Apple TV and Education

This may be the most exciting time ever to work with technology integration for education. There are an incredible amount of options for engaging students in the classroom using technology. Devices, applications, and gadgets are everywhere. They are coming from the largest technology companies in the world and from the smallest garage start ups in the neighborhood. You could spend your entire week reading articles, checking advertisements, and watching videos about all the new things that claim to make our classrooms better educational spaces.

The biggest problem with all these options is that all the options overwhelm most educators. As integration specialists, it is our responsibility to find the best tools from all the noise and hype. I have always tried to keep it simple. Research the products, test them out, and use them in a classroom setting – not just a conference room. I am the first to admit that not every product or application that I have endorsed has been followed by a successful launch in our classrooms but many have made a positive impact.

About eight years ago, I asked to try out an unused SMART Board in my seventh grade World Geography classes. The board was an instant hit with students and provided a great tool for teaching geography. Many years, boards, and various interactive whiteboard products later, I remain one of the proponents of interactive whiteboards in the classroom. I still think – if actually used interactively – the boards are an asset to elementary and middle school classrooms.

A couple of years ago, during a new explosion of new interactive technology products for the classroom, I threw my hopes into a new product. This time I thought the iPad would become the next powerful tech tool for education. But many people felt then and some still do – that the iPad is too much of a consumer product – geared too much towards sales and marketing values. Regardless of consumer appeal, I believe the iPad is the best educational technology tool since the interactive whiteboard. The iPad’s value is also not limited by grade level. The experiences so far in Burlington have shown that the iPad can have as much value in a kindergarten class as a twelfth grade class.

Still with all the positive aspects of the iPad, the educational value was missing something that the interactive whiteboard still worked well for. As we all are learning more and more, the truly great classrooms are student centered – but even in those classrooms we can’t lose focus of the fact that a teacher still often needs to lead classroom lessons and instruction. While iPads provide an excellent individualized learning experience, the addition of an Apple TV can now tie everything together in the classroom. Think about all the devices and applications that you have heard about in the past few years – now put them all in one place.

I think that the Apple TV – yes another consumer device – once referred to as an Apple “hobby” project – may be the next big technology tool for education. The release of true wireless mirroring in iOS 5 will allow teachers to have it all. Using an Apple TV, whatever you are teaching and having students disseminate can be shared with the entire class. Apple has made the process simple and powerful.

Do you want any of these for your classroom?

Teacher led instruction + student note taking = Use the iPad to lead the instruction from the front of the room
Mobile web enabled device + Apps for any curriculum area = Student centered classrooms
Individualized stations + student centers = Use apps and share student work through the Apple TV
Digital curriculum + Less reliance on printing = Paperless classrooms
Apps like ShowMe + Cheap stylus = Individual dry erase boards with the ability to display on screen for the entire class
Apps like Socrative + Ability to have individual classroom response “clickers” = Ongoing and truly “live” assessment

I have some questions for everyone who will say that by adding Apple TVs to our classrooms means to again rely too much on a consumer product that is really a marketing tool…

What’s the difference where the product line comes from as long as it works? Can we please stop writing articles about how Apple is just trying to make money off of education? All products sold to education – consumer based or not – are sold to make money.

While there will certainly be competitors to the Apple TV and iPad mirroring set up – and there already are some – we must always consider our students and teachers when looking at how well a product works and how simple it is to use. We often overlook the end user when purchasing tech tools for our classrooms. The product must be easy to integrate and maintain or our teachers and students won’t use them.

Now one last thing…

The Apple TV only costs $100.

Yes, I realize that you need some other components. The Apple TV relies on a HDMI signal to a HDTV or LCD projector and having lots of iPads can get very expensive – but take some time to compare it all. Compare all the costs of the devices, applications, paper, ink, and peripherals that you usually purchase for each classroom and see how it all stacks up over a few years. The value of the learning experience that can be created and the potential cost saving over time may surprise you.

So what do I think will become a new ideal classroom set up?

Class set of iPads
iPad charge and sync cart
Apple TV
Interactive LCD projector with HDMI input
Classroom audio amplification system

This article has 4 Comments

  1. “I have some questions for everyone who will say that by adding Apple TVs to our classrooms means to again rely too much on a consumer product that is really a marketing tool…”

    Here is one possible answer for you: There is nothing wrong relying on a consumer product in the classrooms. We all have used consumer tools (VHS players? handheld remote controls, home stereo receivers?) over the last couple decades in the classrooms. The issue is that most of today’s consumer products are designed for a single household consumer network, not an enterprise network solution.

    I am a system integrator at a college and have been eyeing the Apple TV w/iPad on ways to integrate it into the classroom. The roadblock I am currently dealing with is that the Apple products are truly designed for the consumer market, which translates that it is configured for a home network configuration only. Consumer products do not work well communicating over different subnets, and in Apple’s case, we are dealing with wired and wifi(air play) and QoS configuration.I have talked to Apple and Apple store a couple times, who are all excited about using their product in the classrooms, but have no solutions or support ideas to implement their consumer tools in an enterprise level.

    So implementing this tool in a single classroom or home is a great idea, but implementing these in a enterprise with 120+ classrooms and over a 1000 faculty, you will hear folks groaning about “relying on consumer products.

    Phil Carter

    1. Spot on the money Phil, I’m in the same boat as you. I’ve got a faculty here of around 600, and I would simply love to strap an Apple TV to every Projector in classrooms campus-wide..

      BUT, as you said.. Apples head is not talking to its arse. I don’t want to Jailbreak the Apple TV’s to manually code a Proxy server into the preferences.plist because we have strict governmental network policies in place that means a Jailbroken device on our network is non-conforming with State Government ICT Policies.

      However, Apple seriously need to look at allowing a level of control (whether it be in Apple Configurator or iPhone Configuration Utility) to allow us guys to reprogram far more advanced settings like Proxies, WPA2 Enterprise AES/PEAP authentication etc..

  2. I agree with Phil. I believe the Apple TV is an exceptional device for education with the mirroring component of OS 5. However, the practicality of using these in an entire district or even an entire school presents challenges.

    The device allows users to turn off functionality and services that may not be the most conducive for classroom use–Netflix, TV Show/Movie rental, etc. This streamlines the device for education use for mirroring, Youtube, etc. This admin functionality is great.

    What I question is the connection method. There is no way to pair an iPad or group of iPad’s to a specific Apple TV device. A user can password protect connectivity so that before an iPad can mirror or broadcast to a tv or projector a user is prompted to enter the password that has been supplied to the Apple TV, but that password is stored for some time on the iPad and there is no way to tell what iPad is broadcasting the stream. Both items that might cause problems in an educational setting.

    Equally concerning about the inability to pair a device(s) to a specific Apple TV is the selection of the Apple TV device itself when choosing to display a stream on a particular Apple TV. In a building with 100 Apple TV devices, all 100 will appear for selection and must scrolled through, identified, and selected prior to broadcasting. This shortcoming could be a rather large deterrent.

    Again, I think Apple has a hit on their hands, but if it could be simplified on the front end–remove some of the unnecessary features, while adding some more robust configuration issues on the admin side, such as pairing–maybe even through bluetooth–and network config, the device would be an absolute must have.

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