Monday, April 9, 2012

A Classroom Without a Front

The new classroom configuration;  projector cart in the center, teacher's desk along the wall.
Last week, we acquired an AppleTV for our classroom. Things will never be the same.

First, the technical stuff. An AppleTV is a small $99 device that is capable of receiving a video or audio signal over WiFi from an iPad (or Mac or any iOS device) and playing it back on an attached screen and/or speaker. This is accomplished through the AppleTV's HDMI port to output video and audio and an additional optical port for audio only.

The Sharp NetVision projector currently in the room lacked an HDMI port but did have DVI input. A simple adapter converts the video for the projector but strips out the audio signal. We solved that problem by taking the audio signal directly from the AppleTV's optical port and running it through a small box to convert the digital signal to RCA audio so we could plug in the existing speakers for audio. The result is that our iPads can project both audio and video wirelessly from any point in the room. Counting the AppleTV, the HDMI to DVI adapter, the optical audio to RCA audio converter and the HDMI and optical audio cables, the total expense was less than $150. As a bonus, it's easily disconnected and moved to another projector if necessary.

 Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

So how have things changed as a result of this new addition?

Change ... first, where is the front of the classroom?  I have now gained the freedom to move anywhere in the classroom, at any time, in order to present or demonstrate learning.  I can also move into the hallway or anywhere in the school.  The most immediate affect has been my ability now to view student work while the student is working and then be able to demonstrate or fix student work live on the screen.  This instantly translates into improved student performance as well as providing an example for the rest of the class.  Using the camera on the iPad II, I can now have a "document camera" to show actual student work and capture instantly examples of positive work to display to the class.

In one case, a particular math problem was presenting problems to one student ... so I took a picture, instantly projected it to the class to only find out that most of the students were struggling which allows us to instantly address questions and provide direction towards a correct solution.  In another case, given that the students email me a tremendous amount of work, I was able to show the student from across the room that in fact their email had arrived and "grade it live" while the student was correcting the work on the fly.  Again, I didn't need to physically be by the student but was able to walk across the room and provide a more direct approach when the student's first attempt failed.

 On a side note, since we brought our Apple TV into the room, 4 other teachers in my school made the investment and are now projecting live without wires.  It also means I can attach to their Apple TV and them to mine so if something needs to be projected to another room without physically going there... we've just broadened our reach and teaching ability.

Larry Mitchell, Classroom Teacher

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