Five things you should put on your iPad Camera

The tablet computer like the iPad can be a magic box of inquiry. For instance, it has a camera, and in particular a front facing camera. Why that is important is because students can manipulate objects on the camera and collectively view the results. And of course you can, with the touch of a finger, record the image for later use. Or even take a video.
To get started, here is a short list of five things to put on an iPad camera:

1. A prism. A prism “bends” light, and when placed on an iPad camera, the camera sees at a right angle. If the prism is centered, you have half the view in one direction and half in the opposite direction. Sliding the prism more to one side will adjust the view proportionately. The above image show the prism positioned towards the edge of the iPad Mini filling the screen with the hand.

2. Polarizers. A pair of linear polarizers easily demonstrates the effect of cross polarization. When one polarizer is laid over the camera, the other polarizer can be manipulated at a distance from the iPad causing a reduction or blockage of the light reaching the camera. The above image has one polarizer covering the camera, and a second polarizer held above the camera that when rotated allows or filters the amount of visible light.

3. A Spectrometer. Both low and high quality classroom spectrometers can be placed directly over the camera providing a large-screen view of the color spectrum or color bands of various light sources. The image above uses a slit spectrometer. The image below uses a traditional classroom spectrometer. As you can see in the picture, the incomplete spectrum of the fluorescent lights is clearly visible. This is a good example what can be easily photographed.


4. Lenses. The effects of convex and concave lenses are obvious when placed at varying distances from the iPad camera. Imagine the assessment potential if you could show a real-time and testable lens effect. In fact, student photos could be the quiz. The above image shows a concave lens while the image below uses a convex lens.


5. UV and IR light sources. TV remotes and UV lights might not emit wavelengths the human eye can see (or even safe to look for in the case of UV light), but the iPad camera has no trouble seeing longer and shorter wavelengths of light.  You can also test the penetration of the light by placing things over the light source. The image above is a short wave UV light that produces very little visible light. The iPad camera, however, has no trouble showing the large amount of light emitted by the UV flashlight.
The Best of All Worlds! How about combining the prisms, polarizers, lenses, spectrometers, and the UV and IR light sources into an inquiry based light lab? Sounds like a lot of science fun to me!
What do you think will happen if two crossed polarizers are placed between the UV light and the camera?

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6 Responses to Five things you should put on your iPad Camera

  1. Kris Swanson says:

    Super ideas – I’m going to try some of them with third graders in the next couple of weeks! I have iPod touches, and figure that my students will need some help to hold them steady on the table while manipulating lenses, prism, etc… so I designed and printed a little iPod touch holder. If you would like to see it, or download and print on a 3D printer, you can do so here:
    Thanks again for the great ideas!

  2. Kerri Ruffennach says:

    I love these ideas! I would incorporate the prism over the camera into a lesson teaching third graders about how light is refracted through the prism. I like to run the video feed from my iPad through the Smart Board in the classroom because doing this enables the entire class to get a good view of the activity. The lesson would start off with me showing them how the front view camera works with nothing over it. Next, I would place the prism over the camera and show how the camera now has a view of my hand at a right angle versus right over top of the camera. This could lead into our activities with light and how a prism refracts the light. I think this might better explain what actually happens to the light as it enters the prism.

  3. Jennifer says:

    These are great ideas! I would be most comfortable using the prism to show how light bends. You can then build upon this idea to enhance the students’ knowledge base of prisms and how they work. I would also like to try the activity using lenses. I think it would be neat for my students to witness convex and concave first hand without me just talking about it. Thank you again!

  4. Caitlin Zurcher says:

    I think this use of the i-Pad is great! I am in the Early Childhood field and I know younger students would love this type of inquiry and experimentation. I would like to try this in my future classroom and incorporate some additional objects along with the five mentioned to see what type of results occur. So often you hear to use backs of CDs to create prisms. I would be interested to see how a traditional prism compares to a CD when viewed through the camera. I think trying different types of light bulbs (halogen, energy efficient, black light, etc.) might be a neat experiment, too. Depending on what exactly you want the students to take away from the lesson, you could give them some objects that will look no different after a picture is taken than they do in real life. That would open up the door for so many compare/contrast conversations, as well as a discussion on various properties and how those properties produce different photograph results.
    Kerri brought up a good point of turning this into a whole class activity using a SmartBoard to project the images. As of right now, a lot of schools do not have enough i-Pads for all students to complete this type of activity individually or in small groups. As long as you get creative and work with what you have, this idea could become a lesson that students will learn a lot from and enjoy!

  5. Maura Atkinson says:

    These are some fantastic ideas! Almost every student in my third grade class has an IPad or tablet that they love to bring to school. They would be so thrilled to be able to use it for an experiment. We actually just learned about light and prisms in class so this will be a great follow up activity for the end of the year. We can try not only the ideas here but add to it. I was thinking of using a CD or DVD to see how that would change the view of the camera. We also have those old transparencies from when our school used overhead projectors. I think that would be another neat way to change the images. I will also have my students make predictions on what each object will do to the camera, if anything and that way each group can report back their results. Thanks for the great idea!

  6. Jonathan Cassidy says:

    Can IR capabilities of iPad be used for astro imaging? Is there an app to seperate out the desired wave length?
    I know of a couple of good mounts for iPad and one can accommodate lenses.

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