Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mobile Interactivity That Won’t Break the Bank

A few months back I read some articles on Twitter describing how educators were pairing the iPad, Apple TV, and an HDMI projector to create an interactive whiteboard experience.  After reading these tweets, I realized that not only was this potential setup mobile, but it was also very cost-effective.  As I ran the numbers through my head, I figured that this particular set-up would run me about $1500, almost $2000 less than if I were to purchase an interactive whiteboard with installation. 

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Now don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate for having interactive whiteboards in schools.  We currently have approximately fourteen installed in classrooms and my teachers are huge fans of the Smart software that comes with them.  The reality though is that it becomes costly to purchase and install more interactive whiteboards.  Thus I decided to give the iPad setup a try as a more cost effective option that would not require any installation and could move from classroom to classroom.  Working with my IT Director, we purchased an iPad 2, HDMI projector, Apple TV, and a carrying case that could accommodate all of these items as well as cords.  We also secured an extension cord and power strip to go along with the set up.

Once we had the hardware, the actual set up in order to get it functioning was relatively simple.  From bag to actual operation takes only 3-5 minutes.  Before beginning make sure your IT Director connects the iPad and Apple TV to your school’s network.  Below are the steps that I have reviewed with my teachers to transform the unit into an interactive whiteboard:
  • Plug in HDMI projector and Apple TV to a power outlet.
  • Connect Apple TV to projector.
  • Turn on iPad, double click circular button near where you plug in the power cord, slide toolbar to the right, click button the looks like a computer, select Apple TV, and then set to mirroring on.

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Our new interactive, mobile whiteboard project has now been in use for over a month and it has received rave reviews from teachers.  The iPad itself serves as the interactive whiteboard and the image is then projected onto a screen.  What’s really cool about this is that a teacher can move about the room with the iPad in hand and have students interact with it from anywhere.  In order to use this, teachers email me a request.  They then come down to my office and pick it up on the day that they want to use it. 

Here are two firsthand accounts of how my teachers are using it.

Ms. Tahreen Chowdhury (Science) - In general, I use the iPad-projector to be able to walk around the whole class while I am writing any notes or going over activities that the students have completed. This gives me a chance to be near the more social groups so they are not distracted, and near some students who need to ask me a quick clarification question while I am writing. For conceptual physics, I use the iPad-projector as an incentive for them to display their answers. Students are often shy to go up to the board, so this helps them avoid standing  in front of everyone and they still get to use an appealing gadget (the students are usually happy to use it).  For CP and honors physics, I use it to take quick pictures of one group’s whiteboard work and display it on the screen so everyone can see what one group is doing and use it to better their own work. In honors physics, I also use it as a live camera when I see one group has setup an experiment in a more effective way than others. In addition to that, I use it to project small-scale demonstrations that not everyone can see from where they are sitting.

Mr. Craig Hawkins (Math) - Some of the ways I have used the mobile iPad projector include drawing/solving math problems on screen and having students draw/solve them on the iPad.  I also show students websites of companies and universities that use math in-depth for their company's work.  Some examples include facial recognition software, missile guidance systems, and polynomial curve fitting.  I have also used it to look up stock performance charts while explaining the charts to the students in an interactive fashion.

If you are looking for a cost-effective solution that can be interactive and engaging to both students and teachers, look no further.  If you are currently using a similar setup please share your lessons, ideas, and feedback.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this informative step-by-step breakdown of how to use the iPad, Apple TV and a projector! This is exactly what I was looking for as I have been contemplating a purchase of this nature! I can always count on you and your blog to learn something- thanks!


  2. Love it...have been wondering if this would work...trying to justify doing this at our school.... this is a good example of how to do something with minimal funds.

  3. Overall, a very good idea and one that I fully support. However, one wrinkle we've come across is the need for a very strong network with good access points. The reason is the Apple TV and your iPad must be on the same network to pair up. Any minor wrinkle will beak that connection and you need to set up the network again. Can be a pain.
    Another solution that follows a similar way of thinking involves using AirServer if you already have a Mac. Cheaper to setup and more convenient then Apple TV.

  4. Interesting to note that a few manufacturers of digital projectors are now incorporating infrared technology in to regular projectors that essentially turn any surface into an interactive whiteboard. For less than a quarter of the cost.
    See Boxlight for example.

  5. It is amazing how technology has greatly changed the tools used in education to make learning more efficient, in-depth, and quick. This type of technology is a very helpful tool in education as well as in business. With this tool, learning can now be more fun, easy, and fast.

    Sam Jephson

  6. I wana thank you for providing instructive and qualitative stuff so often.

    new ipad