When most people think of Elmo, they think of the fuzzy red puppet from the childhood classic “Sesame Street,” not the overhead projectors used in classrooms. So the happening on Griffin’s Lair that read “Is Elmo Dead?” raised quite a few eyebrows.
The teaching and learning session was presented by Mary Spataro, director of the Center for Innovative Teaching. The meeting was held to discuss the functionality document cameras in the classrooms.
One of the challenges with document cameras is their location and keeping them secure. Most of the classrooms at Seton Hill University (SHU) have drawers in the podiums that contain these projectors, but it is still difficult to keep them wired to other devices. Each department uses them differently, if at all.
“The last few times I’ve used a document camera was because I couldn’t hook my computer up to Apple TV,” said Dennis Jerz, associate professor of English and advisor for The Setonian. “I was happy it was there, but I would rather connect my computer. If the camera is gone, I can just show the students my laptop.”
“I use a document camera everyday,” said Joshua Sasmour, associate professor of mathematics. “I put up the question and a huge blank space, and then the students help me answer it. We do the calculations live right in front of them. I can put my graphing calculator under it. I could run my class with a chalkboard, but then my back is to the audience.”
“The only time I’ve ever used it was for the camera feature to show the students how to load a scalpel,” said Bobbie Leeper, assistant professor in biology & physician assistant programs.
SHU has been named an Apple Distinguished School four times since 2010. According to Apple’s website, an Apple Distinguished School is recognized for its visionary leadership, innovative learning and teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and a flexible learning environment. The Mac and the iPad are just a few of the technologies used here at SHU.
The Elmo visual projector company began in 1921, but they released their first overhead projector in 1969. Some of the smaller and more mobile alternatives for the Elmo devices include the Mo-1 Visual Presenter and the iPevo Point 2 View. The university also owns tripods to use with the iPads they provide.
“I do not believe Elmo is dead,” said Spataro. “I think there is always going to be a need to project documents and objects in a teaching and learning environment. I think Elmo is evolving and that we are going to continue to see changes in document projection as technology advances.”
The development of radios, video tapes and Scantron sheets have launched education forward since the times of chalkboards and textbooks. Technologies such as these help with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This teaching approach uses “a variety of methods to remove any barriers to learning and give all students equal opportunities to succeed,” according to understood.org.
However, developing technologies could also mean losing the physical interaction between students and professors. Spataro believes it’s still possible to keep a balance between humanity and computers.
“A lot of it has to do with how you set that up and how you conduct that environment,” said Spataro. “It’s very easy to alienate somebody in a classroom, whether they are in a face-to-face classroom or online. You have to put a lot of thought and care into how to personalize a learning experience. I think it’s a challenge, but we can meet that.”