Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 2)

This article is part of a series of articles about my exploration of the tablet/iPad in education.  This article includes the ingredients, trials and tribulations of the Smart Board alternative.  Find out how I ran into problems with my projector and AirPlay connections so you don’t have to. Links to each of the articles will be posted here or elsewhere inside the blog. It combines a “Leap of Faith” series with reflections on dual-platform knowledge; it will encompass a grant initiative to study a Smart Board alternative, include applications of use for both the Android and iOS, and explore creative ways to use the tablets in schools, including but not limited to, app creation. The series highlights the benefits and limitations of either platform, tips, tricks and workarounds or the technical compatibilities with everyday world uses. I intend to reflect on the social implications, as well. You will find the links to each article at the bottom of this one. Return here for updated link additions. The essential question is: How do we prepare our students for a mobile world and create an inexpensive projection for presentation of material to a broad audience?

Android

I first want to address how I made connection to my existing projector using the Motorola Xoom tablet. My existing Dell projector only has DVI ports closest to the HDMI outputs of the Xoom. The trick was that I needed to put together the necessary adapters. Simple.  The ideal connection was HDMI mini to HDMI to DVI. Great! Well, frustratingly, when the HDMI port is plugged in, immediately the sound is diverted to that port and not played on the device. Because DVI is not a sound-carrying connection (at least not in the use of the projector) sound had been muted. Solution: get a projector with HDMI ports.

iPad

Described in my early related posts, I needed to crossover into iOS; and in doing so, it was time to make the necessary investment in a projector with an HDMI port. Thankfully I found that a professional association I belonged to offered the MassCue initiative grant to educators seeking to enhance technology uses in their schools. I was seeking not only a platform-diverse environment but a Smart Board alternative. At MassCue’s 2011 Conference presented by Burlington public schools, I discovered AirPlay.

It was described at this conference workshop that it was possible to connect an iPad wirelessly to a projector. At that point in the workshop I began to block out the rest of the presentation and began to Google. Yes! I thought, it is what I’ve been eager to find. I envisioned walking around my classroom while projecting the content of my iPad to the screen whenever necessary. With a classroom set, I would ask students to show their work, or illustrate their discoveries on the fly with the help of AirPlay.

Initial Supplies (note errors corrected in this post)

Item

Price

32 G iPad 2 with WiFi

$600

iPad 2 Polyurethane Smart Cover

$39

Apple TV

$95

6’ HDMI to HDMI cable

$10

KanexPro HDMI to composite

Kanex ATV Pro

$95

$60

Projector – Vivitek D538W-3D DLP Projector (seek alternate)

Acer P1303W Professional Projector

$599

$599

Total (with projector)

$1403

Total (without projector)

$804

To make the iPad use AirPlay, the Apple TV is the magic device that makes it worthwhile. For only $100 it is a great deal. Not only do you gain the AirPlay functionality, but you also gain Apply TV experience. The Apple TV contains an HDMI output. Again, it is necessary to have and HDMI output or the necessary adapters. For those with budget restrictions, and who are comfortable with a reduced resolution display, the adaptors with an existing projector will do just fine. I’ve included a HDMI-to-composite adapter in my bundle to maintain the ability to carry out demonstrations in other rooms, and at conferences and workshops. If the projector did not have an HDMI connection, I needed this kind of a flexible solution.

Discoveries

The following describes problems with my initial setup. Please note what to look for in making this kind of connection at your school.

It begins with a projector problem. The projector I listed here contains HDMI in and an on-board speaker. I neglected to note that it did not have any audio outputs. In my years of experience, I have never come across a projector that did not have audio in and audio out. I had purchased the projector months in advance of the proposed setup and by the time I needed to return it, it was past the 30-day return window. The Vivitek D538W– 3D DLP Projector seemed like a great projector and is for any other solution.  But if you are using an HDMI source with audio, it presents a problem. The tiny onboard speaker is insufficient for a classroom and the HDMI voids any other audio output produced by the iPad.  That is, you cannot plug in the mini headphone jack to get audio at the same time.

Furthermore, I had problems with the Kanex Pro HDMI/CompositeVID w/Ster Audio CN.

The product description reads:

“The Kanex Pro HDMI to composite with audio converter is a classic retro-fit device, engineered to transform HDMI signals into analog composite video with R/L audio. Connect your HD sources such as DVD and Blue-ray players … to an analog A/V monitor or a projector. The converter includes front-panel switch that supports PAL/NTSC doormats for different regions and works flawlessly with all HDMI devices that are not HDCP encrypted.”

I was not expecting any HDCP support issues. I didn’t know what that was. Returning online to the place of purchase a month later, the same search provided a new product: the Kanex ATV Pro.

“The ATV Pro allows a VGA projector to use Apple AirPlay mirroring from an iPad to Apple TV. The ATV Pro promises to eliminate the need for expensive HDMI projection equipment upgrades. Join the thousands of classrooms nationwide that can mirror and stream content directly to a VGA projector via an Apple TV – HDCP 1.2 compliant!!”

It is clearly the best product because not only does it have the mini output, but it also does not require a power supply. I only wish I had discovered that a month prior. Geeky-Gadgets.com

I called Apple and they told me to get HOSA 3.5MM-TO-TOSLINK FIBER-OPTIC CABLE, 10 ft. TOSLINK to mini-Toslink ($13). Then I could use speakers. (It is on order. I hope to update this soon.)

So, for anyone who already has a regular VGA projector, all they need is the Kanex ATV Pro Adapter ($60 or less) the AppleTV box ($99), and an iPad ($499+/-) to be effective. For $658 per classroom (plus wireless access), there now is a smart-savings alternative to a Smart Board. If a classroom doesn’t already have a projector, add in about $400 for that for a total of $1100.

Connectivity

There are other things to consider with this or any other tablet setup. The wireless default user setting for the school usually is the same level of permissions as the student user. If these are to use YouTube, for instance, for student projects, there might be a setback. I envision someday this setup in our school auditorium. A presenter might wish to use his/her tablet or phone to present to an audience. If their device does not gain access to an unrestricted/unblocked wireless connectivity, then their presentations may be compromised. One consideration may be to look at how YouTube for schools works within the building.

Alternatives to AirPlay

Although I have not tried this, I believe you can achieve a similar experience using the DoceriRemote app for the iPad. It requires a Mac or PC already hooked up to a projector. While this seems like an inexpensive (free) method, my experience with AirPlay has been very efficient and easy to use and can be used with a classroom set of iPads. I suspect that a third party app and a computer client might slow down the interactiveness. As I stated in my previous post, I believe the more “real-world” you can get, the better. AirPlay works with the iPhone, a more common student-held device.  I’m not certain how the user community will adapt to these technologies in the future. My suspicion is that Apple and AirPlay will continue the momentum for user-friendliness.

There are a number of apps that go well with the projection setup.  Showme, Screenchomp, Replay Note, Timer + are a few.

The Experience        

In the end, using the Android with a 10-foot cord, or the iPad with AirPlay, you are going to enjoy the experience of having the content at your fingertips. Keynote or Google Apps and even Prezi are great presentation tools for this sort of thing. Actually, there are dozens of ideas I could share with you about presenting on a tablet. Perhaps I’ll save that for another post. For the moment, you will have a device that you can bring home with you to prepare and perfect. No longer will you need to configure and prepare for the Smart Board, if you already have one. In my case, I feel good about saving my school $8000 and a service contract that may extend over years. I am happy to know that my students who use the tablets to present or illustrate what they may know or need to know using technology that is well in their reach. Someday they may need to present in college or in their new job. From what I can tell, mobile phones and tablets will be the tool they will use in these future presentations.

Previous posts:

 The Leap of Faith – Android to iOS

 Smart Board with Smart Savings: iPads and Tablets in Education (Part 1) –  The rational behind avoiding Smart Boards as a teaching tool.

Next: (coming soon)

The Leap of Faith – Android to iOS; Early reflections of the iOS transition experience

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