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Panoramic Cameras: New Pairs of Eyes for the Classroom

While the Flip cam may be on its way out, a new kind of camera is debuting in classrooms, according to California Watch, an investigative reporting news site. Teachscape Reflect is a panoramic camera that takes 360-degree video images of a classroom. It was invented by Teachscape, a San Francisco-based for-profit company, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to "improve instruction and evaluate how effective teachers are in reaching all the students in their classrooms," says California Watch.

The camera is operated remotely and can capture both the teacher and students at once. So far, several thousand teachers have volunteered to try it in their classrooms as part of the Gates Foundation's $45 million Measures of Effective Teaching project.

Teachscape's Matthew Nathan told California Watch that the teachers decide how and if they want to share their videos, which can be viewed online with the option to pan around the classroom. "The point is to show teaching as it is, in all its diversity," said Nathan, and to help new teachers see how to better engage distracted students.

Chris Williams, a spokesman for the Gates Foundation, emphasized that the camera is being used for research purposes, and not to evaluate teachers' performance. That said, the camera is now available for purchase by any school district for about $4,800.

What do you think? Would you welcome Teachscape Reflect into your classroom? Could this tool become the next fad in conducting teacher evaluations?

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