Guide: Using Apple TV in the Classroom

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(Image Credit: Apple)

Firstly, despite its name, Apple TV is not a television. Instead it is a device which allows you to wirelessly stream content from your iOS devices or Mac on your TV or projector using AirPlay. AirPlay is Apple’s technology that will stream whatever is on an iOS or Macs screen and is built into all iPads with the exception the first generation iPad, and all newer iPhones and iPod touches. This means you or your students can easily display Keynote presentations, images, videos or content within apps on a large screen at the touch of a button.

Uses in the Classroom
Apple TV has many uses which make it perfect for use in the classroom that revolve around its main function, AirPlay. Here are just a few ways you can use Apple TV in lessons:

– You can AirPlay Keynote presentations onto a whiteboard or TV screen. This means you do not need to be sat or stood near a computer and press a button to switch slides.
– When AirPlay is activated, Keynote allows you to draw on your slides, which will appear on the screen. This means you can annotate diagrams in real time (more on that here). Better still pass your iPad around and get students to do it themselves!
– Conduct live app demonstrations. For example, if you want students to upload their work to Showbie, you can walk them through the steps live on screen for them to follow along.
– Ask students to showcase their work via AirPlay. Disconnect your device and ask them to connect theirs and show the work they have done so far to the class. This can either be a useful way to model expectations or also as an AfL strategy whereby other learners can provide live feedback to a piece of work.

Setting Up Your Apple TV
apple_tv-q410-rear-lg Apple TV is simple to set up. The image above shows the connections required: power, video output (HDMI) and an internet question (wireless or ethernet). Unless you have a modern projector, it is unlikely that it supports HDMI, however this is not an issue as VGA to HDMI adapters are available, for example ATV Pro by Kanex. This plugs into the Apple TV’s HDMI port, allowing you to connect the VGA cable from the projector to the adapter. To connect Apple TV to the internet you can either insert an ethernet cable into the back of the device (see above) or connect to any available wireless network.

Once you have your Apple TV up and running, you’ll want to modify some of the settings to prepare it for use in the classroom. Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) has written a fantastic blog post on optimising Apple TV for education. I’ll summarise the main points in this post, however I would highly recommend you to check out the full article here.

– Step 1: Hide iTunes Conetent – when Apple TV is not mirroring anything from a device, it will display content from iTunes like new releases of movies, TV shows or albums. Sometimes, this can cause an unwanted distraction, especially when popular movies are displayed (which is often) or artwork which may be considered risqué. To remove this from Apple TV’s home screen you’ll need to enable Restrictions. To do this go: Settings > General > Restrictions. You’ll be asked to enable Restrictions with a passcode and once that’s done, change Purchase & Rental to Hide.
– Step 2: Hide Channels – like the iTunes content although perhaps not as often, the channels can cause an unnecessary distraction. Even if they don’t, removing them makes the home screen much less cluttered at least. To do this go: Settings app > Main Menu > Change each channel you would like to remove from Show to Hide. You may choose to keep some of the channels, in which case just leave as Show.
– Step 3: Setting a Pass Code – anybody who is connected to the same wireless network or is close enough to connect using Bluetooth can mirror their device to an Apple TV. This is great, however it can be potentially problematic in a school environment. However this can easily by overcome by setting up a Pass Code. To do this go: Settings > AirPlay > Security. This will give you two options: a random Onscreen Code will be displayed each time which is then entered on the device that wants to AirPlay; or Password where you can choose your own code which will not be displayed and just entered onto the device. In my school, we have opted for the Onscreen Code option because it means teachers do not have to give pass codes out to students, it’ll be displayed automatically and also because many staff share rooms and it avoids a potential situation where somebody enters a room and cannot use Apple TV since they do not know the pass code. Another great thing about setting a pass code is that once a device is mirroring, another device cannot try and mirror to the same Apple TV and hijack it. If however somebody does connect using AirPlay and you do not want them to, you can press the Menu button on the Apple TV remote to return to the home screen at any time.
– Step 4: Using Peer-to-Peer AirPlay – With peer-to-peer AirPlay, your iOS device and Apple TV don’t need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. To use peer-to-peer AirPlay, your iOS device needs to have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on. I actually use this rather than connecting through Wi-Fi as I find it is a lot more stable on our network: it’s worth trying if your connection drops frequently. One word of caution however, this method is restricted to newer iOS and Apple TV devices (iPhone 5 or later, iPad (4th generation or later), iPad mini, or iPod touch (5th generation) using iOS 8 or later, Apple TV (3rd generation rev A, model A1469 or later) with Apple TV software 7.0 or later).
– Step 5: Setting up Numerous Apple TV’s – If you invest as a whole school and have a large number of Apple TVs to set up, consider using Apple Configurator. This Mac application is available for free on the Mac AppStore and allows for network and other settings to be pushed out to Apple TVs and other iOS devices.

Conclusion
Apple TV is a staple in my classroom. In fact, I’d say it is one of the most important tools in any 1:1 iPad project. The features like AirPlay, whilst seemingly simple, are immensely powerful in the classroom and really engage learners. At the Spring Forward event in March 2015, Apple announced a reduction in the price of Apple TV to £59 ($69) which should make it even more attractive to educators. If you compare this to the cost of an interactive whiteboard, it is a steal and also packs far more features! If you are using iOS or OS X devices in your classroom, give Apple TV a try, you won’t regret it!

Apple TV by Apple Inc. is available both online and in store for £59 from the Apple Store as well as many other electrical retailers.

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