Apple TV not just a Fad

There seems to be some confusion as to Apple TVs; what these mysterious devices are and why should educators use them? After having a look into them for F.E and H.E educators it became apparent they are actually quite versatile pieces of tech.

So first things first, what is an Apple TV?

According to Wikipedia ‘’(it)…is a digital media player and a microconsole developed and sold by Apple Inc. It is a small network appliance and entertainment device that can receive digital data from a number of sources and stream it to a capable TV for playing on the TV screen. Apple TV is an HDMI-compliant source device’’ or as I like to call it, a little black box. From this little black box you can mirror your iPad to the Apple TV, to show what’s on your iPad on a larger board/projector or screen. I’m not going into a full flung ‘how to set up an Apple TV ’ scenario as this isn’t about that, it’s about how to use it in education.  However if you’re curious about set up and the technical ‘how to’ Here’s a quick guide.

Got it, so how do I use it in education…?

The most common two questions we get asked at e-learning, when introducing something new, is ‘How am I supposed to use this?’  and ‘well this (insert name of technology from about 5+ years ago) does that, why should we replace it?’ naturally demoing Apple TV was no exception. In this case it was SMART Boards, White Boards, Projectors and iBoards. Ok, ok I know some of these are more recent than 5+ years ago but I’m making a point and, realistically, they are basically the same thing. It’s a projector/large screen attached to a computer……

So as I was saying…… ‘they’re just a replacement for SMART Boards/iBoards I hear you say?’ Well yes and no. You can use it to present information in the same manner and it is a lot cheaper than a SMART Board (great for those thinking about pinching the pennies) but it also does a lot more than that. The next question of ‘How am I supposed to use that?’ was solved with a lot of research and a bit of creative thinking on our part. The e-learning team (that’s us!) gave demos on how to implement Apple TVs specifically for the different Academic Areas at the college. Here are a few examples discussed from around our institution:

  • Presentation tool: One of the first training sessions on Apple TV we did as the e-team was with General Education. They brought up some great points about wanting to present information while still maintaining ease of workflow for students, no redirection to YouTube and then coming back to students 5 minutes later to find they’d gone off task watching cat videos. We found that with the use of Apple TV and a dedicated tutor iPad (even if it was only for that session) meant as a tutor you can present information while still being able to move around the class. It makes for an ease of workflow between presentation and activity (not a clunky stop/start motion that most tutors may be currently working with) while allowing the tutor to integrate themselves into the classroom, allowing for effective classroom management. This is done using presentation apps mirrored to the Apple TV which would allow for activities to be fed into them, such as Nearpod. A brilliant tool for both GCSE, F.E and H.E sessions.
  • Visualisation: After the initial catastrophe of setting up the Apple TV for our second session (we’d gone in blind and didn’t bring the right cable, so setting up was as close to a Benny Hill sketch as I’ve ever physically seen) the session got off to a flying start, with highly engaged staff and some brilliant ideas going back and forth. After running through AirPlay and different ways to use the Apple TV, it was found that Motorsports used visualisers. These had their limits due to apparatus size and object constraints (only small objects could be shown and there was limited portability)  but essentially the theory of a visualiser to have for magnifying detailed objects to a larger audience, in this case students, was ideal for their Academic Area. We as the e-team, with this information in mind, demonstrated visualisation apps on the iPad, which could mirror to the Apple TV intricate details on objects such as engines, nuts and bolts, and larger machinery, while allowing for annotation. Due to the portability and size of the iPad it means tutors are not restricted to what they can show. So an iPad can be used to focus on larger models of machinery which can then be zoomed in on, as well as smaller objects in sessions. The Apple TV allows for the iPad to mirror the visualisation app onto the larger screen so that students can see what their tutor is explaining in detail, with written real time annotation and without having to crowd around an object. Problem solved with an extra tool thrown in (real time annotation). This method of visualisation can be transferred across Academic Areas, great for practical disciplines.
  • Interactive Classroom: With most of the training sessions we did, tutors’ realised that you could create an interactive classroom with students. Flipped classrooms or reflective practitioner activities can be used via app smashing and then students can showcase their work by mirroring it to the Apple TV, done through both individual and group work. This can then lead to student lead discussions on what they’ve have done, area specific theories and small group to whole class work. All the while the tutors can be the educational guides for their students learning, maximising learning and understanding, think Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. This is great for GCSE, F.E or smaller H.E group sessions, where there’s enough time for an activity and discussion/s (say about 1 hour+).
  • Assessment: Though this is still a theoretical application, and we only briefly touched upon this in training, it would be great for individual practical based education. Using the iPad to record the information, the Apple TV can show the detailed work the student is doing without being intrusive. It also allows for staff to view what the student is doing in real time for the classroom observation, in a larger detail on screen via the Apple TV, all the while recording what is occurring as another form of evidence. It means that if it is not a formal assessment, when the student goes wrong the member of staff can show on screen where they went wrong without being obtrusive of the students work.

So overall, from what we can see here at e-learning, Apple TVs are not a fad but are in fact the next step in the evolutionary chain of technology enhanced learning. It’s a move away from the SMART Board and allows for new activities, previously unimaginable, to be used in the academic environment.






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