The iPad 2 and Apple TV … Ed Tech Industry Killer?

What would you rather get for your classroom, an iPad 2 and Apple TV or an Interactive Whiteboard? Are your teachers asking for Interactive Whiteboards? Hold on to that discussion and don’t answer until you know all of the possibilities!

I think we now have the ability to put together a very highly effective digital classroom with the combination of iPad 2’s, a digital projector, and an Apple TV. All of this can be done at a fraction of the cost of most 21st century classrooms that have combined the use of Interactive Whiteboards. I just don’t know why you would ever want to purchase them anymore.

Maybe we can get rid of the need for document cameras, scanners, clicker hubs, and still or digital video cameras as well?

Perhaps you don’t know about the new possibilities of this fantastic little black box called Apple TV. Check out this post on that explains how you can setup an Apple TV to allow your iPad 2 to become truly wireless.

Now, if you are looking for the rationale on why you might want to go with this new setup, here is mine!

1. You are not locked into a finite space for interactivity with a “computer” and the ability to share with a large audience. One-way to look at it in my opinion is that you are providing your students with a portable Interactive Whiteboard anywhere you want them to interact with the device.

2. As we all know, there are many apps that provide a robust learning experience that are completely interactive and much better than teacher created Notebook files. We just need everyone to understand and learn the benefits of the workflow provided w/ an iPad. For example: Lets give you an example with “Cells”. Students start with iCell App, take a screenshot, mark it up with Doodle Buddy, go back to the iCell App, take a screenshot, mark it up with Doodle Buddy, etc. Perhaps you are using the iPad camera to add images or videos from materials in your classroom as well. Once you have a collection of marked up screenshots, add Replay Note to the mix and you have fantastic possibilities. This is just an example on the fly! This can all be displayed now in real time, at intermittent times of the project, or at the final display of the project.

3. The iPad w/ Apple TV allows your iPad to function as a document camera, still camera, video camera, scanner, e-clicker hub, and Interactive Whiteboard. I argue that you can replace all of that equipment now! How much money is that in savings, $1400 at least? We can add several more of the other devices to that total as well; I haven’t worn a watch in years!

4. The iPad continues to be functional for classroom experiences when you turn off the projector. I have yet to figure out how to do that with a Interactive Whiteboard effectively. I am seeing very little impact from the Interactive Whiteboard software beyond classroom use other than screencasting. The ability to screencast and or record as a document camera through the iPad is so much easier with an easier workflow anyway.

5. The quality of the Interactive Whiteboard software and the lessons provided are over rated. However, with the use of Splashtop on the iPad, you are can still effectively function with the Interactive Whiteboard software.

6. The vast amount of other uses an iPad provides including an e-reader, executive functioning with email, calendar, tasks, reminders, etc.

7. The iPad / Apple TV set up is completely portable. I have yet to see a Interactive Whiteboard get carried under someone’s arm comfortably.

8. Apple TV allows you to use a computer as a media server. When you combine Apple TV’s, you can now pull content from one shared space effectively without a complicated setup for teachers to navigate. Teachers can navigate the Apple TV menu with little to no training. Loading content into photos, video and music is ridiculously easy compared to most media server setups. Additionally, this still allows that computer to be used. For example, we have set our Library Checkout Computer as the Shared Media Resource. You just keep iTunes open and I can pull content to multiple destinations via Apple TV. Previously, our schools had a laptop dedicated to a front “TV” to show slideshows. There is a savings of $900 for my district!

9. Professional Development on an iPad / Apple TV set up in comparison to an Interactive Whiteboard is drastically different. I would love to debate this one with anyone at any time. I have so many examples of very elderly to my 2 1/2 year old who are effectively learning with an iPad. It is painstaking to watch teachers sometimes as they struggle with learning how to use Smart Notebook. You have to remember, teachers are not taking home their IWB and in general, the majority of them do not practice using the software without it attached to the board. However, provide them with an iPad that can mirror and they are using it all the time for the myriad other uses it provides! They are providing their own professional development with the device as a result.

10. We want to see students at the center of the learning. IWB’s continue to be teacher-dominated devices. Teachers appear to be much more comfortable handing over an iPad than they seem to be with bringing the kids. You have to remember, their classmates cannot see what is happening because the students are in the way, etc. Two fantastic colleagues from Illinois, David Sladkey and Scott Miller are two of the best IWB professional development people I know. One of their main lessons is to help teachers to come up with a schema for bringing students to the board. It doesn’t appear to be difficult for teachers to do that with handing over the device to the students.

11. I simply laugh at the savings that you can get from simply using an iPad 2 as a video conferencing tool in comparison to the unbelievable amount of money that has been spent on this technology in other forms. Simply turn on Skype on the iPad 2 and away you go …

There are so many other facets and reasons that I have missed … Can you add to this list? I think you can … I just can’t see the benefits of any other setup for a classroom that even compare at this point! For me, this is all a no-brainer.

What do you think?

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  1. As soon as I heard about the mirroring option, I was sold and had a few of the thoughts you outlined here.    I’m anxious to get one here at work and try it out in that setting.   Thanks for all of the great suggestions.  

    • The only negative that I have any concerns with from our colleagues is the fact that it uses bonjour and many network administrators prevent bonjour on their network. 

  2. tracijenae

    Couldn’t we do this with other devices as well? This tech has already been around for ages, but people have not thought to use it this way. Tablets and media extenders certainly have been around for years. Personally I would rather use more open source tech than apple. You tend to getter better bang for your buck and you are not limited by apple’s control freak nature. The new transformer prime from asus would be great for this. I am really liking this idea though.

  3. Bryan_05

    Are you suggesting I ditch my computer as well? What about creating tests, handouts, printing (easily), using Excel, etc.?

    For this (#2) to work it sounds like each student needs an iPad 2 as well. 20 students x $500 > $1000 SMART Board.

    I’ll give you that my SMART board is a glorified chalk board, but Algebra class without a board to write on in front of everyone sounds like a disaster. Being able to write and keep an eye on students is important. 

    When Pearson et al. come out with worksheets and guided notes for each lesson through the iPad that will grade students homework for me I’ll be all for this, but until then I don’t see many efficiency or buy-in gains for a typical Algebra classroom.

    The hardware is ready, but the software and money is not.

      • Noneed2respond34458822

        Pearson also has just purchased a virtual private school for $400 million U.S. called Connections Academy running schools with 41 000 students in 21 states to outsource you. Let’s all run to that emerging reality.

        People, pull your heads out of the sand for but a moment to look at the marketization and commodification inherent in your conversation. Simple question, if the curriculum and pedagogy are positioned ahead of these two ‘solutions’, which will create a more inquiry oriented space for students? Then you have your answer…

    • … Our limits with creation on the iPad vs. computer is really a personal issue and not a technical issue.  I can create with my iPad as effectivley as my Macbook Pro.  Pages on the iPad is much simpler than other document creation software on other platforms for example.  I suggest you check out the app Creative Book Builders as well as it has fantastic possibilities that blows away a lot of other document creation tools.

      … I am talking about what a teacher can do and what students can do.  Although iPads are less expensive than laptops (not netbooks but I leave it to my colleague for that discussion:

      … The benefit of using the iPad is the ability to face your class and to hand the device to them so I am not sure what you are referencing. 

      … Your Pearson comment worries me as I would contend that you need to break away from the textbook company.  I suggest you look into the Flipped Classroom concept which  can be done very well with the iPad.

      … Sorry … I completely disagree … knowledge, creativity and a shift in workflow is what is preventing us from moving forward.  Everything else is ready to go!

      • Bryan_05

        “… Your Pearson comment worries me as I would contend that you need to break away from the textbook company.  I suggest you look into the Flipped Classroom concept which  can be done very well with the iPad.”
        I badly want to try a flipped classroom. What’s your suggestion when 25% of my students don’t have the Internet at home? You might think this makes me a bad teacher, but I can’t imagine creating every lesson plan and homework from scratch. A book’s guidance helps.

        “… Our limits with creation on the iPad vs. computer is really a personal issue and not a technical issue.  I can create with my iPad as effectivley as my Macbook Pro.  Pages on the iPad is much simpler than other document creation software on other platforms for example.  I suggest you check out the app Creative Book Builders as well as it has fantastic possibilities that blows away a lot of other document creation tools.”

        I’ve never seen anyone type faster on an iPad than a laptop. Creating answer columns with numbered tests and complex fractions doesn’t seem practical outside of MS Word. I’ve tried what seems like 10 different programs that can’t do this as well. I’ve tried migrating to Google Docs for spreadsheets as well, but the formatting and functionality just isn’t there yet.

        I think you have a great idea and I’m tempted to try it with the next iPad, but I don’t see it as a laptop/desktop replacement.

  4. What would I rather get for my classroom? A complete set of laptops…..but, since that isn’t happening anytime soon, or at least until our bond passes, the IWB beats the smart cover off the iPad2.

    The iPad, while easily mirrored on a large display wirelessly is still a very personal device not built for sharing. Yes, there are plenty of apps that allow for collaborative screen sharing and work, but my experience is that they have been rather clunky, a bit laggy, and quite often are mostly used to mimic the old horn-book style of learning where students are just using the iPads to mirror what’s happening in front of them. This is course, is an argument with little merit as it is dependent on the implementation, and not the device itself. However, with no additional software save for what came with my IWB, I can aggregate information on the board from a variety of sources, have much more screen “real estate”, and I can easily save it, and then disseminate it for later.

    The very reason that many teachers appreciate native apps on the iPad is the very reason I appreciate my IWB’s ability to access the best native app of all; the Internet! Yes, yes, you can get the same internet on the iPads, but you can’t get flash, and honestly with flash I have access to the same quality interactive simulations and activities via a web browser as I do via a native iOS app. Most apps are merely smaller versions of many tools and activities found on websites, but I have to go through the digital management process of purchasing, loading, syncing, and then redistributing via iPads, whereas I can simply click and go on my IWB, or in the case of students having laptops, the same click and go work flow.

    The workflow you describe for the iPad is rather simple to achieve for users such as you or I, but can often become quite cumbersome for the average classroom teacher. Getting past taking screenshots (something still foreign to a lot of teachers), I would take the same workflow you described as use my IWB and ActivInspire to use the native annotate over desktop feature, so I could interact with the simulation, make annotations over the web, then take the screenshot there without having to jump through the extra hoop of leaving the app, and then coming back to it.

    For the price, you make an excellent, compelling, and rather smart observation. The price of interactive whiteboards versus their return on investment is appalling. I would much rather have iPads if the only issue to consider was the price. You have to be careful about this point though, as the cost of one IWB would typically only get you about 3 iPads, so the impact you have in terms of putting devices into kids hands isn’t that much different.

    Where the iPad and AppleTV win out is the portability and the ease of use, I totally agree with you 100%. I’m not about to stuff an IWB in my backpack, not am I going to be able to show off all the bells and whistles to my staff in an hour training like I could with an iPad. If our classrooms were extremely flexible and mobile, the iPad and AppleTV combo would make sense so that you can always interact with what you’re doing. You simply can’t do that with the IWB, and even if you could somehow with one of those portable Mimio devices, I’ve never seen any of the portable IWB solutions work nearly as well as I’d like, although the Wii-mote whiteboard does come close.

    By far though, the largest grievance you’ve committed is the next to last point. Yes, most teachers dominate the board, and you astutely point out it’s in the design. Most teachers don’t let the students interact with the board because they’ve most likely been using the chalkboard or reagular whiteboard in the same fashion before switching over. You have to break poor instructional practices down before you can give IWBs a fair shake. Which is where the design of the iPad is so compelling; you HAVE to hand the iPad over to the student to use it, so there’s not worry about the teacher dominating it….unless of course you hook it up to an AppleTV and let the teacher dominate the mirrored image up on the screen :)

    In the end you’ve written a very compelling argument about how the iPad and an AppleTV could be an amazing solution for interactivity in the classroom. I actually wholeheartedly agree this would be an AWESOME way to bring about more interactivity and personal engagement of the students and the learning device, but I don’t agree with many of your justifications.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that while your premise is sound, your arguments leave me wanting, as most of the issues with IWB are based on poor instructional practice, and not the device itself. I’d LOVE to hear your reply and continue this discussion, keep pushing for change, regardless of what cranks like me have to write about :)

    • Thanks for the response Ben!  … I regularly use an iPad to effectively”share”, have yet to miss flash, and know teachers that respond to learning and using an iPad more effectively than a laptop and IWB.  There is a reason we have very elderly and very young who can use an iPad without training.  Price, portability, clarity, and straight forward intuitiveness of the device are enough without all of the other additional reasons that I have outlined. 

      I have more than enough experience with IWB and iPad professional development and the shortest timeline prior to effective integration is hands down iPad use.  Why?  I have extensive experience witnessing the impact of providing teachers with an iPad and IWB and the iPad has always been turned over for students to use more quickly? Why?

      I am sorry that I left you wanting … I have to say that I read my post again and I think I make a very compelling and comprehensive argument.  I just don’t think a discussion on flash moving forward is relevant.  However, I am sure that some will want to add on to that “old” discussion with this comment. 

      Now, I just need to find an effective device for teachers to raise their iPad as a document camera.  Perhaps something like:

      • Ben

        It’s not that the iPad and AppleTV leave me wanting, but rather some of the points you’re using to support your argument are not about the device, but the instructional strategies being used with the device. And a bit on the subjective side.

        I didn’t originally want to take your argument point by point, but a lot of the smaller points you make about functionality and flexibility of applications don’t hold water against a typical desktop or laptop machine that provides just as much flexibility, if not more, for em-mail, task management, etc.

        You also mention that the quality of lessons and content built for IWB software is subpar, but a subjective reflection like that could easily be turned around on the iOS App store as well; there are many thousands of apps which I would consider to be low quality, and often even more enticing to use as it’s right there at your fingertips.

        Flash is what it is. While I am certainly not poo-pooing iOS’s lack of flash (I regularly use both an iPad and iPhone), I am not fully an Apple fanboy ready to give up my desktop computer. There are still many POWERFUL online interactives and simulations that use flash (,,, etc.) that I wouldn’t want to give up by moving to just an iPad as my main interactive device.

        But I digress with these smaller points, the heart of the matter is the instructional strategies being implemented, and while there are MANY poor instructional strategies which are not revolutionized by the IWB (with some actually being reinforced), the iPad is not going to be the “magic bullet” to solve this. Yes, it’s incredibly easy to hand it over to a student, and let them “drive” the learning experience, and it’s got that going for it. The compact, and personal nature of the device is going to win over an IWB every time, so if you’re going to build an effective argument, start with that advantage, but be leary of calling out the poor instructional practice coupled with many IWBs, otherwise you may find yourself defending the iPad in much the same way down the road…….the amount of blog posts I could fill with poor instructional uses of iPod Touches and iPads might rival your denouncement of IWBs.

        • MIght I suggest you spend some time with Puffin Browser? Puffin allows access to the full flash experience on an iPad and has been an instrumental part of our move from 1:1 laptop to 1:1 iPad in our middle school. We lose sight of the power and functionality of the iPad when we focus too much on “finding apps” and not “what do I want to have students show me/do/reflect/create.

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  6. NMcQ

    All good arguments (and just as good comments against, and for it, in the comments below).

    One thing that gets me from reading some comments is people’s wariness to Apple’s ‘control freak nature’. That’s an institutional change issue too – your cars are designed and controlled by one manufacturer but no-one complains about this. Computing was built around premise of IBM’s genius idea to make the pc open to all many years ago. That worked at time as computing was so immature and needed that motivation to develop and grow. Now though, buying into a complete service package from one company brings a lot of benefits (better integration, etc.). Even Google plays to this, notice that the Android phone is good, but it’s genuinely amazing if you integrate it into Google’s services? People need to move past the buying into-a-company issue, that’s an old perception.
    Regarding the topic of this blog post, my teaching in the last two years led me to opinion that IWB’s were junk but mainly as the training in them was poor, and the software integration even worse. Yes, they could do a lot, but it was all separate entities. The idea of an iPad and Apple TV is neat but still immature (lots of the issues discussed below). Given the choice between both, I’d take the option of something like the latter (iPad/Apple TV) choice as I could hand the iPad around in the room. It’s more efficient that getting pupils up to front of the room (not to mention a lot of kids don’t like standing up in front of people – there’s a time and a place that is good for teaching them how to do that).

    Good post, keep it up!

  7. I’m skeptical of parts of this statement: 

    “The iPad w/ Apple TV allows your iPad to function as a document camera, still camera, video camera, scanner, e-clicker hub, and Interactive Whiteboard.”

    It’s the statement about document cameras and clicker hubs that I’m not so sure of. 

    When I use a document camera, I place something on the base so it displays – and then I need my hands. I point to something on the screen, or mark up the document being displayed, or let students look at the display while I circulate among them. Unless there is some kind of frame that holds the iPad in place while it serves as a doc camera, the iPad just can’t duplicate the document camera’s functionality. 

    As for the clicker hub, I do not know of any existing software that allows the iPad to function in this way apart from TurningPoint ResponseWare, which requires students to have wifi-enabled devices to vote. (And ResponseWare is pretty pricey too.) You might be saving money by not having clickers, but then you’d be spending money to have the software and to ensure students have some kind of voting device to use. At best this is a wash. Unless you perhaps meant using a standard polling tool like SurveyMonkey, which isn’t the same (or as easy to use) as a clicker setup with a desktop system. 

    • First … Totally disagree … Document Camera … Check this as example visual …  … I am trying to come up with some other prototypes from that inspiration … You can be as effective with the iPad if not more if you understand the workflow.  Use Replay Note after screenshots or use: … not to mention you can just film directly with Cam app.

      Second … I would love to go into all the details but I will leave you with … allows any device that can see a web page. 

    • Ben

      Scott’s right, the traditional clicker system is on the “outs”. As more and more school go to 1:1, or BYOD, the means they have for students to respond electronically grow everyday, including apps, web applications, or downloaded network run applications.

      In truth, the more I used clickers in my classroom, the more I found I didn’t need them as I learned to question and create conversation in a much more deliberate end thoughtful way.

    • Hi Robert. We have been using the JustStand iPad document camera stand since finding out about them last April. They are a fantastic, simple solution and the just work.

      Regarding the clicker dilemma – when we sold our smart boards (all of them), we also lost the use of pour clicker system. We replaced this functionality using Socrative and laptops (we are a 1:1 school), iPads or iPods. We allowed students to use their own devices as well. Our faculty much prefer this solution over clicker systems – and – having worked with ResponseWare for several years – they were quite happy to make the move to Socrative.

  8. Jon

    Yes, BUT… the problem of reliability and consistency in regards to wifi connection must me solved. As I observed in every session I attended at the recent MaCUL conference, presentations and lesson plans falter when network connection is spotty. Educators are more forgiving than middle schoolers.

    • Ben

      This is a great point, and echoes an earlier comment about bandwidth. Many districts simply don’t have the resources to build a robust wireless infrastructure that can handle that much video and audio being pumped through their access points and controllers. Hopefully it won’t be an issue for too long, but even application that have been around for while (LAN School) still perform sub-optimally over a wireless connection.

  9. Chris Hammond

    Can the Apple Tv connect to a projector? If I am understanding the post correctly, the Apple Tv will connect to a projector. Can you tell me if that is true.

  10. Hookertech

    Great post Scott – you went much more focused than my post that brings up some of the same items that will become obsolete. I hesitated on eliminating iwbs because of some of the issues raised. That said, I just ordered a couple of Apple TVs to try out in the high school. Since its a 1-1 with upper-level kids and iPads, I can only imagine the amount of freedom and sharing that could take place with this added dynamic. My network admin is complaining that bandwidth will be an issue. Do you have any sources that can give me a “bandwidth hit” number that I can share with him? We have 2000 in the high school. I figure 150 Apple TVs won’t make much of a dent. Thanks!

    Here’s my post on the “Swiss-Army knife of education.”

  11. Cari Teske

    We are currently doing this!! As a 1:1 district we love the freedom it provides as well as the access to so many wonderful apps. Our bandwidth is not an issue as we support 230 laptops.

    Cari Teske
    BCLUW HS Principal

  12. Hi Scott – Great post. I am really pleased to see more discussion of this idea – and more importantly, more adoption.

    With the release of iOS5 and Airplay mirroring in Winter of 2012, we set up two test classrooms, removing the Promethean Boards and putting in Apple TVs, HD projectors (for HDMI) and supplied the two brave test-teachers with iPads. After several months working with these teachers, with the help of our Director of Curriculum, I decided to sell all of our interactive whiteboards (of course this begs the question, what is interactive about standing in one place….). In Fall of 2012 we started school with no whiteboards on campus Each classroom had a new HD projector and Apple TV and each room was outfitted with an iPad. At the same time we moved our 6th grade (we are 6-12, independent) off of the MacBook pro and on to the iPad platform. PD was focused primarily on our 6th grade team at first and then, once a teaching plan was in place for the 6th graders, we moved on to PD for all teachers and their new classroom tools.

    Did it go smoothly? Of course not! In fact, for several weeks it was almost a disaster as our 2009 era wireless APs could not keep up with the new demands of the iPad and Apple TVs. We quickly moved to hard wiring our Apple TVs and making some network changes to prioritize this traffic – which stabilized our “drop” problem.” In December of that year we purchased two new APs which are more “iPad aware,” and in classrooms making most use of the devices our drop issues went away. This Summer we sold our old APs, upgraded our wireless and have had no issues in our three weeks back at school. In that first year we did convince our 6th grade Dean (a 40 year teaching vet), our Algebra and 6th grade math teacher, middle school world studies head and 6th grade science teacher of the value of this idea. For us, this was a win.

    So – why did we do this? In large part you have already touched on the benefits of de-front-of-rooming the teacher.

    – Moving to this “de-centralized” classroom supported best practices for teaching girls
    – Financially it made sense. Outfitting classrooms cost $1600/classroom all-inclusive
    – Our faculty was in need of and desired an innovation makeover
    – It supported our move to iPad in the 6th grade and our plans for growth in MS

    We are an all-girls school, so, using the iPad as whiteboard supported a number of things we know about best practices for teaching girls. Getting the teacher away from the board and into the classroom with (in our community) the most vital attributes of a “smart” board in her/his hand allows teachers to work face to face and not turn their back upon students. Girls tend to form circles when they work – now teachers can join those circles, use iPad to illustrate an Algebra problem (for example) and then pass iPad to her student to continue the work – or better yet – has the student record her work in the whiteboard app as an example and/formative assessment for later.

    We noticed that our 6th graders were getting better at presenting their work in front of the class more quickly in recent years. Something our 6th grade Dean attributed to our students not being able to simply hide behind and read from computer screens. Students became quite adept at drawing out a problem (in Spanish, math, or world studies) and then sharing screens in the room they were in for ultimate resolution on the white board. We had white board space again!

    Slowly our classrooms are beginning to take new shapes. We have encouraged teachers to explore their spaces – as we have not mounted any projectors (they are on wheeled carts with all tech stuff secured for easy movement) and many teachers move around the room (good for helping young girls gain a bit more practice understanding spatial relationships), working from different areas on different days. Many have also moved to projecting on rollable white boards, have painted walls with Idea Paint – all positive moves we attribute to not fixing a teacher in place in a room via a mounted smart board.

    We have built iPad/iPod microscope cases for use in our 7th grade science classes, added iPad document stands in 8 classrooms, iPad tripod mounts in others – and, this year in pre-planning tech training, experienced tremendous excitement across the faculty around using the new classroom this year. going into year our third school year working with this idea I can now say it was worth it. Not a one of our teachers would go back to the Promethean Board. They understand that they have the functionality they once used and more.

    Now – I am certain to get some questions – please ask. I should point out that we are a highly diverse (47% non-white european, 35% of students receive tuition assistance), young, girls’ school without a huge endowment. We have been a 1:1 school (laptops and now laptop/iPads) since we were founded in 2000 and have maintained a fully wireless campus since opening our doors. We provide devices as a part of tuition currently, but are planning on moving to a “guided” BYOD program next year, with iPads in the middle school and a selection of parent-owned devices in upper school.

    This decision made sense for our school and our community but it has taken time for the idea to move from concept to organic acceptance. I believe the “smart board” does not allow for true collaboration and forces teachers to teach from one position and requires learning the ins/outs of non-intuitive software. Using the iPad in combination with the Apple TV as teaching tool has moved our community forward greatly and taken the emphasis off of tech (oddly enough) and placed it back on to teaching.