Why You Don’t Need a SMARTBoard, Document Camera or Apple TV: Using AirServer in the Classroom

What can do everything a SMARTBoard, document camera and Apple TV can do at a small fraction of the cost? AirServer.

Air Server allows you to mirror your iPad, iPhone, or even MacBook or iMac to the computer that is already hooked up to your classroom projector by installing a simple piece of software.

Add a whiteboard app like Educreations or even the SMART Notebook app and you’ve got interactive whiteboard functionality that is portable. Pass your iPad to your students instead of having them come up to the board.

Use the built in camera and voila – a document camera. But better. Right in Educreations there’s an option to quickly snap a picture which you can then easily write on. For example, you can take a picture of a text and draw on it to highlight the various text features or underline key phrases.

You can buy an iPad stand to hold your iPad for you if you are finding you do a lot of “live action” video based document camera work (e.g., science experiments or demonstrations done under the camera for all to watch).

And it’s cheap. $12 for 1 license for education – less, if you buy in bulk. Compare that to $100+ to buy an Apple TV – and this does more.

Prior to finding this, I had been hooking up my iPad via a VGA adapter cable. Problem? I had to unhook my classroom computer from the projector every single time. And then I was tethered to that one awkward spot the whole time I was using it.

Now I connect using iOS’s built in AirPlay feature. Simply swipe up from any screen and if an AirPlay receiver is in range, the AirPlay button appears. I can then wander around the room, pass the device to students to have them add something, or even mirror multiple devices at once so students can display their work. Students love seeing their work up on the “big screen”.

Four iPads mirrored at once.

Four iPads mirrored at once.

We often use it for presentations. Whoever is giving a presentation that day grabs a school iPad (or uses their own) and loads up whatever they need for their presentation. When it’s their turn, they can mirror in a matter of seconds. It reduces the awkward waiting in between presentations or having everyone sit there watching them load up their work.

I also use it sometimes as students are working on something new. It can be great to have a couple of “models” up on the screen to help keep all students on track or give an example to follow. (Or *ahem* so I can keep a close watch for on-task behaviour.)

I’ll also use it myself. I love creating Pic Collages, Vines or tweets “live” as my students are working. It lets me honour the great work I am seeing in a really immediate way.

The tech nitty-gritty: The computer hooked up to the projector and the device you want to mirror both need to be on the same wifi network. (In Peel, this will work with the PDSB-Media and PDSB-Wifi networks but not the others.)

Don’t have wifi? Or can’t get both devices on the same network? If you have a Mac you can create your own hotspot using the internet sharing feature – this will allow AirServer to work.

What I want next: I’m waiting for the day AirServer (or something like it) supports Android devices as well! This isn’t a barrier right now as I have plenty of iOS devices to share and most work is cloud based – meaning students can easily load it on an iPad even if they created it on another device; however, in a BYOD environment it would be amazing to be able to mirror all devices. (November 2014 Edit: They’ve done it! AirServer Universal can now mirror Miracast devices, including Android and Windows mobile devices! Currently, it is only available for PC. Hopefully, it will also be available for Mac in the future.)

Bottom Line: You have to try it. AirServer has a 7 day free trial so you have nothing to lose. I promise it will wow your students and transform your classroom into a more dynamic space.

(Visited 316 times, 1 visits today)

3 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Need a SMARTBoard, Document Camera or Apple TV: Using AirServer in the Classroom

  1. Jill says:

    Hey, great post- very helpful. I definitely want to use this. So in peel, I would have to download it on my teacher computer and on my iPad? I guess I’ve never paid attention to what network I was using as the teacher computer is connected with a physical cable..so how do I connect it to the same network?

    • Ms Armstrong says:

      It has to be downloaded onto the computer – but the iPad doesn’t need anything special added to it. If your teacher computer is connected to the network via hardwire, then this won’t work with your current setup. Both the computer and device you’re mirroring have to be connected via Wifi. It is possible for a desktop computer to have a wifi adapter added to it if it doesn’t have one already, so that’s one option. I project with a laptop and not the standard desktop.

Leave a Reply