A new teacher app allows iPhone or iPad to be used as the overhead camera on Zoom

The teachers who found themselves keeping the classroom via Zoom may have already figured out clever hacks for viewing their students’ documents, but there is now an app specifically designed for this (Across 9to5Mac). Overviewer is created by developer Charlie Chapman, and it allows educators (or anyone, really) to easily use their phone’s camera as an alternative to a top document viewer.

If it’s been a minute since you were a student, or if your school doesn’t have these overhead devices, they are basically straight down web cameras that allow teachers to show off a printed document, book, hand drawing, or any other piece of writing or photo. It’s a useful ability, but many teachers work from home due to COVID and may not be able to access one as if they were in the classroom.

Top-down view of a printed book, shown on a Zoom call

Participants in a Zoom call only see what your phone’s camera sees.

Overviewer works as an alternative by taking advantage of Zoom’s built-in screen sharing feature Works with iPhone when connected to a computer Using a Lightning cable, or wirelessly through AirPlay (at the moment, Zoom doesn’t seem to offer this feature to Android users). It displays a feed from your phone’s camera on the screen, without anything else getting in your way. The feature also provides the ability to turn on your phone’s flashlight if your lighting position isn’t ideal, along with the option to change which camera is shown.

In a warm blog post On how to develop the app for his wife, who works as a kindergarten teacher, Chapman explains how he saw his wife use the built-in camera app in iOS to do the same thing, and how frustrated she was with the lack of landscape support and all that superimposed buttons on the screen:

Being the stupid husband that I am now, I quickly designed an app that does nothing but show what the phone’s camera sees without Chrome, and rotates the entire app properly so that you can share it in the landscape when zoomed in. Here’s the trick and I’ve already used it!

It is specially designed for my exact wife’s use case, but I think it will be a very common thing for teachers right now in the current virtual teaching world.

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

For more information on how the app works, the developer has created a How does the videoWhich you can see below.

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