One of the early parts of our iPad journey was figuring out our solution to sharing the iPad screen with classes, given that we are a long, long way from being one-to-one. When we purchased our initial devices, we were still using County internet with their horrendous proxy settings. We were having multiple issues trying to move forward, but were in the process of moving to a new ISP and therefore having more freedom to choose solutions that worked for us. The switchover to the new ISP didn’t happen until December, so that was more than six months of using devices before we had more options.
Ideally, we would have moved straight into using Apple TV. Unfortunately this wasn’t an option to us due to the proxy settings on our internet connection. We decided to go with Reflector, which is both cheap and seemingly easy to use. We were hopeful that this would be a permanent solution, but it hasn’t worked out that way. When it works, it’s fantastic. It’s very easy to use, in that you simply install it on the machine that’s hooked up to the projector, open it, and then use Airplay to choose the computer to mirror from on your iPad.
We have experienced a couple of problems with it. Firstly, we haven’t been able to install it across our network, meaning that we’ve had to install it individually on each machine that we want to use it with. That means the user has to log in locally to the machine, which means either wasting learning time switching between the network log in and local, or mapping things like SIMS to the local log in and teaching staff how to access their network drives etc. This has become even more problematic since switching to our new ISP, as logging in locally doesn’t identify the user on the network, and there are much stricter internet filters in place if that’s the case. We’ve been informed by the company who produce Reflector that this is something they’re planning to rectify in a future update.
We also had issues with Reflector which may or may not have been related to the iOS 7 update. Several of us suddenly had issues with lag. When you first mirror the iPad, things work well. Over time, however, the lag gets worse and worse – the point where I was demonstrating something a student had written in their book (using Stage as a document camera), leaving the iPad where it was and five or six minutes later having my hand magically appear on screen. There was also an issue with the resolution. The iPad screen was suddenly appearing much smaller on the IWB than it had previously. With no help available from the company on this issue, we fiddled around with it until we found a solution. The resolution on my desktop machine is now fit for use by someone with around 75% vision loss! Luckily for me, the machine linked to the projector is not the one I rely on for day to day use. I’d go mad if it was, or would be spending much of my time switching resolutions in the middle of lessons.
Finally, we have issues with it dropping out. There are times when I want to leave something on the iPad on the IWB for students to view throughout a lesson. After a period of time, the connection to Reflector would drop out. Sometimes I am able to mirror the iPad straight away, sometimes I have to close and reopen Reflector on the desktop machine, and sometimes I even had to reboot the iPad or PC in order to get the connection back. It can be very frustrating.
Having said all that, for $10US per licence (we bought 20, so it was slightly cheaper than a single copy), it serves its purpose. It’s certainly a better solution than those who are unfortunate to be using them in rooms without a Wifi connection – they have a lightning to VGA connector that is approximately 3 inches long, so whilst they have a decent mirroring option, they are tethered to their projector cable and lose the portability access of the iPad.
The other useful app that I regularly use is Splashtop. It does the reverse to Reflector, in that it is remote access for your PC via your iPad. This is particularly useful when the machine hooked up to your projector is not is a position that is where you want to be teaching from. Your device and machine need to be on the same network to use it, so unfortunately it doesn’t provide remote access from home to school. You need to install Splashtop Streamer (which is free) onto the PC that you want to access. Thankfully for us, this is then accessible when logged in both locally and on the network. You then open the app on your iPad and connect to the appropriate computer. It’s useful to set this up with passwords so that you don’t have other people (especially students) logging on to your machine. Splashtop is £4.99 in the App Store, and £2.49 if purchased through the Volume Purchasing Programme (which requires a minimum of 20 copies). It has appeared from time to time in the Apps Gone Free list as well.
These are certainly not the only options for screen sharing available, but they’ve (mostly) worked for us. Hopefully our future includes the purchase of Apple TV for a more stable option.