There are several ways to mirror your iPad screen to the digital whiteboard and all of them have their pros and cons. First, they can be wired or wireless. Personally, in the classroom I always mirror my iPad wirelessly as it allows me to stand and move around the classroom. Technology should be helping you in the teaching process and having to stay on your desk because the iPad is wired to the projector somehow is not different from using a computer, you lose some of the advantages that brings you an iPad. At the end of the page I explain the differences between these two main options.
Lightning to VGA/HDMI
This is the old classic option that personally I never use, but it’s there if you want to. You need to buy an expensive Apple lightning to VGA/HDMI adapter or get a cheap third party one online, which I don’t recommend because will probably end up failing after some months of use.
Usually you would use this option when there is a wall socket that goes to the projector of the classroom. Then you use a 2m cable with the adapter you bought and the iPad. Apart from the disadvantage of your iPad being tied to a cable it will sometimes mean having to buy both VGA and HDMI adapters (projectors installed in different classrooms could use different video connections).
What your students see in the whiteboard will be exactly what you see on your iPad, and this could not be ideal sometimes if you want some distracting parts to be hidden to them, something you can do in specific apps (more later).
If you own a Mac or there is one in the classroom connected already to the projector you can connect your iPad to it with a USB cable. Once you do this the iPad will ask you if you trust the computer. Then open Quicktime in the Mac and click on ‘New Movie Recording’ and then click on the little arrow right to the record button and select your iPad as camera. You don’t actually need to click record, and the iPad screen will be visible in Quicktime ready to show on the digital whiteboard.
All wireless options use Apple protocol Airplay which allows to send what you are seeing on your iPad to a compatible device.
Mirror with AirPlay: Just slide your finger down from the top right corner of the iPad, click Screen Mirroring and select the compatible device. The compatible device can be an Apple TV or a computer.
This is the ideal solution. There is an Apple TV connected to the projector or even to the digital whiteboard (if it has an HDMI input) and there is no need to use a computer. Mirror with Airplay and the Apple TV should appear, click on it and that’s all. Apple TV is always listening in a kind of stand by mode so don’t need to be turning it on and off every time.
Computer as an Apple TV
An Apple TV is not cheap, and having one in every classroom is off the budget to most of schools. So, what if we could use the computer we already have in the classroom connected to the digital whiteboard as an Apple TV? It turns out this is possible using a piece of software that you install on the computer. There are several: Airserver (this is the one I use on my MacBook Pro), Reflector, Mirage, Lonely Screen are the most known, all available for Windows and MacOS computers. They are all paid, but at a fraction of the cost of an Apple TV and affordable to a school.
The process is the same as with Apple TV: Mirror with Airplay your iPad and this time the name of the computer will be listed to select instead of ‘Apple TV’. These apps will also work if you connect the iPad to the computer through a USB cable in case you need this; if you are running low of battery or don’t have quicktime installed in the computer if it’s a PC.
Also, in case there is no WiFi network available, you can pair them both using bluetooth. I’ve tried this and it works but the lag between the iPad and my MacBook Pro was so long that it wasn’t practical to use in the classroom.
These options allow you to mirror the iPad multiple times at a time and they are useful in specific environments. Instead of duplicating your iPad to the digital whiteboard, the next two options create a link where any viewer can see the document you have opened in your iPad.
This iPad app allows you to share a live view of a PDF through a link with up to 50 students. Students just open a temporary URL with the computer internet browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari…) where they will be able to see live what you are seeing on the iPad.
Keynote is to Apple like Powerpoint is to Windows and it’s free to download. Once you have a keynote presentation on your iPad just clicking on Keynote Live will create a temporary link where anyone with a computer can see your presentation live, as you go through it.
I have used both options teaching IT in secondary because it’s the perfect environment as the students have a computer each so it’s easier for them to read whatever I’m showing them on their screens than having to turn their heads back and forth between the digital whiteboard and their computers.
Differences between wired and wireless mirroring
As a whole teaching experience I’ll say that wireless mirroring is clearly the winner, but it means a bit of give and take.
- Mobility: this is obvious, wireless mirroring allows you to move around the classroom, or anywhere in the school where the WiFi signal reaches.
- Battery: battery drains a lot more quickly with wireless mirroring, as the iPad is sending video data continuously through the air to the nearest access point of the network. When you plug your iPad with a USB cable to the computer data flows quicker and the iPad gets charged at the same time.
- WiFi network: all the wireless options (except if you use bluetooth) require a WiFi network available. On the other hand you don’t need it if you are using USB or VGA/HDMI. This is the biggest caveat of wireless mirroring, although with some preparation could be avoided (*).
- Image quality: there is almost no perceptible difference.
- Lag: this is the most noticeable difference of all. While wired mirroring involves practically zero lag, wireless signal between the iPad and the whiteboard can get extremely delayed under some circumstances, and most of them there is nothing you can do. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if you have the latest iPad or the most powerful computer or an Apple TV 4k, if the network is slow there will be a lag. WiFi networks are by itself very fast, however if there is a lot of traffic: for example every classroom is using AirPlay at the same time congesting the network with lots of data, or if the WiFi signal is very low in your classroom, lag can get to several seconds. This is not good, it would be like writing on a blackboard with chalk and having to wait a few seconds for your writing to reveal itself.
(*) If it’s essential for you to go wireless and either the lag is too long on the available WiFi or there is no WiFi where you are going to teach, you can create your own WiFi network.