Author - Sam Gliksman

Communicating with New Media in the iPad Classroom

Written by CUE Member and Guest Blogger Sam Gliksman @SamGliksman

CC Sean MacEntee

CC Sean MacEntee

We’ve seen the dramatic evolution and convergence of one innovative trend in communication over the last few years. The tremendous rise in mobile computing has placed cameras and microphones in the hands of large percentages of people around the globe. We were media consumers in the 20th century.

We’ve now become prodigious producers of media and the creation and sharing of media has become an integral part of the way we all communicate. The age group leading this charge is predominantly teens.

We need to prioritize the teaching of media literacy and incorporate effective media creation into day to day student learning. Mobile devices such as iPads offer increasingly more powerful and accessible tools for creating media. Here’s an overview of some innovative new media tools and how they can be used to enhance learning: Animation, Augmented Reality, and Green Screen Technology.


Cartoons and animated movies have had a tremendous impact on modern culture. Production of an animated movie requires skilled artists, expensive equipment and countless labor hours, however mobile devices enable budding animators to use simple animation apps that capture and stitch together staged photos into seamless, fluent animated movies. Animation can also be a wonderful mix of art, science, collaboration and problem solving.

At a recent professional development workshop, I challenged teachers to create short animated sequences that would illustrate a concept. We used Animate It, a simple and relatively inexpensive animation app. Here’s an example of one group’s animated movie.

They staged an animation of the life cycle of salmon. The video was the result of collaborative discussion, collective imagination and creativity, problem-solving, critical analysis and a lot of very obvious teamwork. If some of those terms sound familiar, it’s because they intersect with a lot of the learning skills we’re trying to develop in our students.

The group quickly came up with a scheme to divide up the work. Some group members shaped the figures and set up the background stage, some worked on setting up the iPad and testing the lighting, and others researched the details of the salmon life cycle and salmon run. During the setup, you could see and hear them interacting and asking questions of each other. Some discussions focused on the mechanics of the animation while others related to the analysis and presentation of the educational content: “What are the important stages in the life cycle of salmon?” – “When exactly do salmon swim upstream?” – “What percentage swim out to sea and what happens to the others?”

Creative visualization and representation is a process we use throughout all academic disciplines. Animations can be just as effective in Science, History, English or Art. Examples include:

  • History – journeys of an explorer, animating key words in a famous speech
  • Science – life cycles, water cycles, photosynthesis, principles in physics
  • Math – visual presentation of the concept of fractions
  • English – writing a story or poem then re-telling it visually

 Augmented Reality

An augmented reality (AR) app uses your device’s camera to view the immediate environment and displays information or media when it sees a “trigger” object it recognizes. Imagine pointing an iPhone at a piece of art and watching an interview with the artist. Point your device at an advertisement in a magazine and get detailed product demonstrations. Aim it at a sign outside a house for sale and get a virtual walk-through the property. There are also many ways augmented reality can be used in education.

The Virtual Museum and Augmented Reality

I’ve worked with teachers to created virtual museums – exhibits that use AR to display student videos when a device is pointed at an artifact. In one such project, students researched elements of their community’s culture and created physical artifacts for a museum display. They also created videos detailing the relevance of each artifact and the process that went into creating it.

We used a popular augmented reality app called Aurasma. Using the Aurasma app, visitors pointed their device at an artifact and watched it morph into a video as shown below:

Here are some simple augmented reality projects you could try:

  • Create an AR timeline that triggers video documentaries for periods of history along the timeline.
  • Plays student book reviews when you point a device at printed images of book covers.
  • School visitors point a device at an image outside a classroom to watch student video explaining what they’ve been learning.
  • Create a “wall of heroes”. Print and hang images of famous people and have the students create short videographies of each person.
  • Create live student portfolios for open house. Students display their work and each piece triggers a video with an explanation of the process and learning that took place.

 Green Screen Videos

One of the first places I visited in the United States was Universal Studios. Of course, being a relatively young and willing tourist, my hand automatically shot up when they asked for a volunteer to put on a cape and “fly” like Superman in front of a green screen. Needless to say, it didn’t springboard me into an acting career but it did spark my interest in how movie magic could be used for education. What once required tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and training can now be accomplished with an iPad and some inexpensive props.

Move over Superman … here are a few ways that green screen technology can be integrated into some engaging educational projects.

Setting up your classroom studio

You won’t need to break the bank in order to set up your studio. Here’s what you need:

  • An iPad or other mobile devices for taking and editing the video.
  • An iPad stand that holds the iPad steady for taking video. The average cost is between $40 and $100.
  • A green screen kit – search Amazon for “green screen kit” and you’ll find reasonably inexpensive kits that even include lighting. If you’re looking for an even cheaper alternative, clip a large sheet of green butcher paper to a wall. I’ve even worked with teachers that have painted a small section of a wall for green screen video shoots.
  • A green screen video editing app. I’d recommend Green Screen by DoInk. It only costs $2.99 and it’s extremely easy to use.
  • (optional) An external microphone. If you purchase a USB mic then purchase a camera connection kit to use it with your iPad.

Take the video and import it into your green screen app. The app detects and removes the green so that you can layer any image or video in the background. Students can put themselves in any location. Create “on the scene” weather or news reports, interview famous historical figures at the scene of an accomplishment, walk on the moon … imagine and create any scene. Ever thought of cloning yourself? Take two videos on a green background and layer one over the other while you talk to yourself!

Here’s a green screen poetry project I did with one class. The end result is a wonderful poetry performance that extends the traditional writing project to include visual and presentation elements.

Sam is originally from Melbourne, Australia. He moved to Israel where he specialized in educational technology and designed several award-winning educational games. Sam moved to the USA over 20 years ago and has been based there while working as an educational technology consultant, speaker and author. Sam speaks at conferences internationally about utilizing the potential of technology for educational reform. He has consulted for small schools, districts and even governments; most recently having been invited to meet and advise the Prime Minister of Greece about the use of mobile devices in their education system. Sam is the author of the recently released “iPad in Education for Dummies” book published by Wiley Press and also founded and manages the popular iPads in Education online website – www.iPadEducators.ning.com – that has a membership of many thousands of educators worldwide.

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