How to make iPad kids film better

camera ipadIt’s about time I add another post about my actual teaching practice and how my kids use iPads. One set of iPad skills that interests all the kids and gives them something fun to do is professional film making tricks. This would work well with students from the age of 10 to 16.

The lesson is divided in 2 :

  1. Sound (Sound effects / Dubbing / voiceovers)
  2. Camera work (Steady-cam / multi views per moment)

The requirements in general are that at least one student in 4 has the iMovie app or equivalent (There are free movie editing apps but they sometimes limit to 30 seconds export – check the App store).

I then take them through some remarkable facts in film making that they might never have considered. This gives them a new understanding about exactly what they see and hear on the screen.


Foley – Dubbing – Voiceover

One of the difficulties when filming with iPads is that the microphone is too small and too far from the actor or subject to record it properly. First I show this Youtube clip that amazes the kids by explaining that no sound they’ve ever heard on TV or film is made by the things you are looking at. Every footstep, every bang, every animal noise is made after the filming has taken place. The extreme moment is the leather clothing noise as Russell Crow turns around – all added afterwards! I also explain that most voice is also added afterwards and dubbed over by the same actors.

The Art of noise making is called Foley, which you will see in the credits of every film. The Dubbing of their own voice challenges the students to be precise and, as I’ve found, take the process seriously to get the timing right (it’s done well by about half the students).Dubbing and voice overs using iMovie also solves the practical problems of both outside noise and also background classroom noise when filming inside. The students film themselves saying the lines in the appropriate location and then find a quiet area elsewhere to record the lines more clearly. Having clear dialogue makes kids films much more watchable.


The idea that 60 seconds of hollywood film can take more than a week of production and then more time in post production also amazes kids. I have a Keynote slide where a counter on the slide counts the camera angle changes in 25 seconds and ends at 12! My students have learnt to really tell the story of any 10 seconds. Even with one iPad between 4, the students have learnt to rerecord every moment from the required angel to tell the story visually. Example: “A student walks towards a door and opens it.” This took 4 recordings from 4 angles and included a close-up of the hand gripping the handle! Close-ups are important to emphasise. The total filming time took 4 minutes and editing took 5 minutes, the finished shot takes 5 seconds! … But the kids love it and are proud of the professional look to the film. The video below is a good video on continuity errors in Star Wars. The length of time it takes to make the shortest of moments means that objects in the shot often get accidentally moved or forgotten in some of the various camera takes. Unfortunately I have to skip over the video’s first example as it’s not actually a continuity error but just bad acting!


Sometimes a group might not have an editing app or you might not have the time for editing, so I also give a lesson in allowing for the limitations of filming with just a mobile device like an iPad, particularly when filming outside or in a classroom with noise. Using the diagram below, I explain that relying on the dialogue of the actors/presenters being picked up by the iPad’s microphone is not realistic and it’s best to narrate the events that are filmed. To allow for time, this narration can be done live during the performance, directly into the iPad’s microphone by another student works well in covering your topic.

iPad filming-live narration


I was genuinely surprised by how much the kids took these techniques seriously and enjoyed the process. The students that started to add every noise imaginable and / or rerecorded until their dubbing was perfect made their videos clearer and more educational to other students I was showing them to. The topic they are filming about is the real educational target and having good sound and good visual story yelling is crucial to the learning.

Apple TV in Schools

appletv_smallsizeApple TV (US$99) is a box you attach to the projector / TV that picks up the screen of any iPad and displays it without the need for wires! The teacher can walk around their room and display anything that’s on their iPad screen on the Projector/TV. This means the teacher can display from anywhere and even use the iPads camera to show student work ‘live’ without gathering students around one point in the room

I have recently been setting up Apple TV in my classroom and know that many teachers will be having the problems with Apple TVs on networks that are setup with the type of security and extra stuff that one gets on a corporate style network.

Particularly in secondary schools, your ‘techies’ will be using all these silly techie acronyms like “VLANS” and “IP-ROUTING” and “APs”, so ignore them and read this, which I hope to be more ‘teacher-friendly’ (something many techies aren’t!)

Apple TV setup

STEP 1: Connecting the Apple TV box to your projector / TV. 

vga-hdmi-convertBeing all ‘up-to-date’, Apple has only added an HDMI port to the box. That’s fine if you have a modern flat-screen TV as it will probably have an HDMI port on the back. Most school projectors however, only have the older VGA port, like the ones we’ve always had on our Windows laptops (sometimes blue in colour). Apple’s store provides a converter HERE.

For future decision making, I would recommend only purchasing 50″ plasma TVs and not projectors as they work without darkening the room, they last longer without replacing bulbs plus require less cabling setup. This lowers future costs and makes the Apple TV setup cheaper than the alternatives.

STEP 2: Putting the Apple TV onto the same network your iPads use.

configiconIf you have a simple open network that any device can join with a password then you can follow the instructions the Apple TV gives you on the TV screen. But most schools use corporate secure networks with proxy servers for internet. This means that the school network info needs to be loaded onto the Apple TV (a little trickier). On a Mac (either the schools or a borrowed one) you can get an App from the MAc app store called “Apple Configurator”. It’s used for setting up both Apple TVs and iPads in bulk.

The idea is that you setup a ‘profile’ for the Apple TV to store your network’s settings. When using configurator to design you profile the main 2 screens to worry about are 1. WIFI & 2. Certificate (See below). Here’s Apple’s Configurator’s help page

The WIFI page of a profile holds the basic name of the network and any login info the Apple TV box will need to join the network. You might need to get some info from a techie (smile and ask nicely!)

wifi config

The ‘certificate’ page is where you need to give a file to the Apple TV box to say the network and Apple TV are following the same ‘rules’ when talking. This part is the trickiest. On the mac, join the wireless network and you will get the Certificate file. To find the file you can use the Mac’s Keychain Access (1 use Spotlight to find that!) and search for the wireless name (2). See pic below.

cert find

Once you have added the network info and the certificate to the Apple TV profile, you need to ‘Prepare’ the Apple TV with this profile. To do this you use the USB cable port that’s on the back of the Apple TV. It uses the same cable as many cameras use. Once the profile is on the Apple TV and it’s restarted it should join the Network.

Apple Tvs are best on a network cable

Apple TVs work best if the Apple TV box is not actually using the Wireless but is on the network using the network Cable (ethernet). As long as the techie allocates the port in the wall to the same network as the wireless then you half the pressure on the wireless in the room but the iPads can still see the Apple TV box. The ethernet cables are that Yellow/Red/Blue cable the computers sometimes use for network.

3. Sending your iPad’s screen to the Apple TV

1. Make sure you can see the Apple TVs ‘Home screen’ on the TV or Projector first. (See pic)


2. As long as the wireless is strong enough, a Double tap of the iPad’s Home button will bring up the Apps across the bottom (Where you might normally class apps or switch between them). A swipe to the left will send you to the Volume / Brightness settings and also the AIRPLAY options (If the Apple TV is on the network – see pic).

3. You need to switch “Mirroring” on and the iPad’s screen should appear on the TV / Projector.

4. With a really good wireless, even a movie’s sound playing on the iPad will play through the TV as if you had a DVD playing!


I can’t guarantee that following this info will mean you don’t have other problems with setting up Apple TV on a corporate style network but it might help, so here’s that Apple’s Configurator’s help page again! I’ve had issues myself, particularly with the network being shared by so many devices and setting it up so the Apple TV is not fighting too many other students for access to the Wireless box (Access point). This might take a little classroom management and getting kids to turn wireless off on the iPads for a minute or 2. All I can say is Good luck and let me know if you are successful / or if I have approached it wrong and you have an easier way!

iPad vs. BYOD

Yes, we are at the beginning of a revolution in Education. Yes, we have witnessed the world going mobile and yes, there is a variety of tools available to help us make learning mobile and personal.


Most of the teachers around the world getting excited about this and offering advice (like me) are tech-savvy people. We have already had a play with many devices, we blog and Tweet all day, researching the best practice around the world. We are comfortable with the differences and know how those differences in features and software might affect a lesson. We also know that BYOD stands for “Bring Your Own Device!”
But “we” account for 5% of teaching staff in the world! (That’s based on at least 10 schools I know in NZ and the UK)


Until the vast majority of the teaching profession are aware of what opportunities students would have with one device over another (at least 5 years), the decision a school makes must guarantee simplicity for the non-technical majority. The decision a school makes must also ensure there’s a strong, easily accessible support system and that getting what you need is straight-forward. This keeps everything simple for a non-tech-savvy teacher and offers comfort in knowing what is and isn’t possible when assessing the students output. The idea of one student saying “I can do this” and another saying “I can’t” is simply not equitable and makes things difficult for “normal” teachers. This leads us to another question:

Why should it be iPad and not one of the others?

The devices are all the same! They all:

  1. have a camera;
  2. have a screen;
  3. can ‘Skype’
  4. access the Internet
  5. do office-style documents

So why iPad?

I think I can answer that in pictures rather than words.

Here is a major section of Apple’s App Store available through the iPad directly focused on the key learning areas, not available on any other system.






Here’s a separate area of the App Store dedicated to various subjects and special educational areas including a full section for Special Needs education.






Here’s the Apple website section on education, with iTunesU offering 1000s of courses from every major University. Again, there’s a focus on the benefits of considering special Accessibility options and how they can actually benefit all teachers and students. Through iBooks, you receive both fiction and textbooks, how-to guides and the ability to produce your own multimedia iBooks using iBooks Author on a Mac. This Mac software is free but the absolute leader in ebook authoring software. (iBook is just Apple’s name for eBooks)


The rival support systems just don’t compare, especially in the eyes of a non-geek teacher. offers no education section but does specialise in games.
What is Open Source? Some of the geeky teachers might use ‘Open source’ as some sort of argument when choosing a device. This is where Google offer the code for how a device works to the world of geeky programmers and they can do whatever the like with it. This sounds good, but for schools, it means little. It makes the Android system more buggy and prone to viruses and crashing. These issues destroy both lessons and confidence amongst a generation of teachers trying to grapple with new learning pedagogies.

Google Play’s site (The main Android site) does not place it’s education section on the home page and when you find it in ‘Categories’ it only divided into Free and Paid with no focus on the various needs within education. Most apps in this section are early-childhood based and you have to scroll though page after page to discover what’s available. Not good for a teacher who’s new to this game.


You see, it’s not about the device it’s about the support system you can connect to and how much that system is designed for education. In this regard, Apple is the only company doing anything specifically for schools. Google and Microsoft continue to focus their efforts on business needs and hope that schools find a use for their business tools. A school near me had a technician who was adamant that it be BYOD rather than just iPad. 4 months into the programme, he was preparing advice documents for the following year to say iPads only!

There’s also the matter of statistics and future developments. iPads have been bought by schools and universities in their millions! There are at least 50 iPads in education for every competing tablet of any make , and given the conferences I’ve been to, that’s probably generous to the “others”. The competition is eating into the iPad market but not in education. What does this mean to schools? We can support each other through this tricky transitional period in education’s history, if we are all on the same platform. The developers, who make the apps with an educational focus and offer the support for schools are nearly all iPad based. Over the next 5 years, the gap between what can be done in schools with iPads and their alternatives will increase exponentially and this makes iPads the only truly sensible choice for any school of ‘normal’ staff and students.


Oh and the Flash thing. Yes, iPads don’t play all those Flash based educational websites but Adobe, who make Flash have stopped making it! and so the next 2 years will have every website moving away from flash (they’ve already started.) So Flash is no longer an argument and the new Windows 8 Tablets will not play it either. The reason it all came to a crashing end was because Flash running in the background on the mobile device swallows up battery life. Something Apple were the first to recognise and never went near it. The other companies are now realising. Adobe’s given up.

“Should my school be using Mac computers?”……YES!

History – Schools adopt Microsoft

During the 1990s, Microsoft setup a brilliant business structure for selling Windows in schools. This had no learning basis behind it, it was simply an excellent money-making exercise. The Microsoft Schools agreement was a dream to all technicians who could stop worrying about licensing the school computers as they were all covered under one agreement, albeit and expensive one. Within 6 years we had Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME and then XP it seemed obvious to keep paying as updates were regular. Then Microsoft stopped releasing updates and schools remained on XP for a decade, while paying millions for simply having simple paperwork. Vista was a disaster and Windows 7 is a good XP replacement but is going to radically change in Windows 8 and most schools will stick with 7 or even XP.

OSX, iLife & iOS change the landscape

But over the last decade Apple have realised they were missing out and in their inevitable style, have produced a beautiful eco-system that is not only easy for schools to delve into but is now specifically designed for education and learning in a way Microsoft never achieved. Microsoft gave us machines that could access the internet and Word and Excel seemed practical. But Apple have given us Machines that immediately:

  1. Create and edit PDFs without needing to research 3rd party apps on the internet; (PDFs are a default file type that Microsoft virtually refuses to recognise)
  2. Organise our email (Windows 7 has no email client);
  3. edit movies; (Far superior to Microsoft’s option)
  4. have a recording studio; (Not available on Windows)
  5. manage our photos and music; (iTunes is the default for all these day and Windows users have had to discover Google’s Picasa for photos)
  6. create eBooks using ‘drag & drop’; (iBooks Author is in a different league to other authoring software)
  7. talk directly to our iPads and sync the info and files automatically; (IPad schools will miss out on so much for not have a Mac infrastructure)
  8. integrate Facebook and Twitter into the machine itself allowing for the sharing of work and discoveries with a click; (This will become a big issue)
  9. Offers us Document/Spreadsheet/Presentation software for 1/3 of the price of MS Office (Apple’s version of Word and Powerpoint are far superior and preferred by my students immediately)
  10. Connects you computer to the content from the top Universities in the world through iTunesU
  11. Offer all apps for all machines on a single account through an easy to use App Store;

In a nutshell:

Microsoft are concerned about the Technicians first, Business people second and are happy if schools find a use for their business tools. As you can see on their website, Office is still their best offering for schools and it’s just not creative or accessible enough for students.

Apple have teams of people who are tasked with only researching school pedagogy and practice (non-technical) and Apple’s educational eco-system strengthens every month because of it.


Are Apple computers more expensive? Out of the box, a Microsoft PC offers so little for schools that time and money must be spent locating 3rd party tools, installing them, hoping they don’t conflict, hoping they’re free or spending extra on software like Office. This is why schools have required so many (expensive) technicians over the last 15 years and why more educational change has happened with iPads than in 15 years of using Office. This has made Microsoft systems indirectly very costly for what they offer from the box. The MS Schools agreement is only worth it for keeping the administration of Microsoft licensing easy but educationally is a huge waste of money.

When removing Mac computers from their boxes, most schools would be ready to go immediately. Even the free and simple Textedit program that comes with a Mac will open and save as DocX (Microsofts Word file format that Windows won’t open without purchasing Word!). There’s no need for buying and researching additional software and so schools save money and have a system that will natively work with their iPads, require less technical assistance (The real money save) and have a lot more fun!

You might spend an extra $200 on a Mac but in teacher and technician time plus software costs, you save $200 before then of your first month.

OMG! Those IT staff!

I do hope you work in an organisation with friendly, relaxed IT support staff. I hope they speak to you as a normal human being and only focus their efforts on creating an environment that fulfills the organisation’s primary concerns. In regards to schools, we need to access and share information and learn about the world we live in, within a flexible 21st Century leaning pedagogy.

…hum… Why are so many people reading this thinking “not my school”…?

Teachers around the world are discussing updating the teaching model to match the rapidly changing world we live in. The tech-staff simply need to do the same (and yes, it’s a global problem).

Young people and increasingly all generations are developing new expectations:

  1. They will have access to their online world 24/7 as much as their real world.
  2. That social media sites like Facebook are an integral part of life and used by many universities and schools for communications.
  3. Personal ownership and control of the device is the default model. Schools are dismantling their computer labs and in one form or another adopting BYOD (bring your own device)
  4. If the iPad is managed personally by so many grandmas in the world, why would a younger professional or student in 2012 require a secondary support system in Tech-services.
  5. The apps on the iPad are all built to connect directly to a number of standard online services such as Youtube, Dropbox, Google Docs, Twitter and Facebook. It is time consuming, more complicated and costly these days for schools to employ numerous people to maintain parallel systems and then spend extra cost working out how to connect the mobile devices to these bespoke school-maintained systems.
  6. New 21st Century teaching pedagogy calls for a wider variety of options and flexible learning environments and this is at odds with the older tech-model of tightly controlling a limited number of possibilities within the system.

During the 90’s, schools launched into serious adoption of ICTs with a very limited knowledge base. This created a generation of school technicians, who, having an amount of knowledge, relevant or not, easily built up a power base for themselves within the school. This power over others is a model they are reluctant to relinquish. Their manner of ICT support stems from the 70s & 80s where IBM and then Microsoft developed the approach of “We are the experts and computers will be what we say they will be”. They survive in many schools due to leadership teams not having the knowledge themselves to argue against the many out-dated structures these “old-school” techies suggest, that of course would maintain their power and requirement.

The new paradigm of personal / consumer controlled ICT is understood by your technicians at a technical level and most will be using the same online systems themselves. But the realisation that this new paradigm removes the need for most (not all) school technicians is uncomfortable for people who are used to wielding so much power.

My mother is 59, retired and likes taking photos of her grandchildren and writing poetry. She:

  1. writes a blog like this one (She’d love more readers! Click here);
  2. edits photos & movies, storing them in private online accounts;
  3. uses both iCloud and Dropbox for backup and sharing files;
  4. produces presentations for writing club;
  5. emails using Gmail with Google docs.

She does all this without a technician and says she’s “clueless about IT.” The world is changing fast and if school leaders don’t get to my mother’s level of expertise soon, we’re all in trouble!