Is the Apple TV the best companion for eLearning? Do we, the Apple die-hard fans, blindly consider everything from Apple is cool?
With the challenge from Samsung Android smartphones, is Apple done and losing its cool factor?
My observation and hands-on of Apple iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone has already won my heart fast over the Androids in terms of the apps for education. I have firm belief that there are equally good educational apps on both iOS and Android. At the moment there are over 20,000 iOS apps listed for all kinds of learners whereas for Android, there are over 40,000 according to this source. But the advantage of iOS is its uniformity of the screen dimensions of the devices. For Android, some apps are unable to be installed on certain devices because of various dimensions and design. It is not surprising that in the case of iOS, many apps designed for iPad may not be used on iPhone too. The growing truth is that for learning, the iPad or Android tablets are more appropriate because of the bigger screen size.
Then there is a question of how to share the content of your device to the others, technically it is called mirroring. If you are a teacher or instructor, you want to share something instantly to a bigger screen like writing on a whiteboard viewed by all of the participants. This is crucial in student engagement. Tools like Reflector and Air Server are possible solutions as mentioned in this post by Greg Swanson to replace the electronic smart board. The four solutions: HDMI adaptor, Apple TV, Reflector and AirServer are capable of mirroring the content on your device to the screen. I wish to add the fifth solution if you want to connect to an external monitor through the more conventional VGA adapter but I have not yet confirmed this works. I can only confirm that the old VGA adapter for iPad 2 or 3rd generation does not work through the lightning to 30 pin adapter. Sadly I knew this after I have purchased the old VGA adapter in a bid it works for both the older iPad and the iPad 4. According to the guy I met in the Apple Store, I need to buy a Lightning to VGA adapter for the iPad 4. At the end I decided to try connecting all my iOS devices on an Apple TV. For the time being I do not expect there is a simple device which connects cross-platforms for iOS and Androids.
At the beginning I thought the Apple TV by name is only a device which connects your Apple devices and displays the contents of your iTunes library on your Smart TV. This is probably true. I have not been a frequent visitor of iTunes Store and my purchase history of music, TV shows and movies is almost zero. So last year when Apple had the annual discount sale, I missed a chance to buy this product to wait and see how it goes.
My next question is that I do not have a Smart TV and my aged Panasonic Viera LCD TV is too old for connecting gadgets. Surprisingly the Apple TV has no trouble to be set up by using a HDMI cable. By the time I discovered there was a simple manual at the bottom of the box, I have already completed the process on the screen of my LCD TV. By using AirPlay, I mirror the screen of my iPad through my home WiFi to the TV and I can also select what videos to show if there is an AirPlay icon available next to them.
In theory the Apple TV is very effective if you want to make use of this small box in the classroom connecting all iOS devices using the same WiFi channel (that is why it works so well at home). The pros are that you only need to bring this small Apple TV and set it up with active WiFi. Your students can show what is on the screen of their iOS device to the TV. But of course the cons are that it is for iOS only and you have to think of the solution for Androids users. For cross platform, the apps called AirServer or Reflector may be the solution. From the product comparison page of AirServer, it does have some advantages over Apple TV. Both AirServer and Reflector provides a commercial license for school or business that costs cheaper. I have seen the demonstration of both and they worked very similarly but occasionally there were some delays due to the WiFi connection.
But in terms of simplicity in a learning environment, there is nothing that beats the Apple TV.