An Educator’s Guide to AirPlay on iPads and Macs

Image courtesy of Apple.com

Image courtesy of Apple.com

What is AirPlay?

AirPlay is a technology that Apple baked into their more recent devices to allow them to wirelessly mirror the content of one screen to another. This content can be music, movies, or other multimedia content. A teacher, for instance, can use AirPlay to wirelessly present their lesson to a class or demonstrate an app, while students could use it to share their work with their peers.

What devices can AirPlay?

  • iPad 2, iPad3, iPad 4, the iPad Mini, and the iPad Air
  • iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and the iPhone 5s
  • iPod Touch (5th Generation)
  • iMac (Mid 2011 or newer), Mac mini (Mid 2011 or newer), MacBook Air (Mid 2011 or newer), and MacBook Pro (Early 2011 or newer)
  • iOS devices need to be running iOS 4.3 or newer
  • OS X devices need to be running OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)

How to Set Up AirPlay

In order for your device to be able to take advantage of AirPlay, it needs to be able to connect to an AirPlay enabled device. The default Apple device is the Apple TV. Connect this to your projector via HDMI (or use the Kanex ATV Pro if you have a VGA projector).

For a cheaper option, you can turn an existing laptop or desktop computer into an AirPlay device by installing the Reflector or AirServer app. There are version for Mac and Windows computers. Once installed, run the program and connect the computer running the software to an LCD projector.

Reflector vs. AirServer

Reflector (or Reflection as it was previously known) was essentially the first desktop app for turning your computer into an AirPlay receiver. AirServer is a licensed version of Reflector, so essentially they are pretty much the same. However, AirServer does offer educational discounts for schools, so this may help keep costs down. I’ve also found that the developer for AirServer is very receptive to new feature requests that can improve the classroom experience.

AirServer app

Connecting to Airplay on an iPad

1. Before you attempt to mirror your iPad’s screen, you need to first ensure that your iPad, and the AirPlay device you are connecting to (Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer) are on the same WiFi network. If they are not, the devices will not “see” each other.

2. Next, Swipe up from the bottom bezel on your iPad to reveal the new iOS 7 Control Center, (see image below).

3. Tap the AirPlay button, (the rectangle with a triangle on it) and select the device you want to connect to – the Apple TV or the computer running Reflector or AirServer. Turn Mirroring on to send the image of your screen to the projector.

4. Press the home button to close the Control Center, and bask in the glory of your wireless media connection! :)

AirPlay

Connecting to AirPlay on a Mac

1. Again, before you attempt to mirror your Mac’s screen, you need to first ensure that your iPad, and the AirPlay device you are connecting to (Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer) are on the same WiFi network. If not, the devices will not “see” each other.

2. Look for the AirPlay symbol in the menu bar at the top of your screen, (next to the WiFi indicator, date and volume icon)

3. Click the AirPlay button, and select the device you want to connect to – an Apple TV or a computer running Reflector or AirServer.

4. Your Mac should automatically connect to the AirPlay device, and you can bask in the glory of your wireless media connection! :)

Connect to AirPlay Mac

Password Protecting Your AirPlay Connection

Regardless of whether you use an Apple TV, Reflector, or AirServer, it is important to be aware of your option to protect your AirPlay connection with a password. After all, you won’t necessarily want someone connecting to your AirPlay whenever they feel like it. On the Apple TV you go to Settings > AirPlay > Set Passcode. The passcode is great if you have just one class, but if your students leave for another class, they can still hijack your AirPlay if you have previously shared a password with them in order that they too can AirPlay.

You could change the passcode every lesson, but this would be a pain, so I recommend going to Settings > AirPlay > Onscreen code. This adds an onscreen code so that you can only AirPlay to this connection if you can see the onscreen code, (ie. you are in that classroom). If you are using Reflector, you can also set a passcode. If you are using AirServer, you have the same options as with an Apple TV – a passcode or onscreen code.

Recording your AirPlay Connection

Ever seen those YouTube tutorials of people demonstrating iPad apps and wonder how they did it? Well, the chances are high that they used some kind of AirPlay connection and recorded it with a basic screencasting tool. Apple included screencasting options for Mac users in Quicktime X (10). Simply open the app and go to File > New Screen Recording. MakeUseOf has a nice tutorial on how to make a great screencast with Quicktime X. Don’t have a Mac? Try Screenr.com or Screencastomatic.com and you can quickly flip your classroom for free.

Troubleshooting AirPlay Connections

If you are having trouble with your AirPlay connection, consider the following:

  1. A successful AirPlay connection requires that you have both devices on the same WiFi network. If there is more than one network to connect to in your school, this could be an issue. 
  2. Firewalls can block an AirPlay connection, and some networks are configured to limit certain outgoing connections, so check with the Technology Director to see if he or she can check that for you.
  3. Make sure that all your AirPlay devices and software are updated to the latest version. This will give you the best stability across your devices.
  4. Speaking of stability, if your WiFi network is slow, or prone to going down unexpectedly, AirPlay will not work well. A strong and consistent WiFi network is required for reliable AirPlay connections.

Resources

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50 thoughts on “An Educator’s Guide to AirPlay on iPads and Macs

  1. We bought Reflector licenses for each of our teachers. The staff at Reflector has been incredibly helpful and always responds quickly to any concerns we have. They also offer discounts when buying more than 20 licenses ($8 instead of $15 or $10). They have a great online presence and often check twitter and blogs for issues their customers are having. Thanks for the airplay guide!

    • Good information to know. I myself use AirServer, but I know a lot of people who like Reflector just as much. Both apps are great and I would not hesitate to recommend either to teachers looking to AirPlay in the classroom.

  2. This is a great tutorial. I plan to refer our teachers to it as they add iPads and Reflector App to their classrooms. Thank you for saving me time by creating an awesome tutorial.

  3. When I use Airplay with Apple TV and my iPad2 the default first screen seems to be iTunes Movies. This is very distracting to my students. Does anyone know of a way around this?

    • Hi Bret. Right now, I don’t know of a way around this, but maybe someone else does. Unfortunately, the Apple TV was designed for consumers and their living rooms, and not teachers and their classrooms! :) Maybe one day, Apple will give us an education version!

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