Exploring the use of iPads and mobile devices in education.
One of the "quieter" new features of the new iOS 5 system release is the expansion of its AirPlay functionality. In fact, if you skim Apple's marketing for iOS 5 it trumpets a host of important new features while AirPlay is relegated to a "More features" section at the end.
You may already be familiar with Airplay. It's the feature on your iPad or iPhone that allows you to wirelessly stream photos, video and music from your iOS device to any external display such as an HDTV (through an Apple TV connection). It's a wonderful feature and its only limitation is that it has been restricted to streaming media wirelessly - it could not be used to display apps or your iPad screen. As a consequence, AirPlay streaming has been utilized predominantly at home rather than in the classroom. That has changed with the release of Apple's new iOS 5 operating system.
With iOS 5 you can now use AirPlay to "mirror" your entire iPad screen and display or project it. All that is required is an iPad 2, the new iOS operating system and an Apple TV (which sells for around $100) that connects to any TV, monitor or projector with an HDMI interface. You can project your iPad with a couple of simple steps ... and it works wirelessly! Here's how:
As a teacher, you're no longer tethered to a cable at the front of your room. You're free to roam around the room and throw your iPad screen to any Apple TV connected display. Even better, you can also have student iPads enabled with mirroring and ask any student to project their screen! Melissa found something interesting on the web? You have them working in groups and you want to display and share their project? Ask them to display their iPad via AirPlay. The process of sharing, discussing and collaborating in class is far simpler when everyone can quickly display their screen for all to see.
Further. this wireless projection system can be implemented very simply and inexpensively. I'm currently working on one 1:1 iPad project with a small school and we're hanging 47" HDTVs and Apple TVs in every classroom (see example above). Once complete, every iPad in the class will be able to display to the HDTV wirelessly. The total cost per room is well under $1,000. That's a fraction of the cost of earlier wireless projection options and still significantly cheaper than standard cabled projection systems that make it very difficult to share student work (especially when you include the cost of replacement bulbs for projectors). Let's not even mention the cost of Smartboards...
In summary, AirPlay is a very simple method for promoting sharing and collaboration in your classroom ... and it's an option that comes at a relatively affordable cost.