How To Do Green Screen Photography on an iPad at School

Green Screen Photography for the iPad

There are lots of great learning opportunities when you use green screen effects in the classroom. I’ve written about some of those before, but almost all of them involved green screen movies. What about green screen photography? Is that possible on an iPad? It is, because there’s an app for that.

Recently I was reminded of the ability to do green screen photography when I read a blog post by Dr. Wesley Fryer. He did a green screen photo booth at the Fall Festival of the school he works at in Oklahoma. Great idea. So how do you do it? It all starts with the Green Screen app by DoInk. The rest is easy! Here’s how it works.

1. Start by collecting the background images you want to use in place of the green screen. You can get lots of free, high-quality images on sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, Morguefile or Pexels. Once you find the images you need, save them to your camera roll by pressing and holding on the photo and selecting Save Image.

2. Set up your green screen, and make sure it is evenly lit with no dark or light areas. You don’t have to mount your iPad on a tripod for green screen photography, but if you have that ability, you absolutely should because you will get a sharper image more often.

3. Next, open the Green Screen app and toggle the Video switch to Image. This changes the operation of the app from green screen video to green screen photography, (see below).

Switch from video to image

3. At the bottom of the screen you will see the timeline. It is split into three layers. Add the image that you want as your background to the bottom layer on the timeline by tapping the plus sign and then selecting Image. On the middle layer of the timeline, tap the plus sign and choose Camera. If the camera image is facing the wrong way (i.e. pointing at you), tap the camera switcher button to flip between the front and rear camera on your iPad.

add image for green screen

4. Position your subject in front of the green screen and make sure that the Chrome Filter switch is on (set to green) so that you can see a live image of your subject in front of the image that you added in the last step.

turn on chroma filter

5. When everything looks good, tap the capture button. A preview of your image will appear on your screen. Tapping OK, saves the image to your camera roll.

tap to take a green screen photo

Green screen photography could easily be integrated into a variety of curricular areas with students, and the finished images can be imported into other apps to add text, borders, frames and more. Some possible uses for green screen photography at school include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating book covers or feature images for book reviews.
  • Souvenir postcards from a virtual field trip
  • Historical backgrounds for student biography days
  • Whole class (or individual) photos of students in Halloween costumes
  • Creative backgrounds for things created in Art or other subjects
  • Staged scenes for a digital story
  • Visual representations of vocabulary words

So, what does it look like when you are done? Take a look at a finished image below featuring Gail Grim, a K-8 School Librarian (and willing volunteer!) from one of my recent green screen presentations.

Gail Grim Green Screen Photography

The Top 10 iPad Features That Schools Forget

The 10 Best Forgotten iPad Features for

With iPads, it’s all about the apps, and rightly so sometimes, but not everyone takes full advantage of the native features that Apple builds in to the iPad software for everyone to use. So, for this post I am rounding up ten of the most forgotten iPad features that are awesome for education. No additional apps are required to use any of these features because they work right out of the box.

1. Visual Timer – The Clock app often gets buried in a folder deep among some other apps that you don’t use very much, but if you are looking for a good visual timer, you should look for the Clock app. Just open the Clock app, and tap Timer. You can even choose from a variety of tones to mark the end of your timer. While you are here, take a look at the stopwatch with lap timers for PE, and the world clocks are great for checking the time before Skyping with a class overseas! :)

timer ios

2. Dictionary – Did you know the iPad has a built-in dictionary? Press and hold your finger on any word on a webpage, then let go to select it. A pop-up menu next to the word will allow you to select the option to define the word. The default language of your iPad is the one a word will be defined in, but tapping Manage in the bottom left-hand corner of the definition will let you add foreign language dictionaries too! Try the Spanish-English dictionary for a quick translator.

dictionary ios

3. Maps – I think there is a huge amount of potential for using the Maps app in the classroom. Whether it is adding context to a novel you are reading, or analyzing the 3D view of foreign cities in Social Studies. In Math you can use directions to create cross-curricular problems like “How far is it from here to New York and back?” The Maps app is not always 100% up to date, but I would bet it is a lot more up to date than any globe you have in your classroom!

4. Speak Selection/Page – For students that need this accommodation, the ability to have the iPad read the screen aloud is a great option. It works on webpages, PDFs, iBooks and more. To activate it, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech and turning on Speak Selection and/or Speak Screen. Once activated, press and hold on a word to make a selection, then tap speak to hear the words read aloud. To speak the whole screen, swipe down from the top of your screen with two fingers, or tell Siri to speak the screen. The on-screen controls let you pause, skip and adjust the pace. Headphones or earbuds are great to have on hand for just this purpose.

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Unsplash: Free, High-Resolution, Royalty-Free Images

UNSPLASH free photos

There are numerous places on the web where teachers can go to find royalty-free images that they and their students can use in the classroom as part of educational projects. However, I don’t often hear many educators talk about Unsplash.com. So, if you haven’t heard of it before, pay attention, because this is a good one! :)

[Also, see the update at the end of this post]

Unsplash has a very unique business model. Every 10 days they upload 10 free photos to their website. All of the images are free, high-resolution photos that have been submitted, free of any usage restrictions, by established and aspiring photographers. All the images are stunning examples of photography, and you can do whatever you want with these photos with a completely clear conscience.

bench from unsplash.com

Not convinced? Here’s what the Unsplash license says:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

This is what photographers are agreeing to when they submit a photo to Unsplash.com. So, why would they do such a thing? Each image includes the name of the photographer when you hover over it with your mouse, and when you click on it you will often find a link to their website or online portfolio. Seems fair, right? Not all photographers are a fan of this idea, but everyone that submits photos knows what they are giving up, and it is in return for more publicity.

Of course, even though you don’t need to cite an Unsplash image, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Citing your sources is always the best habit to develop with students, and absolutely one that should be taught in school as part of a digital citizenship program. Kathy Schrock wrote about this recently for eSchool News, so take a look at that article if you need a refresher or some tips on how to properly cite images found online.

plane from upsplash

The only real downside to Unsplash for educators is that the images are NOT sorted, categorized or searchable. However, that need not be a deal breaker. The images are handpicked because they are interesting, tell a story, or capture the attention of the viewer with strong visual elements. Photos like these are still very useful for writing prompts, classroom discussions, presentations, blog posts, artistic reinterpretations, app smashing, and more.

On an iPad, you can also save them to the camera roll and bring them into Canva for creative graphic design challenges. Mac, PC or Chromebook users can save them to their hard drive and do the same on Canva.com. What’s more, you can subscribe to the Unsplash website and receive ten new images in your inbox every ten days. See something you like? Save it to a Google Drive folder, an album in your camera roll, or a folder in OneDrive where you can tag it, organize it, and use it over and over again.

Recently I have been spending some time looking at Morguefile and Pixabay, but Unsplash is definitely one of my new favorite sites for images, despite the lack of search options, simply due to the variety  and quality of images that are on display. Oh, and in case you were wondering, all the images in this post were sourced from unsplash.com! See how many you can spot in future posts. :)

house on a dock

BONUS: If you are looking for more sources for free images, check out this post that the Buffer team put together – 53+ Free Image Sources for Your Blog and Social Media Posts.

UPDATE: Ingo Joseph (@IngoJoseph) told me about Pexels.com. It works the same way as UnSplash. Images on Pexels.com include submissions from Unsplash and other sources, and all photos are licensed under the same Creative Commons Zero license.

One Best Thing: Free Lesson Ideas for Apple Classrooms

one best thing

While going through some of my curated articles in Pocket the other day, I came across a link to an iBook created by Dan Goble called Six-Word Story, Six Unique Shots: Enhancing Writing Through Multimedia. In it, Don outlines a creative digital storytelling exercise that combines film making skills with the power of language to compile a six shot, six-word story.

So, impressed with what I had read, I shared it on social media and in my iPadography for Educators Google+ Community. Before too long, I received a message from Cyndi Danner-Kuhn telling me that this is actually part of a larger series of iBooks from Apple Distinguished Educators called One Best Thing.

one best thing ibooks

The books are on all kinds of curricular topics. Each one represents a lesson or unit that highlights an innovative use of (Apple) technologies, and readers are encouraged to use any of the ideas they see in their own classrooms as a way to improve teaching and learning with technology.

Some highlights include Don’t Create a Book, Create a Field Trip, by Sean Junkins. I saw Sean give a presentation on how he created this project at ISTE in 2013 and was impressed by his take on how to build engaging, interactive textbooks with iBooks Author. I also enjoyed Photographing History: Archiving With Apps by Cheryl Davis where she describes how to empower students as historians on a quest to archive the secrets of the past with multimedia evidence they capture in the present.

photographing history by cheryl davis

Each of the One Best Thing iBooks are freely available in the iBooks Store. They are short, practical, and creative ways to use technology in the classroom. So, if you are using Macs or iPads with your students and are looking for some new ideas on how to integrate technology into your existing curriculum, you should take a look to see what is on offer. You can find all the books in this series by searching for One Best Thing in the iBooks Store on a Mac or iOS device.

How to Switch from Zite to Flipboard

Switch from Zite to Flipboard

So the time has come. I am about to delete one of my favorite iPad apps of all time. Zite has been an amazing discovery tool for me. It has enhanced my learning and given me lots of great ideas to share in this blog and online via social media. However, as you may already have heard, Zite was acquired by Flipboard recently and will be discontinued.

For a long time I was bullish about these changes and carried on using Zite regardless. After all, it still works, and has yet to be pulled from the App Store, but it doesn’t work as well as it used to. The app has not been updated since March 2014. There have been a number of weekends recently when there would be no new stories for several days. When it does work, I have found the articles in my feed increasingly irrelevant to my tastes.

So, after years of great service, it is time to remove Zite from my iPad. The only remaining question was what to replace it with. There are numerous news aggregation apps that will adapt to your specific interests, but Flipboard is increasingly the one I have been turning to for the most relevant and up to date articles for my needs. So, here’s some tips on how to switch from Zite to Flipboard.

1. Adding Topics

Adding topics you are interested in is pretty straight forward in Flipboard. Simply tap the search bar at the top of the screen and enter some keywords. Topics appear as a selection of words that are surrounded by a rectangle. Tap on the one you are interested in and you will get a preview of the kinds of articles you will see in this topic. If you lie what you see, tap the blue Follow button to add it to your the boards you see when you start the app.

adding topics to flipboard

2. Organizing Topics

The more topics you add, the more interactive tiles you will see when you are on the Flipboard home screen. You may have several pages of boards, so organizing them is worth your time. Thankfully this is easy, because it is basically the same method you use to organize apps on your iPhone or iPad. Press and hold on any topic, then drag it to another space to give it a new home. To move topics between pages, press and hold on the topic, then drag it to the edge of the screen until the page flips over. Then drop it where you want it. You can delete topics you no longer want by pressing and holding on a topic, then tapping the “x” in the corner to delete it.

organize topics in Flipboard

3. Reading Articles

In Zite, your aggregate news feed was called Your Top Stories, but in Flipboard, this is called Cover Stories. To all intents and purposes, it is pretty much the same thing. You can tap Cover Stories to read about all your chosen topics in one place, or tap one of the topic boards to read something more specific.

cover stories flipboard

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A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet

coffee-iphone-macbook-air

Recently, there have been a number of tech tools that have been created to help enhance teacher productivity and improve assignment workflows in the classroom. Take, for example, the excellent OneNote Class Notebook Creator. It is an ideal app for Office 365 schools who want to quickly distribute materials to a whole class, have students work in a paperless environment, while also providing a collaboration space for the whole class to work in.

Google Apps schools are flocking to Google Classroom – a management tool for teachers who are looking to consolidate and simplify the flow of electronic files. It lets you make a copy of an individual document and distribute it to students with permissions configured automatically so that only the student and the teacher can see the document. There is also a discussion feed for students to communicate inside your Google Classroom.

iPad classrooms are using workflow apps like Showbie as a way for students to turn in assignments created on the iPad so teachers can grade them and give feedback. Similar apps like Skaffl, Handouts, and Turnitin do much the same thing, while others are turning to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive to meet the same need.

Then there are the many learning management systems that were created to take your classroom to the cloud. Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard, Haiku, BrainHoney and many many more exist because teachers are looking for simple ways to unify the experience of delivering content and working online with students.

However, there’s a problem with all of these systems. The problem is, that they make it too easy for teachers to do what they always used to do – assign worksheets that don’t challenge, engage and empower students in their learning. A digital version of a paper worksheet is still just a worksheet, and it is not taking advantage of the powerful technologies that students have at their fingertips today.

It doesn’t matter whether you are using Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPads or Surface tablets. A low-level worksheet is a low-level worksheet whether it is in paper form, a PDF, a Word Doc or a Google Doc. Whether they type on it, or write over it with digital ink, it makes no difference. I know it is quick, easy, and convenient to assign. I know because I did it myself when I was in the classroom. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, but your students deserve better.

None of these tools are inherently flawed. In fact the majority of them are fantastic because they  offer multiple solutions to a very real digital problem. However, I would encourage you to use them in a way that is most befitting a modern digital classroom. Use them to collect authentic assignments that demand creativity. Use them as part of project based or inquiry driven learning projects. Use them to showcase learning in a way that can only be captured with an electronic device.

Consider collaborative projects in Office Online or Google Drive. Have your students write a blog post or create a website to showcase their learning. Have them create a screencast or an Office Mix presentation. Assign them a video project that combines other multimedia content or take advantage of stop motion and green screen effects to communicate their learning. Have them create a Thinglink, an interactive timeline, or a custom Google Map. Challenge them to some App Smashing (it’s not just for iPads by the way), tell some digital stories, create some Kahoot quizzes, or reach out for new ideas like augmented reality, QR codes, and makerspaces.

I know there is a lot out there, and I know it gets overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and help is at hand. The chances are high that someone in your building is already doing this, and if they aren’t, there are thousands of educators on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that will be more than happy to help you out and share their ideas.

Start small. Begin by replacing just one worksheet with an idea like the ones above and see how it goes. Watch the reaction you get from your students. As time goes by, continue to look for more ways to leverage the power of your digital devices and integrate meaningful digital experiences to demonstrate learning in new and innovative ways. Trust me. It will challenge your students, motivate them, and engage them in something deeper, and more meaningful, than any worksheet you can lay your hands on.

ABCya! Animation for Kids: Creative Stop Motion Movies for the Classroom

abcya animate

If you are looking for a new way to inject some creativity into your digital storytelling, stop motion is a great way to do just that. ABCya! Animate is a website I learned about from Elizabeth McCarthy on Google+. It’s a free, and engaging web tool that lets students create an animated GIF from up to 100 frames of digitally drawn images, with no logins or accounts required.

The editor has a simple layout and is easy to use. You can draw with pens, brushes or the shape tool. You can also add text and clipart images from the library. When you have the first frame ready, click the “copy frame” button to duplicate it to slide two so that you can add a little more to your animation. Continue this process for up to 100 slides until you have the animation that you need.

abycya animate editor

There are three frame rates for your finished animation – slow, medium and fast – so you do have some control over the final effect. Clicking Export will walk you through the steps of how to save your animation as a GIF file. Wondering how to open a GIF? Almost all modern web browsers will open a GIF file so the student’s final project will be easy to share with others or add to a website.

ABCya! Animate is a Flash based tool. So, although it is great for Mac, PCs and Chromebooks, it will not work on a mobile device like an iPad. However, if you try this on a laptop and decide you would like to use this on an iPad you can check out the ABCya! Animate iPad app. It is available from the App Store for $1.99 and includes the same functionality that you get in the free web version.

I am a fan of Stop Motion movies for the classroom because they are an endlessly creative way to tell a story. Whether you do it as a PowerPoint presentation, a claymation movie, or an iPad animation combined with green screen effects, it is always a great medium that requires students to plan and think ahead to create an effective product. It is also ideal for group work and collaboration skills.