Teaching Large Classes with an iPad

Apollo Horizon 2 Overhead ProjectorTo this day I remain a big fan of the overhead projector.  I truly believe it was more effective a tool for teaching than the projected Powerpoint slides will ever be.  I stood facing the students, watching their expressions, which I could see since the lights were sufficiently bright.  I could draw on the screen and change directions as questions arose.  In fact I will argue that the ‘golden age of college teaching’ if there was one was stimulated by the addition of the roller to the overhead projector.  It allowed the combining of student response, just-in-time teaching, constructivist development and several other educational buzz terms in one simple device.

It’s been downhill ever since,
…until this semester.

This semester I’ve purchased an iPad2 and a software application called SplashTop Remote Desktop.  (Truth in advertising, I prefer Apple products but you could do what I’m describing with tabletPCs or even your smartphone — assuming your eyesight is better and your fingers are smaller than mine).  Now I can hold the iPad in my hand, and with LectureTools I can present class, pose questions, draw on the screen and still project wirelessly as I stand or walk around the room.  Finally I can let go of my plastic pocket protector with the rainbow collection of Vis-à-Vis.  I pine for the projector no longer!

To reach this new level of teaching nirvana I have found at least two routes (so far):

  1. The first requires that I simply bring my laptop (as I always did anyway) to class along with whatever cables/dongles needed to connect the laptop to the projection system, and my iPad.
  2. The second does not require the laptop but does require an AppleTV + whatever it takes to connect that to the projector.

In both cases you could use the resulting system to present with KeyNote® but that would be so 90’s. I suggest you get a LectureTools instructor account (they’re FREE!) and you can show your slides + ask questions of students (multiple-choice, true-false, rearrange lists, image-based and free response — take THAT clickers!) and display the results in real-time + collect and answer student questions + have access to analytical data on student participation + DRAW ON THE SLIDES LIKE WITH AN OVERHEAD!

METHOD #1 iPad + Laptop + SplashTop Desktop Remote
This is my first choice as it allows me to use all the tricks I’ve collected on my laptop for teaching (including those bad-boy Flash animations that the iPad can’t handle!).
Step 1: Pimp Your Laptop Download SplashTop Streamer (it’s FREE!) and install on your Mac or PC laptop.
Step 2: Prep your iPad Download SplashTop Remote Desktop to your favorite mobile device (iPad, tablet, phone, iTouch, iPod, God only knows what’s next…)
Step 3: Connect the two As long as the iPad and laptop are on the same wireless network you should be able to follow directions to connect the two via “Internet discovery.”
Step 4: Classtime The rest will be obvious if Steps 1-3 went well. You can now back away from the podium and walk amongst the students and do whatever it was you used to do standing at the podium. I suggest you invest in an attachment for your iPad so you can easily hold it as you walk. I’ve tried a “padlette” and a modulR Hand Strap and like the lightness and grip of the former.
METHOD #2 iPad + AppleTV + a Way to Connect to Projector
This allows me to display any tools or websites I can pull up on my iPad (cool or what!). Only downside is if you want to show Flash animations or use software not (yet) ported to the iPad.
Step 1: Set up your AppleTV You’ll need to:

  1. Connect the AppleTV to your projector. This may require a simple HDMI cable or, if you have VGA, a HDMI to VGA adaptor like this.
  2. Set up and connect the AppleTV to the wireless network in the classroom using the remote that comes with the AppleTV. Easy to do unless your school, like mine, uses an authentication protocol for their wireless that the AppleTV cannot recognize.
Step 2: Prep your iPad On the iPad double-click the control button to make a row of applications appear along the bottom. Then scroll this to the right and a window will appear where you can choose “AirPlay.” AirPlay will allow you to connect to your AppleTV and then whatever you do on the iPad gets wirelessly projected as you wander the halls of the classroom.

So if, like me, your feeling the need to be unleashed from the podium and want to engage your students in more paticipatory activities during lecture (and we should) then give this a try. Let me know how it goes.

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11 Responses to Teaching Large Classes with an iPad

  1. Naomi Harm says:

    Greetings Tom,
    Thanks for sharing the two methods from above- both are great.

    Another (3rd) great solution of both worlds it to utilize your iPad 2, your Apple TV, your laptop, and a KVM switch box (Radio Shack sells them for $19.99 and prices may very in other locations). Once all hooked up- you can streamline your presentations between your iPad 2 for interaction to showcase- or switch back to your laptop for full functionality. (Please note it will work with an iPad 1, but there are limitations in the functionality). I have just test drove this method over the holidays and will be using it for my upcoming technology keynote presentations. I will be disabling the feature where others can override my Apple TV display for now as I am presenting, to have more control in the environment I am in.

    Hope this helpful to you,

    Naomi Harm
    twitter: nharm

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  4. Cindy says:

    I use Splashtop everyday. It is invaluable!

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  7. Dr. Russ Conrath says:

    This is a great perspective. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I forgot to add Thank you, for this information and best wishes!


  9. StevenB says:

    This sounds pretty interesting. I’m looking for a way to do more drawing or writing as I present – sort of like having the overhead. What tool are you using for doing the drawing or writing – is that part of lecturetools? I am wondering if there isn’t an app that would let you do this, granted lecturetools has more robust functionality. Are you saying that you still need to have the overhead projector if you want to do the drawing? They are getting pretty hard to find.

    I’d appreciate it if you can reply to me directly at bells at temple

  10. LYLE SPAIN says:

    we use Doceri. http://doceri.com/ it allows our faculty the full control of a mac (MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro) wirelessly with the iPad w/annotation abilities.

    Doceri will also record the whole presentation.

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