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. You don’t need to attach a document camera to the projector, if you are using an iPad 2 or above, use the built in camera and an app such as the boardcam app… It gives you all the functions you would get from a smart board.

  2. But does it still allow for the same interactive use as the white board or is it just for viewing? I don’t see anything about that in the article.

    We have an Apple TV in our library presentation room, but have problems with bandwidth of the network, so I’m not sure that multiple ATVs are the answer.

  3. I think the aTV is great for class room. The main feature is Air Play function. For those who have an apple iphone and/or iPad, there’s no excuse because of not getting an aTV. The Aiplay/Reflecting feature is amazing. I’m able to display my apple iphone/iPad screen up through my aTV onto my High definition tv. You’ll be surprised precisely how helpful this really is.
    Say I had been reading through this news on my small iPad and located a relevant video of North Park mucking up their fourth of This summer fireworks display, I’m able to Airplay the recording towards the TV, and we can laugh in symphony. After I walk out town for any business travel, my spouse can mirror her The face-time video to the aTV, therefore the kids can all see me around the “giant screen” without needing to squeeze themselves round the “small screen”. Another helpful feature, is if you like trying to find videos in your apple iphone/iPad, you’ll be able to open Netflix (or similar applications that support Airplay) discover the video you need to watch and Airplay it towards the aTV. Now there’s a noticeable difference between Aiplay and Reflecting. Airplay can be used by applications which have been particularly involving the Airplay feature (a lot of Apple’s applications do that) and fill your Television screen. Reflecting is only going to place a mirroed video apple iphone/iPad screen. This are only in 4:3 aspect ratio, so you’ve these black bars around the right and left from the screen. I read some information from http://www.tvdealsy.com .But Reflecting is remarkably responsive with almost no noticeable lagging. I’ve discovered a mirad of ways to use Airplay/Reflecting. You won’t be disappointed.

  4. The special feature to AirPlay what’s on my small apple iphone or iPad is great. Now I do my presentations wireless.I now do my presentations wireless in my office too.We love it !!

  5. I am a parent from cape town, SA.our school is using interactive whitebords in their school, which is very costly wrt lifespan of projector.Is there aPlasma television that can be used instead?

  6. The Apple TV is a great product, but it is difficult to use on some networks. The iPad and the Apple TV must be on the same subnet together. Another issue is once you have a connection to the Apple TV, you always have a connection until the password is changed on the Apple TV. Just enabling AirPlay on the configured iPad will connect it to the Apple TV. If you are connected to the Apple TV and someone else connects, you will be disconnected and the new person will take over the screen. If a student gets the password to your Apple TV, they can easily connect to it anywhere in the building. You should frequently change the password to your Apple TV, and if you allow students to connect, you should immediately change the password after they use it.

    We tried some of these low cost HDMI to VGA converters and they did not work very well on some of our projectors, especially SMART Boards. The low cost devices are not scalers and so they do not convert the wide screen 16:9 format of 720p to 4:3 of or projectors and SMART Boards. If we did get it to display, the iPad image is usually too small to easily see on the screen. We did find a product called a TEK 61EV made by TEKVOX http://www.tekvox.com/downloads/DS-TEK61EV.pdf that works very well and is actually a scaler that converts 16:9 format to 4:3 VGA at 1024×768 which matches our projectors. This product does everything for us including audio level control and inputs for our laptop and document camera. When we installed our projectors a few years ago, we only had a VGA connection in the room. This devices also lets us connect our old VCR as well. One really nice feature on this unit is a zoom feature on its remote control that allows us to fill the screen when displaying an iPad.

  7. Hi. Was wondering IWant to make a smartboard is that what you are doing with the apple tv or are you only making a whiteboard?

    IHave Hdmi projector,and ipad3 what more do INeed to make an smart board?

  8. […] Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board google forms Med kharbach Google Forms is a great free service by Google and that has a huge potential in education. Google Forms is very easy to use and does not require any advanced technology skills to run it. It is automatically built in Google Docs meaning it is completely web-based and does not require any software download. Anyway you can check this simple guide if you are not yet familiar with Google Docs . Today's post, however, is about a great work that has been done by our colleague Tom Barret . […]

  9. […] how you are going to display work in class. The simplest method would be to link Apple TV to a projector but there are different programmes out there to link a desktop to the iPad. With […]

  10. You say it is not one solution for everyone, but in your article, it appears you are forcing your teachers to adopt this particular technology.

    “All instructors are expected to explore and integrate the device in their instructional setting to maximize the learning experience and student/professional productivity.”

    Wouldn’t it be better for teachers to find what technology works best with their teaching style? When we introduce ‘sameness’ into all classrooms, especially at the high school level, students lose out on variety of teaching styles.

  11. http://www.kanexlive.com/atvpro. The Kanex atv pro is a VGA to HDMI adaptor. We do not have IWB only old VGA projectors with fixed write on whiteboards. The Kanex adaptor is an excellent solution in conjunction with an Apple tv. I now have a wireless IWB which can mirror any iPad/ iPhone/ iPod touch device for collaboration and teaching. There are many free Apps that provide whiteboard options eg Educreations, Notability. Hope this is of use to you.

  12. The one issue that no one has addressed is that Apple Tv does not work with proxys. We have also found that it does not work well in a multi Vlan environment. At the moment Apple are only playing lip service to the enterprise environment. If the are to make in roads into education they need to up their game. As for using a ipad as a remote to control your laptop! A very expensive remote.


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