Recording audio and video in the classroom with iPads

In education, there are many times when a preservice teacher, grad student or faculty member wants to make a video recording of something that happens in the classroom. Today, there are an abundant number of devices that are able to record video. From traditional video cameras, digital cameras with video, functions, web cameras on our computers or mobile devices. While each of these devices have their benefits and disadvantages, recently our office has been looking at different ways to get the best audio and video recordings from an iPad. The fact that the iPad has a camera and microphone built in directly makes it an attractive device for use in school video or audio projects. Many teachers now have iPads in the classroom or some access to an iPad cart. Especially when paired with apps such as iMovie for iPad, Pinnacle Studio, or other video editors, you can record, edit and post videos all directly from the iPad.  However, the built-in mic has some limitations.

Built-in mic

Pros:

  • Picks up a small room well
  • Recordings are loud
  • Easy, no extra cost

Cons:

  • Sound quality is good, but not great
  • Has lots of background noise
  • Not directional

Tascam iM2 Mic

There are many optional iOS accessories available for audio on iOS devices. We had the chance to evaluate the Tascam iM2 microphone for iOS devices.  It is a stereo condenser microphone that is built with the 30-pin adapter and works specifically for iOS devices including iPad, iPhone and iPod. It does not require any separate cables or batteries and connects directly to the iOS device (unless you have the iPhone 5 or something with the lightning connector). It has volume control on the microphone, and a plug for a micro USB cord for charging the iOS device while in use.

The following is a summary or what we found to be pros and cons of using the Tascam iM2 mic.

Pros:

  • Sound quality is excellent
  • Background noise is greatly reduced
  • Picks up the whole room fairly well
  • Great for music recording
  • Works with most apps for audio or video recording (doesn’t require separate apps)
  • No batteries or external power required
  • No extra cables required

Cons:

  • Recordings are very soft, even when volume turned up all the way.
  • On some devices like the iPod Touch (4th generation), it blocks the headphone jack when it is plugged so you need to unplug the mic to listen to recordings

The following are different scenarios that we tested to compare the built-in microphone and video camera to the Tascam iM2 microphone for iOS devices.

Scenario 1: Classroom Instruction

Many preservice teachers (PSTs) need to make a recording of a mini-lesson in a classroom during their student teaching so that it can be evaluated.  Since many classrooms where the PSTs are doing their student teaching have access to iPads, the possibility of just using the iPad to make a recording might be a logical way to capture and record the mini-lesson. For a classroom setting of an instructor interacting with students, the iM2 is just too quiet to be useful.  While the quality of the sound is good, it would require separate audio editing on the recording to make it louder. In this case, the built-in microphone is going to give a louder recording that will pick up the overall room better than the iM2

Recommendation: Use the built-in microphone

Scenario 2: Podcasting or narration

A podcast is an audio or video recording that can be used as an introduction to a class discussion, assigned as part of a homework discussion, or as a conversation between speakers on a specific topic. But don’t think that all of you students have to have iPads either.  There are a variety of ways that you can share audio or video files that can be viewed directly from a computer or a variety of mobile devices. If you are someone that would like to try podcasting or narration and would like to be able to have better sounding audio from an iOS device, the iM2 would be a great solution.

As long as you can be in a quiet room and can speak fairly loudly, the recording will be very good.  The built-in mic will be louder, but will have more background noise and will not be as clear.

Recommendation: Tascam iM2

Scenario 3: Digital Stories or Movie Making

The iPads built-in camera (on iPad 2 or later) is a nice way to have students create a digital story or movie.  While the iPads are a bit tricky to hold steady, especially for little kids, it is really nice to have a single device that can take pictures, take video, record audio narration and then edit and create a final movie.  In order to create a final movie you will need an app such as iMovie for iPad, Pinnacle Studio, or other video editing program.  These video editors allow you combine still photos, videos, background music, narration, effects and title pages into a single video that can be sent to YouTube, box.iu.edu, dropbox.com or saved to the device itself.

Recommendation: It depends…
The audio from the Tascam will be better, but softer. In most cases the built-in mic will be easier and a better choice.

Scenario 4: Recording live music

If you are trying to record musical performances, this is where the iM2 really shines.  Whether you are playing a guitar and singing alone, have a small group or if you have a full chorus or band, the iM2 will give you nice high quality audio as long as the music is not too soft.  Especially if you combine it with the GarageBand app or other similar app to add some effects to the recording, you can get a nice quality recording directly with the iPad.

Recommendation: Tascam iM2

Overall

The ability to record and edit directly on the iPad is great and there are many ways that it could be very useful in the classroom.  The built-in mic is fairly good at capturing a presentation, and does a decent job at capturing multiple people speaking in a small classroom.  The iM2 gives much higher quality audio, reduces background noise and is easy to use, but is also much softer than the built-in mic and in classroom settings is generally too soft to be very useful.  If you can be very close to a single speaker or are recording something loud, like a music performance, it gives very good sound quality.  However for general classroom use, the reduction in volume make it too soft to be usable and you should stick to the built-in microphone.

If you have any other questions or would like to discuss more possible ways to use the iPad for audio or video in your classroom, please stop by the Office of Instructional Consulting or email us at ic@indiana.edu.

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4 responses to “Recording audio and video in the classroom with iPads

  1. The iPads built-in camera (on iPad 2 or later) is a nice way to have students create a digital story or movie. While the iPads are a bit tricky to hold steady, especially for little kids, it is really nice to have a single device that can take pictures, take video, record audio narration and then edit and create a final movie. In order to create a final movie you will need an app such as iMovie for iPad, Pinnacle Studio, or other video editing program. These video editors allow you combine still photos, videos, background music, narration, effects and title pages into a single video that can be sent to YouTube, box.iu.edu, dropbox.com or saved to the device itself.

    • I completely agree with you. The iPad may not be the best mic, or the best video camera, or the best video editor, but the fact that you have an all-in-one device that can do it all is great. In my past classes I had a groups make an instructional video and post the whole thing to YouTube in just a couple of hours. And I agree that for kids it is a great device for making fun movies.

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