15 Fabulous Ways to Utilize a Document Camera in the Art Room

Document Camera in the Art Room

Recently, I heard one of my students ask his friend, “If you were stranded on an island and could only take one item with you what would you bring?” I started thinking about the question as it applied to my classroom. The thought came to my mind, “What is the one item in my classroom that I absolutely could not do without?” I started surveying my room and realized there were so many wonderful items that I rely on every day.

But then my eyes landed on my desk and I saw the one item that makes my job so much easier: my document camera.

For those who don’t know, document cameras, which are sometimes referred to by the brand name “ELMOs,” are essentially a replacement for that trusty antique, the overhead projector.

Document cameras are able to project high resolution images of whatever items are placed underneath them. The beauty is that the items can then be shown in all their glory on a big screen in the classroom.

I’ll be honest. In college, I don’t even think I really knew the true potential of these little machines. I’m pretty sure back then I would have just said, “Pass me an Expo Vis-à-Vis and a wet rag…everyone gather around my desk.”

When I started my year of student teaching, I was placed in a middle school where the teacher utilized a document camera. I was absolutely blown away by the potential this camera had. Suddenly, instead of having two dozen bodies crammed around my demonstration table, every student was able to see just fine from the comfort of his or her own seat. The document camera has literally been a life saver and I don’t know what I’d do without it. Plus, if I was ever stranded on an island and all I had was a document camera, then at least I could project “SOS” and everyone would see it.

I wanted to give you a list of all the different things this little machine can do. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your room, please add your own ideas in the comments section! If you don’t have a document camera, the good news is that they come in a range of prices. Sometimes you can even find a deal for under $100! Without further ado, here are 15 fabulous ways to utilize a document camera.

15 Fabulous Ways to Utilize a Document Camera in the Art Room

  1. Use it as a way to demonstrate steps of a project for everyone to see
  2. Broadcast a project that students have worked on outside of class in a “show and tell” manner
  3. Zoom in on projects so students can see the details
  4. Capture images that you can use on websites, PowerPoints, worksheets, etc.
  5. Model cooperative learning activities (i.e. Venn Diagrams)
  6. Have your students be the teachers and demonstrate their knowledge
  7. Rotate objects underneath it when describing form and three-dimensional items
  8. Model how to write artist statements
  9. Display art articles or other texts without having to make multiple copies
  10. Take pictures of student artwork using the document camera to create an electronic portfolio
  11. Put a book underneath it during a read aloud so everyone can see the pictures
  12. Zoom in on rulers to help teach mathematics in an art project
  13. Place a stopwatch underneath the camera to help keep students on task and using their time wisely
  14. Show off the materials for a project and demonstrate the correct way to use them
  15. Display, analyze, and critique famous artwork and student artwork

There you go! 15 brilliant uses for a cool tool.

If you could only have one item from your classroom what would it be?

Do you have a document camera in your room? How do you use it?

Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • Art_GottaLoveIt

    Project a still life for students to draw.

    • Yes! A super idea!

    • Beth hoegger

      I do that while using mirrors and glass with liquid! Nobody can move it and the space it saves!!!! Also drawing examples and showing perspective in steps

  • Tangy B

    I use my document camera everyday too! I teach elementary art K- 5 to 1200+ students at 2 schools. That means teach the same lesson 10 times over 2 weeks. I don’t have a fancy ELMO- mine is the Frankenstein of doc cams- a webcam on a flexible stand. What I love most is that I can video my lessons step by step. It makes it awesome for students to watch each step, I can rewind as needed, plus I’m not tied to my desk drawing/ demonstrating. Last year, I purchased a wireless mouse for the computer. I can now walk around the room to help students while still on the “big screen”. The little guys think it’s pretty cool that I’m on the screen. It’s also useful for sub. days.

    • I love that you use it to video record your lessons! I agree that students just seem to grasp an idea easier when they see the steps. :) Excellent work!

  • Great ideas, Jennifer! Along those lines, here is an oldie but goodie from the archives with some more document camera ideas! https://theartofeducation.edu/2011/01/05/beyond-sesame-street-my-elmo/

  • Connie Z

    I’ve been toying with buying one. Today even. Thanks for the tips here. I didn’t realize you can take photos and also record video. Sounds so fun!

    • It is such a wonderful tool to have in the classroom! If you get one you will LOVE it!

  • rebecca

    I have one and I use it everyday, all the time. I love it! Of course I usually have to sit in front of it to demonstrate and my boss thinks am not spending enough time circulating around the room. I have recently taken step by step pics with it and put them together in a video that displays the steps for 15 seconds each so ” I can demonstrate” while I circulate. Win, Win.

  • AmyK

    Was just given one today that another teacher wasn’t using! Can’t wait to try it out!

  • Mr. Checkers

    Hi Jennifer, Thanks for your tips. I have never used a document camera, but I DO use is a video camera mounted above my drawing table and shooting down on what my hands are doing. I hook it up to a large flat screen and the students can watch me demonstrate (or do one of your tips) in regular classroom light. You don’t have to turn off a light for a projector. It’s much cheaper, especially if someone has an old video camera they are not using any more. Video cameras are so light you can get old pieces of tripods and just build a stand that is sort of like a boom microphone that is above your head…from the back. VERY handy!!!

    • Mr. Checkers

      P.S. You can even press “record” and record the demonstration if you like!

      • Wow Mr. Checkers. I am so very impressed by your set-up. I love that you utilized other resources when a document camera wasn’t handy. This is very cool. :) And thanks for the picture too!

        • Mr. Checkers

          You’re welcome, Jennifer! Sometime I will send you a “snapshot” of how I also combined a smart board, DVD/VHS player, 2 computers with live internet feed, a sound system, projector, 2 switchers, a guitar and another live feed video camera that will all enable me to make some really cool and exciting multi-media presentations this year.(I went a little crazy!) Stay tuned. :-)

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  • dtcre8ive

    My school is extremely blessed in that every classroom has one! I use it occasionally, but will DEFINITELY be using it more often!

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  • Michele Dieterich

    My elmo does not really show colors very well. Are there better doc cameras out there and what would you recommend.

  • Tammy Scott

    Thank you for always providing us with useful info and inspiration! I just got one of these handy tools for my elementary room and can’t wait to try it out. No more paint dripping as I hold the paper in the air!

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