When the iPad was announced by Steve Jobs in January of 2010, readers of this blog probably won't be surprised that I started trying to think of ways to use it in the law school classroom. But mostly I came up empty. I purchased one anyway, and am typing this post on my third iPad. I use it mostly for "short form" reading, such as magazines, web pages, newspapers, and Twitter (and Twitter links). But I have continued to try to think of ways that it might be effectively used in the classroom.
I know, easy, right? Old hat. Plug it in using one of the connectors now widely available. Do iPad stuff that is projected on the screen. Simple.
But that's exactly the point. Except for an iPad app that was worth demonstrating on the iPad on the screen in class(such as the Congressional Record app), I never really saw the benefit over plugging in a laptop to do much the same. Yes, we can show a Keynote presentation on the iPad (and now PowerPoint, with the release of Microsoft Office for the iPad). But again, this is something we have all done nearly every class for at least 10 years or so - plug in some device to show something that is displaying on our screen. Although it is somewhat more portable, which makes it potentially easier for teachers, there was not much difference from the student perspective - in my mind - between plugging in one device over the other.
But, if we could move around with it... well, that might make a huge difference. And this is something that is hard to do with a laptop - the iPad might actually add something to the classroom if it could do something different like that.
About a year after the iPad launched, I noticed with interest a teacher that had kludged together a wireless dongle that allowed him to walk around the class and project it on screen. Ah ha! But it was very much a do-it-yourself project, and one that was beyond at least my time budget, if not my money budget.
Meanwhile... when the first Apple TV units came out, I tried it at home, and we have over the last few years enjoyed watching movies either on Netflix or Apple through the Apple TV. They have improved the units over the years, and we now have two of them in our home. About a year or so ago, Apple upgraded the software on these units to allow for "mirroring" from the iPad to the Apple TV. Ah ha!
So I brought in an Apple TV unit into school last August, and experimented with it. The problem I found, rather quickly, is that the Apple TV is designed to work with a fairly simple home network, but not an enterprise network. Which is odd, really, since Apple has made so much of their support for education. You would think that they would have built in a more robust networking capability from the beginning.
Numerous Apple and DU Law technologists later, the answer about how to make this work was found. I had already gotten it to work using the personal hotspot function on my iPhone. But I worried that transferring a lot of data that way might not be a great idea, at least as far as my cell phone bill was concerned. The answer was to do the same, only create the local network on my MacBook. (I finally got this working in a live class in early October, and demonstrated it to a University-OTL sponsored session on iPads in the classroom a week later).
Now, when I plug my MacBook into the ethernet connection in the classroom, it creates the network. When the Apple TV boots up, it logs on to that network (this was done using an Apple program for the Mac called Configurator). When the Apple TV is connected (via an HDMI connector) to the projector, what is on that unit is projected on the screen. When the iPad is opened up, the option is now available to "mirror" the iPad screen to the Apple TV. And there it is! I can walk around the classroom with the iPad, un-teathered.
But still, the utility is not that great - it is still just showing something on the iPad. But the power, of course, is in why I wanted to do this in the first place. Now, during class, I can give the iPad to a student, and have them enter something in - say, into a Lexis search box using the LexisAdvance iPad app. And then we can all look at what the student is doing, and the result. And then I can pass the iPad to another student, who can modify the search, and we can all see that result on the projector.
Now that is something that makes using the iPad in class worth the effort. I am always trying to think of ways to "devolve the podium" to the students where appropriate. While this is not perfect, it does seem to achieve this goal. Having said that, however, I feel like I am only getting started in figuring out ways to use this new capability in class. If you have ideas, please add them to the comments.