Home Future of Education Technology Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board

Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board


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.

AppleTV + iPad = Newer, Better WhiteboardImage by K.Walsh, Apple TV logo source: www.apple.com/appletv

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.

Study shows 15% improvement in 5th grader’s fractions test scores after playing iPad Motion Math game for a week


  1. Informative article, and as a teacher I share many of the same points mentioned by others…network issues and the small screen size of an HDMI device versus IWB. An excellent solution I have found, and one which is very inexpensive provided you have an Apple computer (Mac, Mac Book Pro, etc) is to use apps developed by Wise Owl Apps, http://www.wiseowlapps.com. These apps work great for my purpose. The apps allow you to wirelessly connect you iPad to your Mac which then projects on a vga monitor, or HDMI device.

  2. For a lower cost solution I like Reflection App for mirroring teacher and students iPad images and audio, http://www.reflectionapp.com/.
    AirServer is cool too but Reflection App allows for recording the MAC’s screen. So for $15 (plus wifi card if you don’t have a laptop, $30) it seems like this is a better solution than Apple TV. Sorry, I wish I could remember which school district is moving from using their Apple TVs to Reflection App. Also, I am waiting for our IT to allow access. So if it doesn’t work in your school, you need IT Suppot to unblock ports listed on the Reflection App website.

  3. Nice post. We are an educational institution with numerous campuses looking for a replacement for the smartboards, as a cost saving measure. We did try using Apple TV & ipads in a classroom environment. But the pilot was not a big success, because of the lack of control with respect to apple tv. Yes, password protection is possible. But if the password is shared, any student can take control and project whatever is on his/her ipad for the entire class, which our teachers don’t want. Was wondering whether there was some way of configuring IP with additional security, so that the apple tv can be accessed by only with the required privileges.

    Apart from this drawback, apple tv along with ipad, seem to be a great tool to use in the class room.

  4. I just bought my Apple TV for the classroom and it is great! I don’t use the Apple TV to actually project MY iPad, but it is great for students to project their iPads and explain their thinking.

    A huge asset to any 1:1 iPad classroom!

  5. One problem is most classrooms have VGA projectors and it is not to easy to find products that display HDMI sources. We can’t afford to replace our projectors, but we did find a new product that is actually a low cost swithcer scaler with vga out. Since it is a scaler, the image on our projector is correct.

  6. I enjoyed reading your post, David. I currently teach with a class set of iPads in my math classroom called Tap Into Teen Minds (blog at http://www.tapintoteenminds.com). I am currently presenting with an iPad using Splashtop to remotely control my MacBook and enjoy it, with the exception of sometimes having connection problems.

    Today, I just purchased Apple TV, which I plan to use in the classroom to allow students to connect via AirPlay quickly, with little issues/delays. Now, I’m left wondering if I want to present directly on the iPad and mirror the screen to the projector or whether I’d like to continue presenting with the iPad controlling the MacBook.

    Any suggestions either way?

  7. I think Tobias’ comment is bit heavy-handed. It’s not about a straight up comparison of size of the different devices, there is more to consider here. This also is not intended as a “one solution for everyone” suggestion – it is more about sharing an alternative that can make sense in certain situations.

  8. What a load of rubbish. I am a full time teacher and have used both systems. The IWB setup is far superior to the Apple TV setup. Administrators have little experience in the use of this technology to teach each day all year round. The article refers to the monetary savings and this is a big concern for administrators. Unfortunately, this can cloud their judgement when it comes to technology in education. How can you possibly compare the size of a TV screen to the size of an IWB. And how can you compare writing on a tiny surface like the iPad to the much larger surface area of an IWB. The trouble with technology in schools is that Administrators make technology decisions for teachers without having any idea about whether the option they choose will work. The people who have to use the technology daily need to make the decisions. I am using an Apple TV setup in my class with a TV because it does not have an IWB. I can tell you that the Apple TV setup is vastly inferior to using a proper IWB.

  9. Chris,

    Some good points for consideration in your post. Certainly merging into an Apple environment from a traditionally Windows based organization can be challenging. Many educators do not understand this process. I am glad you emphasized the training piece. That is something we take very seriously is largely responsible for our success with technology in my school as a whole. A one-shot training is not going to get it.
    Having used a number of IWB over the years, I do feel that the Apple TV arrangement does give more freedom to the instructor to bring in elements from all sorts of Apps.
    Thanks for your comments.


  10. Coming from a IT side we have looked into this as well. Although it seems like a good idea – there are many wary things on my mind.

    Proprietary – Apple is just like Smart in this case. Your going from one proprietary setup to another.

    IT Training – We are a Microsoft network with NO Apple/Mac experience. Just imagine someone that has a golf cart shop and then all of a sudden got slammed with 4 wheeler repairs. Hey – they got 4 wheels and do basically the same thing right? Wrong.
    Teachers need to understand all technology is not the same and the techs don’t know everything about technology.

    Staff Training – You have to have your training set up BEFORE you mass deploy this new technology out to the teachers…especially the ones that don’t like technology to begin with. If they don’t like it or don’t know how to use it – then it won’t get used at all.

  11. Update:

    With regard to the question in my earlier post, “What are these folks doing about audio since the converter will not pass the audio signal through to the projector?”…I checked out the HDMI to VGA converter mentioned in an earlier post and it also passes the audio via a 3.5 mm stereo pin jack. That answers this question.

    Also, a stumbling block I encountered when originally trying to use my VGA input only projector was an issue of scaling. For reasons that may have to due with the particulars of individual projectors, I was never successful at achieving full wireless mirroring with my iPad 2 and Apple TV 2 using the HDMI to VGA converters I experimented with. I eventually did obtain partial success using a product called the HD Fury II. This product does “unlock” the DRM encryption. I have participated in several other forums on this specific issue and some posters did comment that they thought the use of the Fury posed some violation of copyright law. After further investigation, the conclusion was that this was not true when the Fury is used in the classroom to simply allow content to be displayed on VGA only equipment. I say I obtained “partial success” because the Fury, like many other converters, pass through the signal at the same resolution outputted by the Apple TV. Different projectors will be able to handle this differently. In my case, I would have also had to purchase a scalar to change the resolution of the signal outputted from the Apple TV 2 so that it matched the resolution required by the VGA input projector. This was the point where our IT department contacted the vendor who supplies our projectors and said things were simply not acceptable. You know the rest of the story…I received a new projector with HDMI capability and once again all was well with the world.

    Having said all this, certainly, if the converter mentioned in that other post (http://goo.gl/5Y7vk) turns out to be functional on all VGA projectors and delivers glitchless full wireless mirroring capability (unlike than the ones I tried) it represents a very good solution for schools that have VGA input only projectors and lack the funds to convert to HDMI capable projectors.

    I hope my comments and experience is of help to some.

  12. Great article David. As a couple other posters have commented, if your school is running an enterprise network you need to use some workarounds as the Apple TV 2 will not function in an enterprise network. The IT department at our school is reluctant to be bothered by these workarounds so this has been problematic (although begging and a $25 iTunes Gift Card did the trick for me). I am hoping Apple might address this with the rumored Apple TV 3 that may be released in the near future. (Although we all know about Apple Rumors. I am not holding my breath.)

    I am interested to hear more details from those folks who are using a $50ish HDMI to VGA converter to allow the Apple TV to output to their VGA input only projectors. My reason for asking this is I thought the output from the Apple TV (via its HDMI port) has HDCP DRM protection. Are these folks able to use the full bore mirroring functionality of the iPad 2 with the Apple TV 2 using their converters? If so, is it glitchy? What kind of video quality are they obtaining? (Compared to using a projector with HDMI inputs.). What are these folks doing about audio since the converter will not pass the audio signal through to the projector?

    My personal experience has been this. My classroom received a new projector this past summer. It only had VGA inputs. After messing with converters, etc. and not obtaining satisfactory results with the Apple TV 2 and my iPad 2 using the mirroring functionality, the vendor who installed the projector admitted that he did done insufficient research on the Apple TV and it’s DRM protection. Because of that he volunteered to remove the new projector and install a more expensive model with HDMI capability for no extra charge.

    My setup now works like a charm. Audio is delivered to the speakers connected to the projector and video displays with high quality while supporting full mirroring functionality from my iPad 2. I have complete mobility in the classroom which enhances my ability to connect with students. Discipline is also better because there are few things more effective at refocusing a distracted student than standing 5 inches from them. 🙂

  13. […] Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board | Emerging Education Technology Da vi d M aha ley is c u rre n tly t h e P ri n ci pa l o f t h e F r ank li n A c ad e m y H i gh Sc hoo l i n W ak e Fo rest, NC. He directs several iPad initiatives in his and other schools. He received his Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology Leadership from George Washington University. Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out): It is time to get financially and instructionally “smart” in the classroom when it comes to interactivity and technology. […]

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  15. Jesse & Michael,

    Thank you for your post. I have hit the same wall with the IWB software and its limitations. I think what the iPad has to offer is a wider set of choices, really limited only by the possibilities in the App Store. I am not sure that any other software application could match these offerings at such a large scale and timely way.
    I have not seen training specific to the use of the Apple TV in the classroom. I know in the training we conduct, it is used as an integral part of the staff development. I will look in to us producing a short video showing possible applications in the classroom in the coming weeks. Feel free to contact me individually if you have further questions on this. This technology is relatively new and our learning at this point can best be accomplished through sharing ideas through sites like Emerging Ed Tech.

  16. We started our Apple TV project last October and feel that we have stumbled onto something great for our teachers and students. We don’t have school system funding for technology, but our PTSO stepped up and funded the purchase of an iPad 2 (refurb.), a digital projector, and an Apple TV for 23 of our 30 classrooms (the other 7 classrooms already had interactive whiteboards). Our total cost per classroom came to $1,089.00. Twenty of the 23 “Apple classrooms” are up and running and those teachers absolutely love it! Our interactive whiteboard teachers aren’t speaking to us right now because they want the iPads too – maybe after our next PTSO fundraiser. So far the big bonus for us has been the flexibility this setup provides. The teachers are all using the hardware, but they have each been able to add the apps (mostly free) that they like. They are developing their own individual “iPad teacher” styles, and they haven’t even had an official training session yet (scheduled for next month). Educreations, Splashtop, iCell, and online connectivity to Discovery Education and the Envision Math textbook site have been the most popular functions.
    In looking at the flexibility, the ability to grow as new apps are developed, and the cost per classroom, this was a “no-brainer” for us. However, it’s so new that there is not a great deal of information on how it’s being used. We want to learn more! If anyone knows of good website or a good iTunes U training course let us know. This is good stuff, and we want to make the most of it!

  17. My only concern is that this approach tethers educators to a single technology provider much the same way some interactive white board manufacturers have attempted to attach educators to their products. Apple has great products with countless educational applications, many of which have yet to be imagined. What is needed though is a User Interface which is platform agnostic and which allows educators the opportunity to shop around in a virtual mall of educational tools unlimited by any one supplier. There are new products such as the one from EXOPC which was recently showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Ultimately, this type of software could increase competition among providers and offer creative opportunities for the fertile minds of innovative teachers.

  18. Thank you all for the comments with the article posting. We have typically spent $3,500 – $4,000 for interactive boards across our classrooms. For about 1/4 to 1/3 of the cost we can provide the Apple TV arrangement. This is a significant savings. I would spend some time reviewing the depth to which most teachers use the bundled software with these boards – this is what the vendors tout as the real value of their product. I found that teachers rarely exploit these tools to their fullest, and at the end of the day, does $2,000 to $3,000 more than Apple TV really make it worth it? That is a question for each system to ask.
    As far as Apps with the Apple TV – There are several whiteboard type apps out there. I currently use Educreations. With Educreations I take a screen shot and import the picture into this app to draw and mark up on the TV via the iPad. I use the online textbook with the Apple TV frequently along with Evernote, Goodreader, and any of the websites we use during our activities.

    Thank you for all the comments and additional ideas/troubleshooting here.

  19. Phill, your IT admin will have to configure your wireless network to work with the Apple TV. They were designed for consumer use, not enterprise use, and don’t necessarily “play nice” with enterprise wireless network systems out of the box. It took a couple of hours for our network admin to get the apple TV working at my school, but now that it is the 2 teachers who have been piloting the Apple TV With iPads in their classroom love it.

  20. Our faculty are literally begging to do this, but the AppleTV doesn’t support Enterprise WPA, meaning that if your institution has anyone in IT with the word “security” in their title, you can’t connect an AppleTV to the network. Such a bummer.

  21. Looking forward to trying this in a classroom setting. I’ve tested it out already and we’re able to use this HDMI to VGA converter (http://goo.gl/5Y7vk) to connect to a VGA connection. No need to spend money on an HDMI projector if you already have something that works. Not bad for $45.

    $499 for an iPad.
    $99 for an Apple TV.
    $45 for HDMI converter.
    So for a total of $643 you get a lot of the functionality you would get from a SMART Board (some different, some better, some worse), but you get the added bonus of mobility.

    How much would it cost to buy the laptop and SMART Board?

  22. Hi
    Thanks for the article. I have run into a problem. I have an Apple TV and an HDMI projector but the Apple TV will not run with the Enterprise Wifi that the IT guys have set up? Any thoughts?

  23. Neither of these should be big problems — you can put a password on the AppleTV so you can control who connects to it. As for HDMI, you can buy a $59 HDMI to VGA converter that will split VGA and audio for you.

  24. Great video, AppleTv and ipads are a definite plus to be in the classroom. Are you using a flat panel tv in your classrooms or AppleTv connected to I would assume an HDMI projector. Did the projector fit into the 1200 cost or is that asset already in the classroom which is true in either case. The loss of quality with VGA projectors with AppleTv has been a burden of many educators…although there are some fancy tricks to get around that.

  25. Nice article. We are exploring the same thing. I’m interested to know how you handle kids from connecting to apple tvs in other classrooms. For example, with two apple tvs and two classrooms right next to each other, what (if anything) prevents kids with an ipad from connecting to the apple tv next door, or down the hall?

  26. David:

    I agree. A caution from someone doing this. If you have mounted projectors already in classrooms and trying to get AppleTV connected with sound, you will have a problem. Most older projectors do not have HDMI inputs. In our case we are replacing projectors as well which adds to your cost.

  27. Hi David,

    Great article. Kudos to you for exploring other technologies that can release the teacher from being tethered to the IWB. I would love to see a list of apps that you have found to be great replacements from the traditional IWBs.



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