By Larry Reiff
Is it possible to be both a wired and unwired educator at the same time? Sounds like someone trying to explain Schrödinger’s cat (the cat is both alive and dead at the same time, Google it). I’m talking about being “an untethered teacher.” Sometimes, we end up tethered to the technology in our classroom. To me, this is most evident with the interactive white board at the front of my classroom (I’ve intentionally omitted any particular brand name devices). Fortunately, I’ve been using AppleTV to untether myself from the front of the room.
I’ve spoken to a lot of administrators about what they look for when performing teacher observations. One of the comments I heard over and over again was, “I want to see the teacher circulating among the students.” You can’t do that if you’re attached to the interactive white board. I have an AppleTV in my classroom hooked up to a projector. Using my iPad and AirPlay, I can wirelessly mirror any content on my iPad to the screen at the front of the room. The real advantage is evident during collaborative activities. Students can use their own iOS devices to connect to the AppleTV to share their work with the rest of the class. I can be anywhere in the room and still run my lesson. I can pull up sound and video clips on my iPad and instantly share them with my class without being attached to any particular location in the room.
The cost savings are incredible. Most interactive white boards cost between $2500-$3500 per unit. That cost doesn’t include the man hours for installation. You can purchase an iPad, a projector, and an AppleTV for under $1000. Hooking up an AppleTV is remarkably simple. The unit has two wires, a power cord and HDMI connection. (If your projector doesn’t have HDMI, converters are available for about $25.) There is no software to install and the unit is completely portable. I carry mine from class to class and set it up in about 1 minute. As long as they are both connected to the same wireless network, the iPad and AppleTV work seamlessly together.
The truth is that most teachers aren’t using interactive white boards to their full potential; they are being used a projectors for PowerPoint presentations. The wealth of apps available for the iPad overwhelmingly exceeds the functions of more expensive solutions. I use Keynote for all of my presentations. When teaching about the civil rights era, I’m able to use the iPod app to play speeches my Dr. Martin Luther King. We use iAnnotate to mark up documents and share our notes with the class. YouTube videos can be pulled up quickly along with playlists. When teaching Shakespeare, I’m able to show the class three different actors delivering the same soliloquy. There is no lag time. I can show different video clips without pausing to swap out DVDs or look for files in the computer at the front of the room. If I have it in iTunes or on my iPad, I can share it with my students. Every teachers knows that downtime is the enemy. Think about how quickly you can switch between apps on your iPad. With an AppleTV, you never need to walk to computer or the board to move between activities. Double tapping the home button brings you to all of your running apps. Lessons just flow more smoothly since I started using it in my classroom.
In August, Apple will release a software update to its current operating system, Lion. When Mountain Lion is released this summer, users will have the ability to mirror their iMac and MacBook desktops to AppleTV. No more cables to connect.
The list of advantages goes on. Instant access to iTunes U content. No more need for a document camera. Quite simply, if you can do it on your iPad, you can share it with your class. For $99, it’s worth experimenting with.