Creating a Classroom Studio with an iPad and a Green Screen

One way to depict the cycle of education is that it moves between the development of learning and the subsequent expression of understanding … and the amazing growth of inexpensive mobile technology tools is affording learners the ability to communicate their understanding in ever more creative and personalized manners. Media is moving center stage (yes, the pun was fully intended) and what once required tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and training can now be accomplished with an iPad and some inexpensive props.
One of the first places I visited when I first came to 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 tights and 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. Move over Superman … here’s a few ways that green screen technology can be integrated into some engaging educational projects.
1. Setting up your classroom studio
I’ve worked with lots of schools but I’ve never walked into one and been told that I could spend as much as I needed. Budgets are tight but the good news is that 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 device) 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 kits with lighting for $120.
  • 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.
If you’re willing to get a little creative then you can cut the cost even further. Clip a sheet of large green butcher paper to a wall to save on the green screen kit. Even better, see if you can convince the powers that be to paint a section of your wall. Buy a can of green paint, cover the floors and get the kids to do the painting. Giving them ownership of their learning environment is always a good idea.
2. The Weather Project 
This was a 2nd grade project that was designed to have students learn about the various elements of weather. Students selected a location in the USA and then used their iPads to research the weather in that city. They were asked to play the role of a weather reporter and script a detailed weather forecast for their city. Once their reports were submitted and approved they were ready for the video session.
As you can see from the image at left, they came to class dressed for the occasion. They discussed presentation skills and how to present their reports (pause, make eye contact…).
The green screen was placed in a corner of the room and the students presented their weather reports while we took the video. Once completed, students found a background that best represented their location and edited the video to insert the background. Viola … you’re presenting the weather report in front of a ski lodge in the snow.
3. Creating a Poetry Performance
This 2nd grade teacher has a poetry writing project with her class every year. We wanted the students to perform their poetry.  In discussing the project, the teacher pointed out that well written poetry evokes imagery in the mind of the reader. With that in mind, we decided to have the students use traditional media to draw or paint an image that matched the poetry they were writing. When they were done they used the iPad to take a photo of their art.
Taking the process one step further, we wanted them to select key themes from their poetry. They printed the words then cut and paste them on to green paper. Once again, they took photos of the words on green paper – remember that the Green Screen app allows editors to remove the green in any video or image. They can then overlay the words at points during their recital video. Take a look at the following overview and then I’ll explain the process.
Creating a poetry performance with an iPad and a green screen
The process:
  • Students wrote their poetry and created matching art.
  • They selected key words and printed them, then cut and paste the words on green paper.
  • Students took photos of their art and of each word on green paper.
  • Using the Green Screen app, students can edit their video and replace the green background with the photo of their artwork.
  • On another layer in the Green Screen app, they insert the photos of their words on green paper (the green is not visible) at the appropriate points in the video.
The end result is a wonderful poetry performance that extends the traditional writing project to include visual and presentation elements.
One last word of warning. When you’re taking video in front of a green screen make sure that the person on video isn’t wearing anything green. The final video can look a little eerie when all of a sudden there’s a “hole” where the green clothing was being worn! As evidenced in this example, even professionals occasionally make the mistake of wearing green.

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