At the beginning of every school year, each person on our staff has to put together three personal goals for the year. The goals need to be a way for you to stretch yourself professionally and accomplish certain tasks. One of the projects I put on my goals for this year was to overhaul our classroom AV setup. Right now, teachers have projectors on portable carts. Our building is 80+ years old (full of concrete), so running ceiling mounted projectors is a labor-intensive project as additional power outlets need to be installed for each classroom. I also then have to consider the cost of projector maintenance, running AV cables back to the proper location, and difficulty of upgrades in the future.
I know some schools have been using Apple TVs, but I’ve been hesitant because it always felt like complete overkill because we’d just use it for AirPlay functionality in the classroom. When you figure in the cost of an Apple TV ($149), it adds significant cost to the overall setup. Now, after reading the Apple news from CES, my plans for the future have changed.
About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
During CES, a number of TV manufacturers (LG, Sony, and Vizio) all announced upcoming support for AirPlay 2 functionality, Siri, and iTunes content. This news was a shock to me as I never considered Apple expanding its software and networking protocols outside of Apple TV. Once this news hit, a light bulb went off in my head. A TV with AirPlay 2 is the perfect solution for the classroom, and here’s why.
After hearing the news, I began to go to work thinking through what this would look like in our environment. Instead of having to buy TVs/projectors and Apple TVs just to get AirPlay 2 support, we can simply buy one of the supported TVs (probably 50″ or above). It’ll be one cable to plug in (power) and teachers and students will be able to wirelessly share content to the entire class without much fuss.
For our needs, the Apple TV was a $149 AirPlay receiver. With these new TVs, we will have a simple setup that is easy to deploy, operate, and maintain. It’ll lower my costs, and I hope lower my complexity as I’ll have one less box to deal with for each room.
One question I have is around the functionality around AirPlay 2 with these TVs. Will they have the same security settings as the Apple TV running tvOS? Will I be able to give the display a custom name? Will I be able to lock it down with a specific passcode (or have it display one at random?) What will the quality of the Wi-Fi chip be? Will it work without being connected to Wi-Fi (tvOS supports a direct connection) and require the device to be physically near it?
These are all things that I’ll be looking into as I build a proposal for the future, but right now, a TV in every classroom with built-in AirPlay 2 looks to be where I am headed.