Connecting iPads to projectors in the classroom

A teacher with an iPad, what a fantastic pair! In an ideal world the teacher can wander around the classroom with their iPad whilst showing images, videos or other apps on the screen at the front of the class. You see a great piece of work as you wander, photograph it with the iPad and display it at the front of the class in seconds. You find that pupils are struggling with a concept so you quickly pull up a web page or video to help.

How is this possible? Well iPads come with a system called AirPlay which can mirror the iPad screen on an AirPlay receiver device using wireless networking.

What AirPlay receiver devices are there?
appletvThe best known AirPlay receiver device is probably the AppleTV which is a small box costing about £75 that has an HDMI output so that you can connect it to a suitable projector or screen using an HDMI cable (or an HDMI to VGA converter such as the Kanex ATVPRO). The iPad transmits its screen and sound to the AppleTV which makes it appear on the screen. This is a brilliant solution but in a classroom with a workstation attached to a monitor and projector you will probably also need a VGA splitter / switch so that the PC and iPad can be switched between to project on both the screen and projector. Costs soon mount up and the cabling can be a bit untidy!

airserverIf you have a PC or Mac workstation or laptop already attached to your projector and you have decent wireless (you will have this already, won’t you, in order to run all those iPads!) then there are software packages which can turn your desktop / laptop into an AirPlay receiver allowing you to keep the cabling simpler and reducing the cost quite significantly. Two packages I have looked at are AirServer and Reflector. AirServer works on both Macs and PCs but you have to be running Windows 7 or better on the PC. Reflector works on Macs and PCs including Windows XP. You can try both for a trial period to see how well they work for you. I would strongly recommend that you investigate them first before buying an AppleTV. There are some restrictions eg your iPad and workstation need to be on the same network (sometimes school wireless is set up on a separate network from the workstations) and your wireless connectivity needs to be good. Cost? From about $4 depending upon licences required.

Another, but more expensive option, is to buy a projector with built in AirPlay, ethernet connection or wireless that can either be connected to directly using an iPad. There are some available now and this may be worth considering if you are replacing or buying new projectors.

Of course, an AppleTV does far more than mirror your iPad to another screen but you may not want all these additional functions in the classroom.

So, if you are a teacher and you have an iPad, why not try out the software for free and revolutionise your classroom?

iPad Apps: Using Mobile Podcaster to podcast to PrimaryBlogger

mobilepodcasterWhy Podcast?

Over the next few weeks I am going to be working with groups of primary school pupils to try and improve their speaking and listening skills. One way of helping with this is to record them and play back the recordings so that they can hear and analyse themselves.

There are lots of podcasting solutions available for the iPad but I wanted to find a simple way of recording pupils using an iPad, reviewing / re-recording them and then publishing straight onto a PrimaryBlogger site based on WordPress. One of the more popular ways of doing this is with Audioboo and I will look at this in another posting.

There are a couple of things you need before you start:

  • a WordPress blog (we use Primaryblogger)
  • your blog administrator needs to enable the Blubrry PowerPress plugin (thanks to Ed at PrimaryBlogger who made this available) and preferably configure it to display the audio player correctly
  • Mobile Podcaster installed onto your iPad (£1.99 from the app store)
  • I would also suggest that you create a separate user for publishing podcasts to the blog and that this user is set as a Contributor so that you can moderate blogs before they are published
  • You can also create a Podcast category and set the app to automatically post into this category.

Mobile Podcaster is very easy to use, you can view a video on how to use it to publish a podcast, optional text and picture straight to you class blog.

Limitations of this method:

  • you cannot edit the recording before publishing – it would be nice to be able to trim the beginning and end if necessary
  • the sound files are stored on the WordPress site so you may soon run out of space and have to upgrade
  • you are currently limited to 15 minutes recording (not that this will be a problem for the work we are currently doing!)

I will add some links to some of our podcasts shortly.

Using YouTube to embed videos in your blog using an iPad

One of the problems with publishing videos on your blog is making sure that the video can be seen from all platforms. If you publish a video directly from an iPad it may not play automatically on a PC and vice versa. One way around this problem is to publish your videos via a third party site such as YouTube or Vimeo (Vimeo has the advantage of not showing adverts!) In this article I will explain one way of embedding videos in your class WordPress blog by uploading them to YouTube.

You will need the following:

  • a WordPress based blog eg PrimaryBlogger
  • a school or class YouTube account
  • an iPad with the iMovies and WordPress apps installed

First, make your movie in iMovies. This could be a simple video of someone reading aloud or a sophisticated movie that has been considerably edited. Once you have your movie, go back to the main iMovie projects screen, select your movie, click on the share icon and select YouTube. You will be asked to sign in, enter your username and password (these will now be stored) and you will arrive at the Share Project screen. Here you can fill in details about the video – remember not to reveal any details that you shouldn’t. Under Privacy I strongly recommend that you select “Unlisted” – Private would mean that no one else would be able to see it, Public means that it is listed for everyone to find. When you have completed this click on “Share” and the movie will be exported to YouTube. This may take some time depending upon the size of the movie and your connection speed.

Once uploaded, you will get a screen offering a number of options. I suggest you click on “Tell a Friend” and that you email yourself the link.

Open your email, copy and paste the URL into your post and then add the following text directly to the end :


So that it looks something like:

This extra bit of text makes sure that no adverts or suggested videos appear after the video has finished.

Publish your blog and the video should now be visible from most screens.

iPad Apps: Comic Strip

Comic Strip is an app which provides a simple way of producing a comic strip! Comic strips have so many possible uses and advantages including:

  • they are motivating
  • they are a great alternative way of telling a story – see the example below
  • they are visual so visual learners can benefit from using them especially where text might get in the way of the learning process
  • they can be used to give a set of instructions or pupils can make a comic strip using photos and speech bubbles to create their own instructions or to record what they have done eg making a cake, writing a letter, doing a multiplication, etc
  • they are popular culture – pupils understand them and enjoy them. Making their own bridges a gap between the cultures of the classroom and the home
  • The Comic Strip app is so easy to use, you can take photos or grab images from the Internet, pop them into one of several comic strip formats, add speech bubbles and text and then save the result as an image, publish to Facebook or Twitter (of course pupils won’t be doing the last two!)
    Here is a comic strip celebrating my son’s newly learnt skills on skis:


    And I forgot to say, it’s free!

    iPad apps: Morfo

    Morfo may seem a strange iPad app to use in the classroom but we have had some fun using it to improve writing and reading confidence.

    Morfo allows you to take an image of a face, preferably a face-on portrait, which you then line up the position and size of the different parts of the face. The more care you take over this the better the results. You can then record your voice onto the iPad and play the recording back as if the face is saying your words. We have used the faces of pupils and teaching staff with other people’s voices but it is even more fun if you load a face from a historic painting eg one of Henry VIII. We have had pupils write and record short speeches that Henry might have made. These can be saved as videos or shared via Facebook. A very short example is shown here.

    There are lots of other features. You can morph the face and make it move in all sorts of ways. You can also pay to have access to even more features but I think the free version provides enough for most teachers.

    Blogging from an iPad

    I regularly use an iPad to blog, both for my own blogs and for blogs with teachers and pupils. I also use Windows Live Writer on a PC, and web browsers on both PCs and Apples. As I mostly use blogs based on WordPress I use the WordPress app on the iPad. Since it was updated to the latest version it has become my choice method of blogging, it is so easy! Words, photos and videos can so easily published, it is often a case of point, click, type a few words and then press “Publish”.

    There are occasions where I want to do something a little more clever, like position a picture so that text flows around it, then I have to resort to a browser or Liver Writer, but usually the iPad app does the business.

    Once published, it is very easy to see any comments that are made relating to a post and to moderate them. It is also quite easy to view statistics relating to visitors to the blog if Jet Pack is configured on the blog.
    The outcome? Teaching staff with iPads are able to publish their students work with very little effort increasing their audience, their motivation and involving their parents and relatives in their learning process.

    It’s free as well, making it a win, win, win app for me!

    iPad, Mathletics and Lexia

    It’s good to hear that both Mathletics and Lexia are developing apps for the iPad, even though they cannot give a time scale. Are there other educational software writers out there like these two who are developing their apps for the iPad? Let me know if you know!