iPad Mirroring in the Classroom

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your iPad implementation, you absolutely must be able to project the iPad’s screen for students to see. This is called mirroring or AirPlay and can be done several different ways.

In order to use AirPlay and mirror your iPad’s screen through a projector, you will need an iPad 2 (or more recent) and one of three different configurations:

1) An AppleTV and a projector that can accept HDMI inputs. These would have to be very new projectors (manufactured within the last 2 or 3 years).

Benefits:
  • Easiest installation: Just plug the AppleTV into the projector.
  • Good quality signal via HDMI cable
Drawbacks:
  • Audio will go through projector’s speakers, which might be very low quality.
  • You might need external speakers and a projector with audio-out in order to have better sound quality.
  • Might be hard to find a power source for the AppleTV if the projector is hanging from the ceiling.
  • If you don’t have these types of projectors yet, you’ll have to buy them and they can be a bit pricey.

2) A computer with the AirServer software installed (www.airserverapp.com). This software costs $15 for 5 installations and allows you to mirror your iPad screen to a computer. If that computer is then hooked up to your projector, the iPad screen will be projected. This works on either PC or Mac.

Benefits:

  • Cheapest solution at about $3 per machine/classroom.
  • Can mirror 1, 2, 3, or 4 iPads at once (split screen).
  • Excellent video quality. The AirServer software seems to project a larger screensize with better colors and higher resolution than the AppleTV.
  • Maintain your computer’s connection to the projector for the Smart Board or anything else (HOWEVER, you cannot do anything on the PC while mirroring your iPad as the students will be able to see anything you are doing on the computer, unlike with the AppleTV)

Drawbacks:

  • Disconnects more frequently than AppleTV and also errors when attempting to play some videos.
  • Slightly more difficult installation that requires the user to preinstall 4 or 5 other pieces of software before you can install AirServer (this other software is free and available on AirServer’s website)
  • PC’s must have Windows Vista or more recent. Macs must have Tiger or more recent.
  • Can be jumpy if the school internet bandwidth is not fast enough.
  • If Apple updates their iOS, AirServer might become incompatible and stop working for several days until a new version is released.

3) If you have an older projector that only accepts VGA input, you can do a slightly more complicated setup involving the following pieces of equipment:

Benefits:

  • Works in almost any school with projectors
  • Maintain your PC’s connection to the Smart Board or Projector if necessary (especially if you use the PC as a DVD player).
  • Unlike AirServer, you can do stuff on the computer while doing stuff on the AppleTV at the same time without projecting your computer screen to the students.

Drawbacks:

  • Expensive collection of hardware required.
  • Hard to set up.
  • The setup described above might not even work with the particular layout of your school, projectors, and computers. It might require slight modifications.
  • AppleTV does not project as large or as clear of an image through VGA as the other two options (especially not as good as AirServer)

At our School we use a combination of Option 3 (AppleTV with VGA adapter) and Option 2 (AirServer).

None of our classroom projectors have HDMI inputs, so we were forced to use the more expensive and complicated setup described in Option 3. Our classrooms have wall-mounted VGA ports that go up through the ceiling over to the mounted projectors which allowed us to avoid having the AppleTV or the adapter box dangling from the ceiling. The switchboxes allowed our elementary school teachers to keep using their Smart Boards with the PC software while also having the option to use the AppleTV mirroring with a flick of a switch.

However, many teachers were having trouble with the AppleTV mirroring image being too small or blurry. Due to the relative ease and cheapness of AirServer, we bought several copies and installed it on the PC’s connected to the projectors (through the switchbox). This gave the teachers the option of mirroring through the AppleTV or switching to the PC view and mirroring through AirServer. Each was useful in different situations, so having access to both was good.


Tips for AirPlay Mirroring:

  • To mirror, drag up from the bottom of thes creen (in iOS 7), click AirPlay, then click on the appropriate AppleTV or AirServer to start projecting. Make sure you flip “Mirroring” to ON.
  • Make sure the AppleTV or PC with AirServer installed are connected to the same network as the iPads (via WiFi or network cable). It cannot mirror if they are not on the same network.
  • Set up a password on either AppleTV or AirServer. It need not be a secret from students (we use “unlock###” where ### is the room number), but having a password ensures that if you accidentally click on the wrong AppleTV it will not immediately start projecting your screen in a different teacher’s classroom.
  • Come up with a naming convention for all your AppleTVs or AirServer installs to keep them organized. We use “ATV Room ###” and “Air Server ###” to keep track of which machine is which.
  • If your projector has a “Blank Screen” button, be sure to use it when loading up a new app or going to a webpage. You don’t want to be projecting your screen if you don’t know what is about to pop up. If your projector does not have a Blank button, turn off the projector while you load documents, apps, websites, images, or videos.
  • Set your AppleTV to NOT have a screensaver and NOT to go to sleep for AT LEAST an hour. If you are projecting something you don’t want to be interrupted by the machine cutting to black every 5 minutes.
  • Most errors on the AppleTV can be resolved by unplugging it and plugging it back in. Just reboot!
  • Don’t lose those remotes. Any AppleTV remote can work with any AppleTV, but if you lose them you’ll have to buy new ones, as there are no buttons on the AppleTV itself.
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