Getting to Know Elmo

Not an exact reproduction of our classroom technology

I am willing to bet that there are more than a few of us (and I am certainly in this group much of the time) whose only interaction with the Elmo document camera in our classrooms is when we move it out of the way on the instructor’s table. All too often, I think of this device as essentially a glorified overhead projector: useful if I need to show a paper document, but otherwise it just gets in the way. 

But I’ve been selling the Elmo short. It’s actually a really versatile device, and I’ve gotten a few resources across my social media feeds that have made me ponder how I might use this tool more effectively in class. Showing a three-dimensional object, for example, is done more effectively by putting it under the document camera and projecting it on the screen than it is with me just holding it up in front of students. Plus, the document camera can zoom in to project objects in remarkable detail in front of the class. Sure, you might say, that’s cool and all, but it seems a bit…pedestrian. What else can this thing do?

Well, how about:

  • Projecting student work on the screen for peer editing and collaborative revision
  • Recording yourself working out a math problem or chemical equation and then uploading that video in your Blackboard course space (note: this can also be done with the Smartboard and its accompanying software)
  • Demonstrate using an app on your tablet or phone
  • Project templates or spaces to complete problems on the smartboard and have students write in answers or solutions
  • go over exams or quizzes, demonstrating correct answers or procedures
  • display art or other images, zoom in and out for details and overview, annotate on the smartboard (or even the “regular” whiteboard)
  • In conjunction with Panopto, record a screencast tutorial video for students

Once one starts thinking about the various applications the document camera can be used for, the list gets long pretty quickly. K-12 teachers have used document cameras for a wide variety of purposes in their classrooms, and are way ahead of most of us in this area. There are some good collections some of these educators have put together that might help you think about potential uses for this technology in your own teaching. This introductory overview from Edutopia is a good place to start, and this case study of one teacher’s use of the document camera to teach writing and revision is also interesting. Several teachers have also created a Wikispace to gather document camera instructions and ideas, which has a number of subject-specific ideas. And, finally, this more extensive list contains a wealth of ideas that may spark some thinking for your own classroom needs: 101WaysTeachersUseDocCam [PDF].

There are some similar things you can do with our Smartboards and the Smart Notebook software that’s installed on the classroom computers. You can record input and writing, annotate documents and images, and use them for interactive exercises, for example. If you’re interested in more fully utilizing these classroom tools, email Kevin Gannon to set up a consultation, and you can get the instruction and resources you need. CETL staff are also happy to come to a department meeting and do some Smartboard or Elmo training as well–we are more than happy to make house calls for classroom technologies! Let us know if you are interested by sending a message using the “Contact Us” link on the right-hand menu, or by emailing

I’d like to take a moment at the end of this post to welcome Laura Rath to the CETL and to Grand View. Laura is our new part-time administrative assistant, in a position funded by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges. We are thrilled to have her on board; she’ll be working approximately three days per week, from around 10:30-2:30. She’s located just inside the CETL in Rasmussen 207, so the next time you’re around, stop by and say hello.

Finally, for our part-time faculty colleagues, when CETL is not reserved for meetings (and we’ll have a list of when those times are conveniently posted at our front door), you are more than welcome to use Rasmussen 208 for your own workspace. We have two laptop computers that are networked into the GV system available for your use, as well as a printer and (perhaps most essentially) a Keurig coffeemaker. We’re aware that office space is often at a premium as Grand View’s community grows, so please know that you are more than welcome to use the CETL space, and we’d love to have you do so.

Have a question? Want to talk teaching and learning? Need some help with Blackboard or classroom technology? Come by RASM 208 or contact CETL and let us help you!

Finally, here is a dog whose new year’s resolution about exercising is going about as well as mine:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.