The first scanner I used was an Apple flatbed that weighed about 30 pounds, was 24 inches long by 14 inches wide, and cost around $1,400. It didn't perform as well as many of the $100 scanners do now and it definitely didn't include text recognition software.
Like so many other kinds of technology, scanners have gone through an amazing transformation in the last 10 years. They are now lighter, smaller, and faster. They can do far more. They usually come with the software needed for graphic or text work. And, best of all, they are much less expensive than the scanners of the past. In fact, scanners have become so much less expensive and can be so useful that they are now digital age tools within easy reach for classroom use.
Scanners in the Classroom
In some senses, digital cameras and scanners do the same thing—process or take digital images. You can take a photo or scan a picture and come up with the same image. Digital cameras that take pictures that can be sent directly to a computer for use in a text, Web, or presentation document are very useful, especially since cameras are easier to move around. However, in many other ways, scanners can offer far more flexibility.
It is sometimes easier to find a graphic image in a magazine or book and scan it for noncommercial use. There aren't many lions where I live, so an existing image is my best source for a project.
In addition, scanners are easy to use for class projects involving collages or composite images. Many flatbed scanners have a flexible top to accommodate thick books and can scan reasonably thin objects—including rope, string, bugs, hands, leaves, rulers, and more—opening up a range of possibilities for classroom projects involving images that could be more difficult to obtain with a camera.
And, in this day of portfolios and electronic records, an even more important function may be scanning text, including books, reports, notes from home, original artwork, and more.
As you consider possible projects that could include a scanner, think beyond photos, line art, text, or art projects. Many three-dimensional objects can be scanned, including botanical or insect specimens, jewelry, book or CD covers, clay shapes, candy, coins, and more. Scanned textiles make great backgrounds. Scanned photos, art, and text can be used to create documentaries, slide shows of field trips or other events, and memory, fact, or ABC books.
Of course, scanners are immensely useful for working with material in more traditional projects such as slide shows, word-processing reports, electronic portfolios, and more. I know an enterprising middle school teacher who scanned photos from yearbook archives and made a "history of the school" slide show that was burned onto CDs and sold as a fundraiser for a school club.
Types of Scanners and How They Work
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