An iPad and Apple TV can combine to provide an advantageous alternative to more expensive, traditional interactive white boards.
Guest writer and High School Principal David Mahaley is using this approach and offers his insights, and observations from educators in his school.
With the integration of the iPad into the instructional environment, teachers and students have discovered many new ways in which the device can expand and enhance the learning environment. With the iPad, the Apple TV  can offer a flexible, complete, and cost efficient alternative to the traditional interactive boards populating our classrooms.
As a school administrator and teacher, I have explored the Apple TV and its offerings as an alternative to one of the many types of interactive whiteboards currently available to instructors. We have committed our school to issuing every high school student and instructor an iPad. All instructors are expected to explore and integrate the device in their instructional setting to maximize the learning experience and student/professional productivity.
Historically, we have relied upon the interactive boards as a way to infuse the technology of the computer and software to the learning objectives found in the various content areas of our curriculum. Married to this idea is the use of the laptop, that is tethered to the projection device for the board. This inherently ties the teacher to one location or space in the classroom. Immediately, this presents some problems when professional educators are asked to circulate and monitor student activity around the room.
The use of the Apple TV in combination with an iPad in the instructor’s hand provides a mobile platform from which classroom activities can be initiated. Through the use of several apps, teachers can provide notes, display steps and processes to problems, initiate the display of media (pausing and resuming as needed from any location in the classroom), and allow students to participate from their own seats in a variety of interactive activities. This is different than the remote control of a connected teacher laptop to a traditional interactive board. Movement within and between apps is measurably better than the laptop interface, and navigation on the iPad screen directly to the Apple TV is visually more intuitive.
I am not looking to marginalize and discount the various software applications that can connect your mobile device to a laptop and thus to an interactive board. Interactive whiteboards are a solution, however, through my experiences, a much more cumbersome one than our exploratory use of the iPad and Apple TV. We should explore the instructional and budgetary implications of a move towards this new option.
Any administrator who is charged with the responsibility of observing and commenting on teacher performance in the classroom finds themselves looking for moments throughout the class period where the instructor demonstrated their ability to circulate and monitor the students as they participate in the lesson. Freeing the instructor from the string of cords is a step in the right direction. With the Apple TV, the teacher connects wirelessly to the device and can be in any location in the classroom – in fact, they can be anywhere that they can continue to be connected to the network. Secondly, you now offer the teacher the opportunity to switch quickly and efficiently between applications via the iPad without having to dash to the front of the room to manipulate the programs on a laptop tied to a stationary location. With applications available today, and more coming around the corner, students have the capabilities to connect to the Apple TV configuration from their own device in order to share and present their own work.
A quick cost comparison of the hardware and software required between the traditional interactive whiteboard and Apple TV will show the potential savings with little to no loss in quality of the final product. I have found that the typical interactive board with projection system and document camera runs typically three times the cost of the Apple TV combination. Apple TV requires the purchase of a flat screen television (wall mounted), the Apple TV box, document camera – if desired (plug and play), and the necessary connection cords. I have put together the Apple TV combination for less than $1,200 in my classrooms. My local rep waiting to sell me more interactive whiteboards has no comparative alternative that can compete with this price.
Other issues begin to surface through a closer examination of the training and compatibility of the various interactive boards. To learn to use the interactive board effectively requires many hours of training, revolving around their proprietary software tools. Many of these are not directly transferable between technology platforms. The Apple TV opens the door to the instructor to use any of the thousands of applications available in the classroom without compatibility issues. This puts the control of content and presentation back into the hands of the teacher and releases them from the limitations of proprietary software provided by the interactive whiteboard companies.
I recently asked my instructors who were long standing Smart and Panaboard users in my school to come give the Apple TV a try. Overwhelmingly they believe that the applications and freedom provided by the iPad and Apple TV combination is a much better solution for their instructional needs. One asked about the software package that is touted as a key component with all of the interactive boards. While much time and effort has been spent developing these for the interactive boards, largely as a selling point by vendors to school systems, much of the offerings of the software can be duplicated by a small set of applications for the iPad available for download now. At the end of the comparison, I could not justify that the software bundle with any of the interactive whiteboards could justify the thousands of dollars difference between this and the Apple TV arrangement.
It is time to get financially and instructionally “smart” in the classroom when it comes to interactivity and technology. The Apple TV, in conjunction with the use of the iPad, offers new possibilities to our teaching professionals and at a tremendous cost savings.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Using The iPad As A Digital Whiteboard (Plus 4 Cool Free Apps To Try It Out) 
The year of the iPad in Education: they’re being distributed in more schools every day.
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