Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apple TV ... now in the Elementary Music Room

About one week ago, I was teaching a fourth grade class and this tremendous BANG came from my ceiling.  It was the bulb inside my (very) old projector, and the projector was beyond repair.  This projector was so old that even a Kanex ATV adapter would not work, meaning there was no hope of Apple TV in my elementary classroom, where I spend 80% of my time.

But not any more.
Having installed Apple TV in my middle school choir room last year, I knew exactly what equipment I needed.  After some quick budget wheeling-and-dealing, I had a new HDMI projector installed in two days.  I ordered the cables from monoprice, and within one week, everything was installed and running perfectly!  I now have the first elementary classroom in our district equipped with Apple TV.

Equipment list:
• Mitsubishi EX240U Projector - our librarian found this projector for the middle school choir room last year, and it works really well.  HDMI input, 2 VGA inputs, RCA video input.  Easy to switch inputs with remote control on the fly and a magnify button on the remote that you will need to enlarge the Apple TV image.  $450.  Not cheap, but I'm sure prices will be coming down for HDMI projectors.
Apple TV - $99

Cables and optional equipment:
• Long HDMI cable.  Apple TV does not include an HDMI cable.  I purchased a 30' HDMI cable from monoprice for about $25.  You need to think about placement of Apple TV box.  You probably only have one or two outlets on your ceiling for the projector.  Your Apple TV box also needs to be line-of-sight with its remote control.
Apple TV (left), Audio Converter box (center), and
Smart Audio system (right)
• Audio converter box - I have used this converter twice now and it works great for $20. Normally, the audio follows the HDMI cable to the speaker in the projector.  If you want decent quality audio, then you want something like this so you can send the audio to the sound system most music teachers already have in their room.  But you need a converter box because Apple chooses to use an "optical audio" (toslink) port on the Apple TV.  The converter changes that to dual-RCA.  Now I send the video to the projector and the audio to a sound system.  If decent-quality audio is not important to you, you would not need this.
• If you use a converter box, you will need a toslink cable to connect the Apple TV to the audio converter box and RCA cables to go from the converter box to your sound system.

Some notes:
2 student iPads
• I am a 3-iPad classroom (currently).  I have two student iPads plus my personal iPad.  I don't think there is a "critical mass" for iPads in the classroom.  A single iPad can make a difference if used effectively.  But having the two student iPads has really opened up a new world of possibilities for learning.  And now, adding the Apple TV to those three iPads makes the iPads "communal mobile devices" because the projected iPad is no longer just one person's learning.

Wireless microphones
for Smart Audio system
• I already had a Smart Audio system in my classroom.  The Smart Audio system combines many functions that a music room needs into one small package.  It has four nice, ceiling mounted speakers.  The box functions as both a mixer and a wireless receiver with four inputs - a handheld wireless, a lanyard-worn wireless, plus two more RCA inputs.  I put an RCA to 1/8" jack on one of those inputs so I can plug in my laptop.  Now, the fourth input receives the sound from the Apple TV.  (My Smart Audio system is an older version from Smarttech.  It appears the new version has the same features but with only one microphone and is designed to replace traditional PA systems in a building.)  It may not be a "glitzy" tech tool, but it does get the job done well.
Smart Audio system from Smarttech (old version) with the Apple TV on top

• The ooh's and aah's from the students when they realized you could write on my iPad and have it show up on the screen wirelessly were reminiscent of the first time we used a Smartboard.  Nice to have those magical moments once in awhile.

• Yes, I am projecting onto my Smartboard.  I have no reason to remove the Smartboard.  I created so many Smartboard lessons in the past few years that are really valuable.  I do wish I could have a larger projected image, but 30 students gathered around the Smartboard can see clearly enough.
The command center