Alright - full disclosure. I had most of these things before COVID-19 existed, mostly to help me record my art video lessons for the last few years. And side note - I am not being sponsored in any way shape or form, these companies don't even know I'm writing this blog post. My opinions are 100% based on experience. They will link to amazon because that's where I purchased them, but I am not an affiliate and won't get any kickbacks.
And another preface - because I didn't buy these specifically for distance learning, I don't think you should either! Ask your admin, write a grant, post on donorschoose - add to your amazon wishlist.
But these are the tech tools that have SAVED my life during distance learning. So let me tell you all about them!
Let me start with the ONE item I did purchase - in the middle of a panic attack when we first switched to distance learning in March! This is the IPEVO V4K Ultra High Definition 8 MP USB Document Camera. We have them in our classrooms, but were unable to get back in and grab them when school closed for Coronavirus. Quite frankly - I did not know how to teach without it! I tried using my phone as a document camera but I felt nervous not having access to it during "class" in case of emergencies. And I do need to tell you all that since I purchased this document camera, the price has gone up dramatically. DRAMATICALLY. But I am so glad I snagged one before hand, because it has been a life saver. It plugs into my computer with a USB cord and broadcasts through a chrome browser - you do have to install the chrome app. When I am teaching on Google Meet, I can present a tab, click the IPEVO, and instantly show my students what I'm doing while still seeing their lovely faces and monitoring the chat. I place it on a kleenex box to give it more height, which can sometimes effect lighting. Which brings to me my next life saving tech tool!
The Etekcity LED Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port was originally purchased as an experiment. If you're like me, you prefer keeping the fluorescent lights off in your classroom! I thought purchasing one of these for each table would be a solution - so I ordered one to test out. However, the battery power does not last long enough to make it worth while for students. Instead, I kept this one on my desk and used it to illuminate my work space when teaching my students over the document camera. I'm so glad I brought it home with me for distance learning because I've needed that extra boost of light! It also has a rainbow mode that is so gorg.
I purchased the UBeeSize Selfie Ring Light about a year ago, at the suggestion of my art teacher friend Mrs. Hami. At the time, it was only $13.99 - the price has nearly doubled. However, this ring light is perfect for illuminating my face during Google Meets with my students. You can adjust the brightness and try out the various filters. I usually leave it on white light. I clip it onto my iMac stand and bend the light to the top of the screen. I know there are MUCH fancier ring lights out there - but I have zero complaints about this one so far.
This BENKS Universal Flexible Cell Phone Holder has been a staple for me for years now. I use it primary to hold my iPhone when I record my art lesson videos. Like the light ring - there are many fancier and upgraded versions out there, but this one has been great for me. I do have a few suggestions:
1) Don't clip it to your table - your table might shake while you are making art, thus making the video unstable. Instead, I clip it to another table, or bookshelf nearby.
2) It can still shake a little when you press "record" so I always wait about 30-60 seconds before starting my demo.
Lastly, I LOVE my Yeti Blue Microphone! Originally purchased to record the voiceovers in my art lesson videos, I have now incorporated it into my every-day-distance-art-teachering life! One note - I also purchased a "pop" filter to eliminate that nasty sound that can get recorded when you enunciate. The audio is so clear. This has been essential to me as a teacher because so many of my students have newly immigrated to the US from other countries. It is a bit bulky - but if you're already looking for a microphone, definitely research this one!
We are fully virtual this semester, and I'm so glad I'll be able to hit the ground running with these tech tools. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear about them in the comments! And let me reiterate - before purchasing these, try to get them by other means!