecing together incompatible technologies. They already have enough to worry about. Let’s give them something designed especially for them, that’s just as cutting edge as a consumer product but at the same time is easy to use, gives them all the tools they are already accustomed to and without all the technology hassles. We should start to think and work collaboratively.

Speaking of which, HoverCam is welcome to the possibility of working with software publishers, education app developers and everyone in educational software. We want to ensure we equip teachers with the best tools out there and that we are presenting knowledge in the best way possible. We are really looking forward to creating some amazing partnerships.

Victor: What’s your view on the future of technology in schools in the next 3-5 years? 

Kamille: I believe that schools will adopt technology more quickly into their classrooms, and it will be very likely that classrooms will come equipped with personal devices for each of their students. A GuruBook for each of their students perhaps?

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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