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

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


It’s designed to help teachers who are teaching from home due to COVID

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A screenshot of the app that shows it acting as an overhead camera

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

If it’s been a minute since you were a student, or if your school didn’t have these overhead devices, they’re basically webcams pointing straight down that allow teachers to show students a printed document, book, hand drawing, or other piece of writing or image. It’s a useful ability to have, but many teachers are working from home because of COVID and may not have access to one like they would in the classroom.

Top-down view of a printed book, shown in a Zoom call
Participants in the Zoom call only see what your phone’s camera sees.

Overviewer works as a replacement by taking advantage of Zoom’s built-in screen sharing feature that works with the iPhone when its connected to a computer with a Lightning cable, or wirelessly through AirPlay (at the moment, it doesn’t seem like Zoom offers this feature for Android users). It shows a feed from your phone’s camera on the screen, with nothing else getting in the way. The feature also offers the ability to turn your phone’s flashlight on if your lighting situation isn’t ideal, as well as the option to change which camera is being 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 using iOS’s built-in camera app to do the same thing, and how she was frustrated by the lack of landscape support and all the buttons overlaid on-screen:

So being the dorky husband that I am, I quickly built an app that does nothing other than show what the phone camera sees with zero chrome, and properly rotates the whole app so that you can share it in landscape on zoom. This did the trick and she actually used it! 

It’s pretty tailor made for exactly my wife’s use case but I would think that would be a pretty common one for teachers to be in right now in our current virtual teaching world.

If you’re a teacher, or are thinking of some other use for the app, it’s available for free on the App Store. It’s worth noting that if you’re using a Mac, Zoom will ask for permission to record your screen and have to be restarted in order to share your phone’s screen (this is because Zoom is just displaying your phone’s screen on your computer, and then capturing that window).

For more information on how the app works, the developer has made a how-to video, which you can watch below.