The 4 Easiest Ways To Mirror The iPad (Comparison Chart)

One of the most discussed topics in K-12 EdTech is the iPad. Whether you’re an Apple or Android fanboy the iPad is here to stay in education. One of the iPad challenges (there are many) I’m hearing discussed amongst school districts involves how to effectively mirror the iPad to the classroom TV or projector. Mirroring can be beneficial for a number of reasons. Our district is currently facing this issue.
We’ve had quite a few iPads for the past few years, but every teacher in the district recently received a device. Now we’ve been tasked with how to make mirroring work on a large scale. As we worked through the different options we developed a comparison chart of the variety of options that fit in our environment.
As I did research I ran across a tweet sending me to Tony Vincent’s blog, which has great comparison chart of his own. I decided to remix his chart and tailor it to our district needs. I think my chart takes on more of a technical approach, while his chart leans more towards instruction. Before you take a look at our chart I’d like to give you an idea of our classroom and district environment.
  • TV, Document Camera and Desktop in every classroom
  • Every teacher has an iPad
  • Cisco Access Points
  • Possible VDI Implementation in the future for desktops
  • 10 schools
  • 450 classrooms
Every environment is different. Below are my thoughts on what device worked best for us. The best solution may be totally different for your district. Please share your thoughts.
Click image below to enlarge or click here for the editable Word version.
ipad mirror comparison chart

The Results

We tested each option out. Here are my thoughts on each…
  • iPad Adapter – We have TVs in each classroom with HDMI connections, so HDMI would be the choice over VGA. These adapters work fine, but we found it to be cumbersome when walking around a classroom with a long cable attached to the TV. Also, the adapter and cable give the iPad added weight at the bottom that makes it difficult to carry. There is also a legitimate hazard of tripping over the cable. It is the easiest solution, but at $50 the simplicity doesn’t justify the purchase price.
  • Apple TV – We really like the Apple TV. We found it to be the most consistent of the wireless options. In our wireless configuration there is a little work that has to be done for teachers to only see Apple TVs that reside on their campus, but it’s not too intensive. We also thought from an instructional value utilizing the Photo Stream would be a neat feature. Teachers could display a variety of things: vocabulary words, student projects, messages, etc. Utilizing Photo Stream gives the teacher their own digital signage. You could do this with a PC, but that would take work, this doesn’t. Lastly, we think Apple TV is the most future proof of the wireless solutions.
  • AirServer – We loved the cost of AirServer. At $3.99 for a desktop license, you aren’t going to get a better value. In our testing AirServer performed well. There were minor glitches, but overall it did the job. The downside to using a solution like this is the major undertaking of re-configuring our network. By installing AirServer on our desktop machines we would have to restructure our VLANs to make desktops available on our wireless network and at the same time filter Airplay from seeing 450 desktop machines at one time. It can be done, but in a larger network like ours this is no small task. If wireless providers like Cisco and Areohive can improve the functionality of their Bonjour Gateways it would undoubtedly help in a large scale deployment. For a smaller district I think this would be an ideal solution (less VLANs to manage), or if you are just strapped for cash this might be worth your time. Another neat feature of AirServer is the ability to mirror multiple iPads onto your projector/TV. There are a quite a few instructional uses within this function.
  • Reflector – Reflector functions similarly to AirServer, but we found more inconsistency in performance. Video almost never played well in our tests and audio didn’t pass through all that great either. Reflector is also double the price of AirServer and I don’t think you get double the cost of added features.

Final Decision

When it came to making a final decision we decided Apple TV was the solution that best fit our needs. Apple TV gave us the best end user experience. When adding technology to a classroom we want to make the experience as seamless as possible for the teacher and student. We liked that through Apple Configurator we could set up the Apple TVs to only connect to our enterprise wireless, which, for a variety of reasons is beneficial (more on how to do this coming in another post).
We also think the Photo Stream feature is a great value. After testing the solution out in the classroom teachers were excited about the possibility of having their own digital signage in their classroom. None of the other solutions can utilize Photo Stream. Cost is the major issue with the Apple TV, but right now we have the funds to make the purchases and we feel that this is the best instructional option. Instruction leads the decision and Apple TV is the winner in our environment.

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