Jonathan is a certified teacher who has taught in the UK and in the US. He now works as a digital learning consultant.
The Power of the iPad: Creativity & Versatility
The iPad is a versatile device, and of that, there is no doubt. For instance, it can be used to take pictures or record video. An iPad can be used to compose music, browse the web, write a blog post, or create a multimedia presentation. It already replaces a number of separate devices that we used to rely on for just these tasks, so the notion of adding yet another use—an iPad document camera—does not take too much additional imagination. This is, after all, a device that is now synonymous with creativity and versatility. So, let's take a look at how to set one up, and explore some ideas for how you might use it in the classroom.
DIY iPad Document Camera Stands
If you are thinking of using your iPad as a document camera, you will first want to get yourself a stand or some kind of secure foundation to mount the iPad. Here you have two choices. You either buy a dedicated document camera stand, (you can see some listed below), or you make one yourself.
On the DIY front, teachers have come up with a number of creative ways to do this for little or no money. In a pinch, you can of course just hold the iPad above the object that you want to show the rest of the class. However, this does not always give the most stable picture, and it is not ideal for being hands-free and teaching at the same time.
Other teachers have used textbooks or classroom equipment like a ring stand from a science lab or a simple locker shelf to create a makeshift stand. Either of these methods allows the iPad to be positioned correctly and for the teacher to be hands-free while they teach. However, perhaps one of the more successful DIY solutions, if you have the time to build it, is the type of iPad document camera stand that is shown in the video below. It is made from a variety of PVC pipes and joints and costs as little as $7 to make!
Dedicated iPad Document Camera Stands
The DIY approach is a great way for teachers (or schools) to save some money, and in a sector that is always looking for ways to cut costs, it is hard to ignore these options. However, as you might expect, there are a number of manufacturers that have created a dedicated solution for teachers who want to use their iPad as document cameras at school. There are lots of good options, but three of the more popular solutions are listed below.
The Belkin Tablet Stage
It's not one of the cheaper options, but it is very well made and does exactly what you would expect it to do. It is not made specifically for the iPad, but it will fit full-size iPads. It is height adjustable and the arm rotates in all directions. It also comes with a detachable LED light that can help illuminate what you are trying to show. Watch a demo of the stand in action below.
The Justand V2
This is one of the more popular iPad document camera stands because of the number of features it has and the great build quality that it offers for the money. It has lots of adjustments to cope with almost any situation you might need it for, and it works with all versions of the iPad due to the adjustable iPad mount. It also folds up into a compact unit when not in use so it is easy to store or transport between classrooms. Find out more about the Justand here and in the video below.
The JoyFactory Illustrate
This stand comes in a variety of models, depending on which iPad you are looking to use with it. This is because of the nonadjustable frame that you put the iPad in when you use this stand. This makes it less of a convenient option if you already have your iPad in a well-protected case, but you can be sure of a good fit because Illustrate is built specifically to hold that model of iPad. The stand itself is versatile and flexible in the way it can be used to help display your content. You can see how it works in the video demo below.
How to Connect iPads to an LCD Projector
Once you have your iPad in the stand of your choosing, you will need to make sure that you know how to project your iPad to a TV or LCD Projector so that you can share the video feed with the rest of the class. Here are three of the most common methods.
- VGA or HDMI Adapters: Apple produces a number of VGA or HDMI adapters that can be used to create a wired display connection between your iPad and an LCD projector or HDTV. You plug the adapter into the charging port on your iPad and connect the projector or TV cable to the adapter. There is a 30-pin VGA adapter for 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation iPads as well as a Lightning VGA adapter for 4th generation iPads, the iPad Mini and the iPad Air. You can also get a 30-pin HDMI adapter and a Lightning HDMI adapter if those fit your display device better.
- AirPlay Software: Software companies have taken advantage of a technology called Airplay that Apple originally introduced to the iPad 2, and now includes in all new Apple devices. You install software like Reflector or Airserver on your Mac or PC, and use AirPlay on your iPad to project the image of your iPad wirelessly to your computer. If your computer is connected to a TV or projector, that image is then broadcast live to the entire class.
- The Apple TV: It started as a hobby for Apple, but it has since gone on to be one of their best-selling products. Connecting an Apple TV to your HDTV or projector gives you the same wireless projection options that you get with Reflector or AirServer. However, a new feature introduced iOS 8 means that you can project the image of your iPad to an Apple TV without an Internet connection. Reflector and AirServer will always need Wi-Fi in order for your devices to see each other.
For a step-by-step guide on wireless projection options for your iPad, please read this article: An Educator's Guide to Airplay on iPads and Macs.
Document Camera Apps for the iPad
By now you are probably thinking that there must be an app for this, right? Indeed there is. In fact there are a number of apps that you could use when you decide to use your iPad as a document camera. Here are three of the best.
- The iOS Camera app (Free): If you don't want to bother with installing additional apps, you can use the camera app that comes with all iPads. In Photo mode, you can pinch to zoom in and snap a quick picture of anything that you have underneath the iPad. In Video mode, you can record all the action, with audio, as it happens.
- IPEVO Whiteboard (Free): For additional options, you can use the IPEVO Whiteboard app. It was designed to be used with an IPEVO document camera, however, you can still use the app regardless of whether you use their camera or not. You can annotate over a live video image with a pen, label or text tool. You can also capture a photo of your screen at any point. It even has a video recording feature built-in. This is one of my favorite apps, purely because it is so versatile, but also because it is free. Download IPEVO for iPad here.
- Stage (Free or $4.99): With perhaps the longest name of any app in the app store, the Stage: Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera app was created by Belkin to accompany its Tablet Stage stand. However, as with IPEVO, you can use it with any stand you happen to be using. It comes in two versions. The free version is a little limited, but the Pro version adds a shape tool, video recording, academic backgrounds, and the ability to import multiple images at once. Download Stage for iPad here.
Ideas for Using an iPad Document Camera at School
You probably have some great ideas for how you want to use an iPad document camera stand, but if you are looking for some additional inspiration, here are some of the more innovative ways to use one in the classroom.
- App demonstrations: As we saw above, there are numerous ways to project your iPad onto a larger screen, however, the problem you sometimes encounter is that students can's see what you are touching unless you tell them every time you do it. You can get solve this problem by putting another iPad under your document camera stand. This way, your students will see exactly what you are touching on the screen at any given time.
- Review Tool: Many teachers use a document camera to review a test or assignment that has previously been administered in class. With the document camera you can discuss and highlight what the correct answers were and why you were looking for those answers.
- A Tripod for Video: Not everything needs to be underneath a document camera. In fact, if you have one of the more flexible stands above, you could use the iPad to record students giving speeches, or even use it for video conferencing.
- Flipping Your Classroom: Not all subjects lend themselves to the flipped classroom instructional method, but using your iPad as a document camera could help with that. For instance, in Science you could record a lab experiment or a dissection and then share that as part of your online instruction, or send it to students that may have been absent that day.
- Interactive Whiteboard: Both the Stage and Illustrate apps have built-in whiteboards that allow you to use your iPad as an interactive whiteboard. Obviously, you don't need it in a stand to do this, but if you want to quickly switch between the live video feed and a blank page where you have been taking notes, you can do this with those apps.
- Math Manipulatives: Elementary teachers can use document cameras to show how to add or subtract with blocks, how to use a compass, or how to measure accurately with a ruler.
- Big Books: If you don't have a digital copy, but you still want all students to see what is in a book that you only have one copy of, you can put it under your iPad document camera to display it for the whole class to see. In elementary school, this could be a reader or non-fiction book from your classroom library. In middle or high school, this could be a textbook or atlas.
- Stop motion videos: The sturdy base that a document camera gives can be a great way to create stop motion videos with students. After all, one of the key components to creating a great stop motion movie is to keep the camera steady at all times. For more information on how to do this, check out How to Do Stop Motion Video on iPads.
Breaking News: iPads Replace Overhead Projectors!
In essence, that's all there is to it. You choose a stand, pick an app, and get to work with some innovative and creative ways to use your iPad. No more OHP slides, no more special markers, just you, your iPad, and the content you want to share with your students. Of course, using your iPad as a document camera won't be the only thing you do with your favorite tablet, but it extends the usefulness of an already versatile device and gives you more options for how you want to teach the curriculum in your classroom.
© 2014 Jonathan Wylie
Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on June 11, 2014:
Thanks Technogala and Rochelle. I am glad you found it useful. I especially liked the term "financially impaired." I might use that some time! ;)
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on June 11, 2014:
I have been out of the classroom for many years. Things have changed a bit-- but I can see how all of these things could be very useful, as well as being fun to use. I liked that you included some "DIY" options for the financially impaired. Great information.