Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using the iPad as a Document Camera

The iPad can be a great tool to support kids learning, and it is also a great tool for enhancing your teaching. One way it can do this is through the use of the inbuilt camera to provide a close up view of what you are demonstrating, either in real time or recorded on video for students to view while you are working with others. One example of this might be modeling on a piece of paper how to complete a technique in the visual arts or an algorithm in Mathematics.

The Camera

This is done using the rear facing camera on your iPad in video mode. At its simplest, this could be completed by holding your iPad horizontally to record with one hand while demonstrating with the other. The problem is that you end up with a very wobbly video that doesn't always cover the area you wanted to record as it is hard to hold the camera still, check you are getting all of the details in shot and create an effective visual and audio recording.

The Support

What is needed is a support that will hold your iPad in a horizontal position far enough away from the surface you are demonstrating on to include all of your details in shot. I quite like the Snakeclamp
for this. I use a combination of the round base, eighteen inch heavy duty gooseneck, iPad 2 & 3 mount and the magnet base mounted under the round base to provide extra stability - this extra base is important as to get an A4 size viewing area you will need to place the camera significantly off-centre from the Snakeclamp base.

At the time of writing, this setup comes in at $87.80 US, plus $45.50 for shipping to Australia. I also tried the cobra Snakeclamp but found it fiddly to constantly be adjusting the arms.

Sharing Your Camera

You can share live what is on the screen of your camera by connecting your iPad to a presentation device such as a data projector or TV screen in your classroom. This can be done:
  • wirelessly with an Apple TV unit.
  • through using an iPad adaptor to make a wired connection e.g. iPad to VGA.
  • through software such as Reflection that connects your iPad wirelessly to a computer wired to your presentation device.
You can share pre-recorded video with students through uploading to an online site such as Edmodo or within a class wiki.

Connecting to the classroom

Live Opportunities
Use the iPad as a live document camera to support your teaching by:
  • modeling with concrete objects such as maths manipulatives
  • sharing books. Every book is now a big book through viewing on the big screen. Enable glass mode on your interactive whiteboard or use an app such as BoardCam to 'draw' over the book to highlight important points in your lesson
  • writing/drawing on paper
Pre-Recorded Opportunities

Use the iPad as a document camera to make recordings to support your teaching by:
  • Making a video recording for flipped learning, students can view learning instructions for homework or in a small group while the teacher works with others. If hosted online (e.g. Edmodo) parents might also view in order to support their child at home with their learning.
  • Create a recording booth where students can demonstrate their learning
You can view an example of a learning sequence using video in the downloadable ePub in this post.

How else might you use the iPad as a document camera?


  1. KenAvision has released an iPad and Android AP for their line of document cameras and digital microscopes.

    This AP will share and annotate the images from their products among a classroom set of hand held devices.

    The AP is FREE, BUT, it only works with KenAVision products!

    John J Caprice

  2. A new free app just launched that may be helpful here: Stage: Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera. Belkin believes in making iPads better tools for preparing and presenting lessons in the classroom and noticed that most apps mentioned do a great job as whiteboards, but miss the interactivity of using live video functionality like a document camera.

    With Stage, you can use your iPad to sketch over live video of objects, student work, and other projects in real-time.

    It's available for free on the app store and you can find more information here if you'd like: