Stetson School of Music Marching to a Different Drummer

By Linda L. Briggs

Document cameras, often referred to as ELMOs because of a leading manufacturer (ELMO USA Corp.), have been used in classrooms for years. They function like a high-tech version of the opaque projector of years past. The document camera can either be table- or ceiling-mounted, and ties to a large-screen projector. The document beneath the camera is projected onto a classroom screen for students to view; the cameras supplement or sometimes replace a classroom blackboard or whiteboard.

But at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, an hour north of Orlando, the school of music has elevated ELMOs to a new height. Instructors there are using the camera setup in new ways, such as helping music students learn by putting music scores under the document camera while the music on the score is being played.

The Stetson School of Music curriculum includes performance, music education, composition, and digital arts. Students are offered a variety of performing opportunities, including symphony orchestra, band, choirs, opera, musical theater, jazz, chamber music, and solo music. Classrooms throughout Stetson’s School of Music are equipped with ELMO ceiling-mounted and desktop document cameras, projectors, and screens.

While ELMOs are common in classrooms these days, the music school is doing something different. Gerry Ewing, Stetson’s Director of Instructional Technology, explains, “we’ve done something that we think no one else has done.” At Stetson, classroom screens display images from the ELMO cameras while sound systems play the music associated with displayed images. By using the document cameras, instructors can display images from books, pictures, musical scores, and even drill charts for marching bands.

“This should be done everywhere,” Ewing says. “It’s such a great notion.” Previously, faculty would hand out paper copies of the music, which were shared among students. But with the document camera, instructors can display a single copy of the score to the class, and as the music plays, “instructors can circle things, they can point out things, they can go back and review.” The camera system is especially useful for displaying music because it can be used to show images of large charts or pictures placed on a table. Through a remote control unit, instructors can zoom in and display specific areas.

The system is tied in to the school’s backend Blackboard system, so the instructor’s notes are saved and can be downloaded later by students.

Another interesting use that Stetson has made of the document cameras, Ewing says, is for studying halftime maneuvers for Stetson’s performing band. In that use, ceiling-mounted ELMO cameras are used to present large drill charts to students studying marching band techniques – how to write, drill, and teach marching bands as future band directors.

According to Bobby Adams, professor of music education at Stetson, as well as director of the university symphonic band and coordinator of instrumental activities, the ceiling-mounted document camera is especially useful for presenting large drill charts to students. “Each student in a marching band has an assignment that involves specific and often complicated movements that are all choreographed,” Adams says. The ELMOs allow the entire class to view the charts simultaneously, so that students can see each movement as it relates to others. The camera allows Adams to display clear images of the full charts to the class on a large screen mounted on the wall, then zoom in to focus on individual assignments.

Previously, “communicating band movements to students was very difficult,” explains Adams. “The document cameras changed all that by making it easy for all of the students to clearly see the charts and for instructors to highlight individual movements so that they can be easily studied. It’s a superb teaching tool for showing different formations.”

Along with the document cameras, typical equipment in Stetson’s multimedia classrooms includes Sharp data/video projectors, Panasonic DVD players, Crown amplifiers, and JBL speakers. In addition, classrooms in the School of Music include a Mackie mixer, Apple Macintosh computer to play digital recordings, and a Sony CD unit and a turntable to play the school’s archived music collection, which includes thousands of compact discs and LP recordings.

ELMO document cameras have also been installed in multimedia classrooms at Stetson University’s College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business Administration and College of Law.

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