Engage! Using iPad in the Classroom

One of the key elements to learning is engagement. Attention spans are short, multitasking is rampant and as instructors we are often competing for that attention. Engagement happens on many levels but one of the coolest uses of technological engagement can happen by using Apple’s AirPlay technology, Apple TV, and an iPad. Now, I realize that “cool” is subjective, but in this case appropriate. If our audience is our students and our goal is to engage them, why not use the tools they use? This is where Apple’s power trio comes in.

When set up correctly, an Apple TV will transmit a mirror image of an iPad’s screen to a classroom projector or monitor. Imagine handing an iPad to a student who has a strong understanding of a math problem that the rest of the class has been struggling with and asking her to walk through the solution while talking about it. Or giving the iPad to a budding business student and asking him to sketch out a quick supply chain diagram. All the while their work is displayed for the class to see and interact with.

 It’s not magic and it won’t break the bank. Here is what you need:

  1. An iPad
  2. An Apple TV
  3. A projector or flat screen (monitor or TV)
  4. A wireless network

Here is the idea

First, lets discuss the iPad. With total sales expected to break the 100 million mark this year, you may already own one. If you don’t, come see me and I’ll be happy to work with you to get one on loan. *One thing to note is that the iPad1 does not support full AirPlay mirroring, which is what is outlined in this post. Full AirPlay mirroring is specific to iPad2 and iPad3. Mirroring on iPad1 is app specific.

Apple TV

The next thing you need is an Apple TV which retail for $99. Again, if this is not something you have access to, please come talk to me so we can work out a solution. Apple TV is essentially a digital media receiving device that has no local storage, rather it acts as a hub that requests and delivers digital content like music, movies and other iOS devices (iPad, iPod). It then delivers that content to your projector or flat screen.

The last thing you need is a projector or flat screen. Most OU classrooms are equipped with one or the other. The same projector you use to plug in your laptop and deliver your PowerPoint presentations will work perfectly.



Earlier I mentioned each of these devices use AirPlay to connect to each other. AirPlay is simply a way for Apple devices to wirelessly stream audio, video and photos and to mirror screens between devices. It comes standard on iOS 4.2 devices and Apple TV. Here is how to check to see what version of iOS is installed on your iPad.


AirPlay connects these devices and can mirror your iPad’s display



The Writing Center’s Apple TV & Projector setup

Connect your Apple TV to your projector or monitor and power both devices on. Apple TV’s output is HDMI so it’s possible that you may need a converter to VGA for your projector. I did this with relative ease in the Writing Center with the purchase of a $30 box found on Monoprice.

During the setup of the Apple TV you should pay special attention to two things, the name of your Apple TV and adding it to your wireless network.

I recommend naming the Apple TV something specific to yourself or your room because when you use AirPlay to connect, you will more than likely need to choose from a list of nearby devices. For example: “Writing Center Apple TV” or “Room 301 Apple TV”.

Next, you must make sure your Apple TV is connected to your wireless network. In order for AirPlay to work, your iPad and Apple TV must be connected to the same network. As of this posting you will need to get IT’s help adding an Apple TV to the OU network. Give those helpful folks a call at 405-325-4409 and let them know that you would like to connect your Apple TV to OUWifi.

Next, fire up your iPad and preferred app. Again, make sure your iPad is connected to the same wireless network as your Apple TV. For example, if I want to ask my student to sketch out how AirPlay works, I want a blank slate so I’ll open up my sketch app called “PenUltimate“.

AirPlay Icon

Now as long as your Apple TV and iPad are connected to the same network all you need to do is double click the home button on the iPad.  At the bottom of the device you will see a bar with recently used app icons displayed. Swipe from left to right on that bar and you will see the AirPlay icon, normally next to the audio controls. Touch the AirPlay icon!

You will see a list of available devices and because you intuitively named your Apple TV “Room 301 Apple TV” you know that’s the device you want. Put a check mark by it and toggle the Mirroring switch “on”.

WC Apple TV is the Writing Center’s Apple TV

If the stars align you are now seeing an exact mirror of what is on your iPad’s screen on your projector or flat screen. From there, hand that iPad over to a student and fire away!

AirPlay in action in the Writing Center!

Another important piece to this puzzle is the app. With nearly 600,000 apps in Apple’s app store you have plenty to choose from. I have posted some apps that can be useful in the classroom here. Check them out and please add to the list in the comments!

This is a great and relatively inexpensive way to engage your students by using familiar, non-intrusive technology. If this is a little overwhelming, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to work with you on the setup.

What do you think about using this setup in your classroom? Would this be helpful or a distraction? What are some other situations this could be used in our learning environments? I am eager to hear about your classroom experiences with this and similar technology!


Jeremy Hessman