Beyond Sesame Street: My Elmo

My document camera is called an Elmo. I think that is the brand name, however, at our school they are simply lovingly refered to as “The Elmo” by teachers and kids.  This whole document camera stuff is so formal. I prefer red furry creatures.

Today I want to share some creative ways to use your (ahem) Elmo in the art room. (or whatever type of document camera you may have or pine for).

Mine sits on this handy cart that sits in the middle of my triangle-shaped art room. The cart also has a VCR/DVD combo inside with a projector screen. The cart is a little huge for my tastes, however it gets the job done.  In this photo I am standing in the widest part of the triangle. The door (or lack thereof) is the tip of the triangle. Get it?

My projector  and Elmo are on all day every day. I use them with every single class I teach. The number one thing I use my document camera for is to demonstrate. Kids sit in front of me or behind me in the chairs as I demo on the screen.

Here I am showing students and example of a piece of work. I love to get zoomed in to the perfect angle to highlight what I am trying to show. I think demonstration is the most obvious use, however, there are other creative uses.

Below, I am using the Elmo to set up a still life. I have short classes, large classes and a small room, so logistically setting up a still life on each table is tricky.  This is where Elmo comes in. I set up the still life and then I simply tilt the camera to show the front of the still life.

See how clearly all of the students can see the shapes and values? It works quite well! Notice how I have all of the still life items in a clear Rubbermaid on it’s side? This way I can simply pick up the tote and put it somewhere safe so nothing moves so they can continue to draw the following class.  Because I have no time between grade levels, I really value the quick transition this provides.

I also enjoy using the Elmo to read books. The kids can all see the pictures and it makes it fun and interactive. Kids like to come up to the screen and point to things.

Other ways I use the Elmo?- Sometimes I will have students put their work under the Elmo when they are finished Kind of like a gallery showcase. The possibilities are endless.

This is a great site with even more uses for a Document Camera in the classroom:

50 Plus Ideas for Using Document Cameras

Do you have a Document Camera? If so, what are some creative ways you use it?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I don’t know how I ever taught art without one! Gone are the days of managing demos around a table with all the jostling and elbowing.
    I just happened across your blog today and love it! I’m also an art teacher in the Des Moines area and always happy to read about the experiences of kindred spirits. Looking forward to following along!

  • Anna

    I was fortunate enough to student teach with a teacher who had an Elmo…. now teaching without one is no fun! I was so spoiled while student teaching and I really miss having one. The Elmo’s are a wonderful tool. I just don’t have the budget for one, but maybe someday. They are great for demos, etc… Love ’em!

  • I would LOVE an Elmo. I invested in a projector for my own laptop. The only problem is the cord! It drives me crazy to keep saying, “don’t walk over the cord” as students take their seats. How is your cord set up? Does it run along the floor? From the ceiling? and how do you deal with it?


    • Lets see, My cord for the whole cart unit runs UNDER my World carpet on the floor, so kids don’t really bother it, there is just a little bump. You could tape it down. However they might pick at the tape..KIDS!

  • Aha! I see it! good idea. I really want mine installed in the ceiling but since that won’t happen I will put it under a rug.

  • rachel

    which elmo do you have. I am asking for one for my classroom… ?

  • Hi, my name is Rannie Huang, the marketing manager for Elmo USA corp. I am wondering if we can share your article and photos on this page to our global website ( I will be waiting for your kind reply. My email address:

    • Denise M Merritt

      Rannie…I too am an art teacher in a elementary school. I have tried other brands of Doc. Cameras but nothing has come close to the quality I find in the Elmo. I love it! With large classes all the students can see my demos! I use the Doc. Camera everyday and in all my classes. It has increased understanding and the students seem to pay attention more because they for one can see, but it is right up their alley.  Thank you for such a great product!  Denise Merritt

  • Love your idea of still life in a rubbermaid tub. I had a doc cam and will definitely try this. Thanks for posting.

  • Clare

    Hi Jessica, I just got an ELMO via!!! My only problem is my cart is a little to small. I know you are not crazy about your large cart but where did you get it and where is your projector…….is it ceiling mounted or on the cart too?? Thanks!

  • Laura

    Totally awesome!!! I really need one of these for my art classroom! Especially the part about zooming in on a particular area of a painting, drawing, etc. that you’re trying to get the students to understand. That’s tough to point out and have everyone be able to see when you have a large or awkward sized art room. (I have both an awkward and large art room which is very difficult to have students gather to see demos and art work.)

  • I like your idea of having your still life on the elmo – to solve a space problem – However I am torn with the fact that the whole point of drawing from life is to translate what you see in 3D into 2D. Here you are turning the 3D into 2D on the screen for them – so they may as well be drawing from photos.

  • I like your idea of having your still life on the elmo – to solve a space problem – However I am torn with the fact that the whole point of drawing from life is to translate what you see in 3D into 2D. Here you are turning the 3D into 2D on the screen for them – so they may as well be drawing from photos.

    • Tisha,
      I totally understand what you are saying with the 3D vs 2D, and I try to balance out the experiences students get. Sometimes because of space or expensive supplies, we have to get creative, I suppose there are always options!


    Jessica I couldn’t wait to tell you that I totally used your idea with our Elmo today. We have one for the school which nobody uses so it turns out it’s usually in my room. Today I put our sneaker as still life in a box (as you suggested and projected it on the board. So much easier and I was able to show contour line by having the kids trace the outline. I also showed how to break it into shapes before drawing. Once I turned the light off they could see how the sneaker was shaping up. They also could see the process and how it doesn’t look great *at first* but you have to build a drawing. So much smoother! Thank you!

    • That is great news! I am so happy it worked for you and love hearing success stories!

  • H. Taylor

    Hi Jessica. Would you mind telling us what model Elmo you have. I just went looking and I’m overwhelmed at all the different types. There are many on ebay that seem reasonable, but I’d hate to get one that doesn’t fit my needs as an art teacher. Thanks for any help you can give.

    • Lorca Beebe-Diaz

      Did you ever buy one and if so which model?

  • Lorca Beebe-Diaz

    I am an art on a cart teacher. I am wondering if anyone can recommend a model of an Elmo for an on the go teacher.