School leaders around the United States continue to spend HUGE amounts of money on interactive whiteboards for classrooms, despite the fact that these devices universally FAIL to empower students to become more independent, self-directed and engaged learners in the way mobile learning devices (like laptops, tablets or other personal digital learning tools) can. Please do not misunderstand me: It definitely IS a big deal for a teacher and his/her students to have access to an LCD projector connected to a computer in the classroom if previously, the “normal” technology in the room was an overhead projector.
What is a POOR deal for students as well as teachers, in many of our schools today, is a capital outlay of $3500 for an interactive white board (IWB) when those same dollars could purchase a projector or large format television AND individual mobile learning devices for teachers and students in the same class.* My experiments this evening with the Air Display ($10) application for iPad confirm what I’ve suspected for some time: Inexpensive mobile applications (relative to the cost of an IWB) can transform these devices INTO functional IWBs with many more benefits as well as capabilities. In this post, I’ll highlight some of the applications which can do this for Apple’s iPad, based on a phenomenal set of tutorial videos (over 52 minutes worth) shared recently by Tim Tyson. If you still have IWBs in your school technology plan, put your planning on hold. I’m hoping the ideas I share in this post will convince you to put those precious dollars toward iPads for students and teachers INSTEAD of an expensive device (an IWB) that will stay mounted at the front of a classroom gathering dust.
In the last two weeks, Tim Tyson has recorded and published (both to his blog and his YouTube channel) eight screencasts totaling 52 minutes and 37 seconds. The first four of these were shared as a series of tutorials (Tim calls them “quickcasts”) explaining how to use the iPad application Air Display ($10) and the Mac application Ink2Go ($20) to turn any iPad into a functional IWB. This setup is actually better than an IWB in several ways. Not only is it VASTLY cheaper, but it also permits a teacher or student to be anywhere in the room when writing on the iPad/projected computer image AND see the digital image on the device in their hands. This is better than the function offered by all the bluetooth slates I’ve seen to date, like eInstruction’s Interwrite Mobi View as well as the SMART wireless Slate. At the end of 2010 at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in New Hampshire, Paula Churchhill wow’ed me with her use of a wireless slate when she presented her session, “Sound Recording in the Classroom.” I wondered at the time if I should explore options for purchasing and using a wireless slate for my own presentations. I no longer have any doubts about my needs in this regard. I have everything I could want and more for presenting with IWB power using my iPad and Air Display.
To be clear, as Tim Tyson outlined in his introductory video about this process, everyone should understand the requirements to use an iPad as an IWB. You need:
- An iPad
- A laptop or desktop computer (Apple is best, of course, but Windows computers can work as well since identified software is cross-platform)
- A wifi network connection (configured with ports open to allow sharing/communication between the iPad and computer – this can be an ad-hoc network or a ‘normal’ wifi hotspot / network)
- An LCD projector with screen or large format TV to serve as the external display
- Software applications which support both remote control and remote mirroring of a computer screen, along with screen annotation / recording (IWB-like software)
I titled this post, “iPad as an Interactive White Board for $5 or $10” because Air Display is definitely not the only game in town when it comes to remote control and remote mirroring of a computer on an iPad. I had previously dabbled with Team Viewer, but Tim (via Crystal Priest in Maine) recommends Splashtop Remote Desktop. At $5 it’s half the cost of Air Display, and it includes an excellent keyboard which can be used for entering website URLs and other typing needs from the iPad. Based on Tim’s well-elaborated summary of pros and cons of these apps from March 18th, I chose to purchase Air Display because it supports multiple devices. This means Sunday when I teach my 5th grade Sunday school class, students could use both my iPad2 and our family’s iPad1 to take turns controlling the computer screen and adding inputs to our lesson.
After installing any iPad remote mirroring and control software, it is necessary to install “client” software on the computer you’re using to actually connect to a projector or external TV. That’s a free download for both Air Display and Splashtop, the iOS application is the one which costs money. Team Viewer is free for non-commercial use, and supports Android as well as iOS devices. While Team Viewer worked ok for me when I tried it a few months ago (after I led an “iOS Apps for Productivity and Fun” workshop in September) I think the display control options offered by Air Display make it a better app, as well as the option to let multiple iOS devices control your main computer. A restart is required after installing the Air Display client software on a Mac or Windows computer.
In addition to the remote mirroring and control software programs on your iPad and laptop computer, you’ll need software on your computer which provides IWB functions. In my case, since I have a licensed copy of SMART software as the primary user of our church’s SMARTboard, that’s the software program I chose to use tonight and will most likely use on Sunday. Here is a screenshot I took using the software this evening, controlling a Google Earth virtual tour of Brazil from my iPad.
Here’s another screenshot, showing annotation possibilities in Audacity. Again, this was all done from my iPad.
This final screenshot shows how Air Display permits selection of multiple iOS devices to control the computer. While I experimented with my iPhone4 as a control device, I found the screen to be WAY too small. The iPad, however, works GREAT at 1024 x 768 pixels of mirrored resolution.
If you don’t have a legitimately licensed copy of SMART’s Notebook software and tools, Ink2Go is a $20 software option for IWB functionality. Ink2Go available for both Windows and Macintosh computers.
The one thing I’d add to Tim’s recommended configuration tools is the Pogo Stylus. For about $10, it lets anyone write directly on the screen of an iPad and be much more precise than is possible with finger writing.
While functions available today with an iPad and these different software options have some limitations, the POWERFUL possibilities should be clear. It is NOT necessary to spend $5000 in a classroom to provide interactive whiteboard functionality. Instead of purchasing an expensive board which mounts to the wall, it makes MUCH MORE SENSE (and CENTS) to purchase an external display, computer, and iPads.
Based on my past experiences working with schools and school leaders, I’m sadly confident to predict many of you reading this post are balking at the prospect of purchasing and supporting INDIVIDUAL digital learning devices for students. Like most people in education today, you’re likely more comfortable with our traditional model of teacher-directed instruction. That’s an understandable perception, but not an acceptable one if you’re an educational leader. The learning revolution happens NOW, not in ten years, in classrooms and homes where learners are empowered with INDIVIDUAL DIGITAL LEARNING DEVICES. There are still important times for sharing and collaborating with digital technologies, but an analogy to pencils is helpful here. We don’t make all our students share pencils all the time. We understand the importance and need for EVERY student to have a pencil. The same goes for digital learning devices.
What are you writing into YOUR technology plan today? A better question is: What are you writing into your LEARNING plan? These technologies are new and sexy, but the “BIG DEAL” isn’t the technology here, it’s the learning which can be empowered by it as well as the connectivity it requires. Are you a catalyst or an obstacle for the learning revolution in your school?
The decision is up to you. Choose wisely. The learning revolution is here, and it’s NOT being ushered in by folks who purchase more interactive white boards.
* Based on feedback (thanks everyone for comments) I did a bit more homework and revised my estimated IWB cost included in this post to $3500. I had originally used $5000, which clearly is an over-estimation. This $3500 price is based on a current quotation for a SMARTboard Unifi system (“projector on a boom”) along with installation, provided by a vendor for an Oklahoma City metro-area district. The quotation is $3175 for a SMART Board 680 with UF65 projector and a 15-Pin HD (M) to 15-Pin (M) Cable – 15′. Installation cost is $270. $3500 is therefore a reasonable estimate for these hardware costs. Certainly IWBs are available for less, models and prices vary. The $3500 per classroom costs included here ARE being paid by some schools for IWBs currently. Whatever amount your school is paying for an IWB, my contention in this post is the same: Those funds are better invested in a solution which can empower students directly rather than encourage a traditional, teacher-directed instructional environment.
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