The Ideal Tech Set-Up for the Art Room

One question I get asked quite often is: What is the ideal technology setup for the art room?

Of course, this is an individual preference type of thing. From my own experiences, and from talking to art teachers from around the country, I can say there are definitely many mix-and-match options to optimize technology in the art room. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a budget to gradually build up your collection.

In my classroom, I did fairly well with the following setup:

  • Laptop
  • Projector
  • Elmo (Document Camera)
  • Digital Camera

If I could add something to this setup to make it perfectly ideal, I would add:

  • iPad
  • VGA Adaptor (to hook your iPad up to the projector)
  • Apple TV (for wireless connection from your device to the screen)

 Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 3.33.59 PM

You may be wondering why I didn’t include a SMART Board on my wish list. My reason is that an iPad can perform many of the same capabilities at a fraction of the cost, plus is more versatile. For example, there are Apps that allow you to draw over an image just like a SMART Board. This would be especially easy if you also purchased an inexpensive stylus to use with your iPad.

I personally feel that individual teachers are doing great things with their SMART Boards, but I often look to the future and ask myself, “In 5 years will this technology will be obsolete? Will iPads will replace the need for SMART Boards?”

What do you think? Are SMART Boards and similar devices going to become a thing of the past? Are there better alternatives? 

What items would make up your ideal tech set up for the art room? 


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.


  • candace pridemore

    I have a smart board, enlarger and a overhead projector . I just love my smart board . I use it for power points, art images and review games.

  • Susan

    I really want an Elmo for enlarging books I read aloud & for demos I currently do on my markerboard easel. I like the idea of projecting the still life set ups, too. I plan to write a grant for one, but have questions. What must I have besides the basic projector for it to work? Anything else a must have in order to use it? I could add optional items later. Will my smart board screen serve as screen for it? I’m looking at the TT 12 model. Anyone have advice about best model? I love my smart board (attaches to laptop) & I use it to show art & anything online I want to share, online videos, etc. (its bad for drawing demos, in my opinion) I see how I could use my iPad to do some of this but my iPad isn’t connected to anything right now. Also, I use my overhead projector with transparencies to enlarge images when students are making large props & decorations for musicals & events. I need to utilize my digital camera this year to share student art on smart board. I have been taking iPhone pics only & not loading pics onto laptop for viewing Thanks for reminding us & any Elmo advise will be greatly appreciated.

    • In order for the Elmo to work, you need a computer/laptop and a projector of some kind. I have used a regular projector and currently use my Interactive Whiteboard as the projector.
      I also a TT 02 model, I assume is the same model you’re talking about, only older. I LOVE my Elmo.
      It’s amazing how much more successful students are when they can view demonstrations right side up, on a large screen, in the comfort of their seats, as opposed to huddling around a table.

    • Amy Otteson

      What is the approx cost of an ELMO?
      Amy o

  • Toby

    I have had a smart board and document camera for a number of years and find that I use them for every class K-5 Art. The airliner I had I really didn’t use. I don’t need to purchase visuals as much and the class can see demonstrations without crowding around a table. I create my own movie snips, (one is for our weaving unit and my 5th grade will watch it and restart it themselves as I am going around assisting where necessary -if they need to), lesson presentations and interactive pieces for the kids. I don’t need classroom sets of books as they can be projected on the smart book for the kids to read. I now have an Apple TV and an iPad which have been a wonderful addition to my art lessons. The only thing I don’t like is how small iPad is on my smart board screen. In one 1st gr. lesson of still life we viewed Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers and the different points of view. From our still life of sunflowers I used my iPad to visually illustrate how many points of view in the room look… Projected into the smart board the class was able to see from their seat others point of view in the room. My kids have worked wonderfully on the iPad with the lessons we are working on. I have it available for when they finish our project early. I do have a cannon camera but use the iPad more for pictures and movies. I have heard the smart board is outdated and may be phased out, but I hope not!

  • Bonnie McDaniel

    We are so lucky that we live in a time that makes access to art visuals and technology so easy! I don’t know how teachers did it in the time of the Ditto machine! I use my SMART Board, Elmo, etc… all the time. They are great. The hardest part is finding time to stay on top of the new technology that is coming out all the time. I have learned a lot from my students (who have no fear) and from just clicking around.

  • I suppose sooner or later, my Elmo Document Camera and Promethean Interactive Whiteboard will be a technology of the past, and maybe already is. I think the problem with education (at least my district) is we’re always a couple steps behind when it comes to technology. Especially the art department… it seems as though there never is enough technology dollars to keep up with the newest gadgets.
    So,for the time being, I feel lucky to have the technology I have in my classroom. I first purchased an Elmo when I taught elementary and fell in love with the ability to display demonstrations, books, and still life objects, on a large screen through a projector.
    When I moved to my middle school placement, I didn’t have an Elmo. I ended up spending my own money to purchase a used one off ebay and it has been the best personal purchase I’ve made for my classroom to this day. The best part about my middles school art studio is having an interactive whiteboard to use in addition to the Elmo.
    I use my Interactive Whiteboard on a daily basis to project art history images, display lesson objectives or student learning expectations (power standards), to show videos, or display flipcharts that students can interact with. The best part about my whiteboard is the size of it, it’s HUGE, so even students in the back have a “front row” seat to my demonstrations.
    I’m sure there is better technology out there, and I would love to have an ipad (or even a class set) to use but for the time being, I am completely happy and content with my technology set up and feel lucky to have both an Elmo and an Interactive Whiteboard.

  • Susan

    Those of you with Elmo & smart board, if you use your smart board projector as the projector for the document camera, is it easy to switch from one to the other? How do you connect an Elmo to the smart board? Just wondered. Thanks.

  • Clara

    I love my Elmo and projector! I am not familiar with Apple TV. Could you tell more about that?

  • Rachel

    Having access to technology is wonderful. I found it interesting that when our school was just starting to get SMART Boards and I jumped at the chance to get one on my room, I heard many questions about why an Art teacher would need a SMART Board. I use it all the time to share info about works of art through images, videos, etc. I also have an iPad that I mirror with the SMART Board. As I walk around the room, I can draw (or write) on the iPad from any location in the room and it is projected onto the SMART Board. This has been awesome when teaching perspective lessons. I can be standing next to students to see if they are drawing the lines the correct way.

    As the years go by, I have been slowing adding tech tools my students have access to for use with their art lessons. In addition to the SMART Board, I have a document camera which has been so useful in doing art techniques demonstrations that all students can see. (I also use it during the primary grades life unit. Our school received a grant for incubators in the classroom and since I teach all students in the school, I also have an incubator and do collaborative art lessons. I use the document camera to projector what is going on in the incubator. Last year, the 5th graders got to see a chick hatch.)

    My school is a 1:1 laptop school so my 6-8th graders all have laptops. I don’t know what I would do without them. Last year, for the first time, students used technology to create videos about their works of art for use at conferences. After students created works of art, they used iPods touches and/or a digital camera (items we received from a grant) to photograph their works of art. (They also have access to a couple flatbed scanners that someone donated to the school.) After students photographed or scanned their works of art, they uploaded the photos to digital portfolios and iMovie in their laptops where they created video reflections about their work. They exported their reflections as movies and shared them during student-led conferences. As part of the grant, we also received a green screen. Students just learned the basics of the green screen and will be using it for a variety of purposes this year. Last year, each seventh and eighth grade student picked one of their favorite works of art they created and talked about it in front of the green screen while a classmate used an iPod Touch to video record them. Students uploaded the video and artwork to iMovie and dropped the green screen video on top of the work of art. The work of art became a “wall” that the student was standing in front of in the movie. This year, I would like to have students research historical works of art and use the green screen to create movies about those works.

    My latest technology tool addition to my classroom is a refurbished overhead projector. I took the very top piece off (the part that you would adjust to get everything in focus) and screwed two long, flat pieces of wood in its place so they hang over the glass. I set the iPad on the pieces of wood so it hangs over the glass where the overhead plastic copy would sit. Then, I set works of art on the glass and take pictures with the iPad. It has worked wonders in getting pictures of works of art that are not distorted. Plus, I (or students) can adjust the height of the iPad so the work is in focus. We post those pictures to This year, my older students will make QR Codes for their personal pages. This QR Code will hang next to the work of they select for the Art Show. People who attend the show will be able to scan the QR Code to see works of art that could not be displayed due to the lack of space.

    ***As an added bonus, because I left the bulb in the projector, it also doubles as a light table.

    I am so excited to start the school year. It has taken two years to teach the students how to apply the skills mentioned above. This year, I feel like they will be ready to really bring it all together at an independent level. In addition, I feel like they will be able to apply the skills learned in art to their other classes. My goal this year is to do more collaborative works with my coworkers.

    • Tara Nunimaker

      Wow, thank you so much for sharing. Very inspiring! My district finally got a tech grant program for teachers together and I was looking on how to expand the tech integration. Specifically was thinking about green screens and some of the other things you mentioned, but didn’t really know how to apply it. I LOVE the idea of video reflections! Especially with ELLs, which 96% of my students are. Thank you again!

  • Erica Carlson

    I really want a table like that. Can anyone tell me where that image is from?

  • Felipe Bermudez

    I’m curious as to how you would implement the use of a camera in an art class?

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  • Jessica Blumer

    What type of digital camera are people using in their classroom? I’m in need of a new camera, and I was wondering if people rely on their phones these days or invest in a quality camera? Thank you!

  • Emily Joyce

    Hi! I came back to school this year to find an Apple TV hooked up in the art room. Wondering if you have any suggestions for apps to use, how to use the Apple TV besides just air play? Any tips on what is the best way to use a PowerPoint/slide show on the iPad?