Using the iPad with a Projector


A surprising number of faculty members at our institution own iPads.  I know, because I recently had the opportunity to present a short iPad Ed workshop which was well attended, and I asked.  As I say, a surprising number of hands went up.  Part of the workshop was what I intended to be a brief discussion of using Apple TV to wirelessly project in the classroom, but the discussion was not so brief because there was a great deal of interest in the iPad and projection technology.  Thus, this post, on the various ways to use the iPad with a classroom projector, both wired and wirelessly.

In the discussion below, I will be referring to the iPad 2 and new iPad (commonly called iPad 3 or third generation iPad).  The products and technologies discussed will generally not work, or not work completely, with the original iPad.  There are also some rare apps (that I have read about, but not actually seen) that simply will not output video, and these will also not work with the solutions outlined below, though I have tested many apps and could not find one that would not output video.  I did my testing with the Hitachi CP-X3015WN projector, except in a couple cases where I tested on one of our older EIKI projectors.

Apple TV

My favorite projection solution, because of its elegance and simplicity, is to connect an Apple TV device, via an HDMI cable, to the HDMI port on the room projector, and then connect the iPad wirelessly to the Apple TV device via Airplay mirroring.  Problem solved.  The lecturer is free to roam around and room, displaying through the projector anything that appears on the screen of the iPad, including hand written annotations in apps that accept them (like Educreations or Explain Everything, which can even be recorded at the time of the lecture).

 AppleTV Diagram

 Here are the particulars:

  1. The iPad and the AppleTV device (a 4″ hockey puck with an HDMI out port) must be connected to the same wireless network.
  2. The wireless network MUST be multicast enabled.
  3. The AppleTV must be connected to the projector’s HDMI port by an HDMI cable.
  4. AirPlay must be enabled on the AppleTV.
  5. The iPad must connect to the AppleTV via AirPlay and AirPlay mirroring must be enabled on the iPad.
  6. The projector must be in HDMI mode.

Here are some things to know about the implementation, in general and at our college in particular:

  1. At our college, the open, publicly accessible wireless network, called “InternetOnly” is multicast enabled, so wherever wireless networking is possible this projection solution is also possible.
  2. The cost of the AppleTV device is $99.  The cost of an HDMI cable is around $20.  I used an in-wall 40-foot CL3 HDMI cable for our two library classroom labs, and a 25-foot external CL2 HDMI cable for our faculty lab.  Both have worked well.
  3. The real “gotcha” with this solution is that almost all of the projectors on our campus DO NOT HAVE HDMI ports.  The newer projectors do have a single HDMI port.  I used the Hitachi CP-X3015WN in my tests—but wonder why they only have a single HDMI port when multiple ports would be more useful.  They also have lots of other nearly useless legacy ports, but that is another issue. Since most of our projectors do not have HDMI ports, one of the solutions mentioned below will be apt for most users.
  4. Since most of our projectors do not not have HDMI, you may be tempted by one of those HDMI to composite/S-Video converters.  We actually tested one, but the quality of the projected image, at least using our standard EIKI projector, was, in our opinion, completely unacceptable.  We cannot recommend using such an adapter.
  5. When setting up the AppleTV, be sure to password protect the session (General > AirPlay > Set Password).  The security on the AppleTV devices is clearly intended only for the home market.  You do not even need to know the password to change the password.  All you need is an AppleTV remote.  Nonetheless, a simple password protected session should be sufficient for most academic purposes.

One of the really nice features of this solution is that anyone with an iPad can mirror their screen to the projector, not just the professor, provided they know the password on the AppleTV device (professors will ponder the significance of changing the password if they use this feature).

Another nice feature with this configuration is that it lets you bypass the classroom computer entirley, so you can have a separation presentation set up on the classroom computer, and quickly switch back and forth between the iPad screen and the computer screen by simply selecting inputs on the projector.

The image quality is excellent, but will be as large as the scaling in effect on your projector, and this will vary by projector.  When playing video (and this solution had no trouble with HD 30fps video) the video expands to fill the screen.  Video motion is smooth and colors are true.  Video, however, will play only through the projector and will not be mirrored to the screen of the iPad.

Apple VGA Adapter

For those with a projector that does not support HDMI, a simpler solution may be to purchase the Apple VGA Adapter ($29 plus tax).  The down side of this solution is that you are tethered to the projector, and cannot walk around as you present.

Since most of our classrooms are equipped with a second VGA input to the projector (that blue, 15-pin D-shell adapter lying about on the lectern or podium) it can be plugged into the VGA Adapter and by simply changing from computer 1 to computer 2 on the projector input the instructor can project from the iPad.  (Once again, be sure to use an iPad 2 or 3, not the original iPad with this solution.  There are serious limitations to the VGA adapter and the original iPad).  This solution also has the disadvantage of not being shareable, if you want your audience to share what is on their iPad screens.  It also has the disadvantage of not carrying audio.  You need a separate audio cable (and only some of our classrooms have an extra audio cable, which would plug in to the iPad’s audio out earphone jack).

Apple also makes an HDMI Digital Adapter ($29 plus tax), but since most of our projectors do not have HDMI ports it hardly matters.  Furthermore, if you do have an HDMI port on your projector, the AppleTV solution seems far superior to me.

VGA Adapter

Screen mirroring and video display fine through the VGA adapter.

Reflector and AirServer

Note:  The app mentioned in this section called “Reflection” has changed its name to “Reflector” and the web site is now at

A software-based solution may be the best for most users, considering the vintage of our projectors and classroom computers.  It is cheaper and easier to implement by far than the Apple TV solution, and allows for untethered presentation, giving it a leg up over the VGA adapter solution.  There are a couple of screen resolution and bandwidth issues to be aware of related to video quality, but overall this is an excellent, inexpensive solution.  Here are the details.

Reflector ($14.95 downloadable software, with discounts for bulk purchases) and AirServer ($14.99 for Mac, $7.99 for PC with bulk discounts) are software AirPlay emulators, allowing PC or Mac workstations to act as the AirPlay host for the iPad.  In other words, once these client programs are installed, you can mirror your iPad 2 or 3 (or iPhone 4S) to your PC or Mac.  Then, provided the PC or Mac is wired to the classroom projector via VGA and audio cables, mirror your iPad screen through the room projector.

Reflection Connection

Of the two products, I much prefer Reflector because it has screen recording functionality.  That’s right.  Not only can you display your iPad screen while remaining untethered from the projector, but you can record it too on the host workstation.  It is important to realize, however, that the audio recorded is the system audio.  That is, you cannot record voice over audio while displaying.  But, of course you could if you captured the workstation screen in a program like Camtasia while presenting.  We have tested this and it works fine.

Here are some considerations to be aware of:

  1. Reflector requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 or above, or Windows XP or above.
  2. AirServer runs on a Mac running OS X Tiger / Leopard / Snow Leopard / Lion / Mountain Lion (Intel/PPC) or a PC running Windows 7 or Vista.
  3. Reflection screen recording requires Windows 7.
  4. Windows Firewall must be set to allow AirPlay connections.  This should occur automatically during PC installation, but if not, it is easy to setup manually.
  5. Your iPad 2 or 3 and your classroom workstation must be on the same wireless network.  This could be an issue, because many of the older classroom workstations on campus are not equipped with wireless connectivity, though they could be with the addition of an inexpensive USB wireless dongle.  This should be a minimal issue if the professor is providing her/his own laptop because laptops are likely to have built-in wireless adapters.
  6. Full-screen 1080p video can cause Reflection to stutter.  If you have problems mirroring full-screen video, lower the workstation screen resolution (to 1280 x 720, for example) and try again.  I got mixed results in my tests.
  7. Activation with AirServer was a bit funky, requiring registering an email address when you make the purchase.  Activation with Reflection was more standard, with a license key being issued once the purchase was made.
  8. Both Reflector and AirServer allow for free trials.  Reflection for 10 minutes (though as many 10-minute sessions as you want); AirServer for 7 days.

Both worked extremely well in displaying mirrored app and video content through a typical classroom projector.

The Hitachi USB Dongle

Just to be complete, I read the manual that came with my new Hitachi projectors and learned that there is a wireless dongle that can be purchased (about $100) for the CP-X3015WN (and several other) projectors.  I thought this might be a solution for wireless broadcast to the projector, but on testing it turned out to use such low bandwidth, and reset the client workstation to such a basic color depth, that it proved to be useless.  Transmissions through the dongle were very slow and delayed, with audio echoing after a notable delay after it plays on the workstation and video being unwatchable.

I also found a new iPad app that purportedly connects Hitachi projectors to iPads for wireless transmission, but could not find supporting documentation other than a single web site in Japanese.  The app is available through the app store and is called Projector Quick Connection, or PJ Connection, Unfortunately even though my projector was listed as being supported, and the app could see the projector, it could not connect to it after repeated tries.  Chalk it up to not ready for prime time.  This app might be worth watching over time, however, unless it’s performance is as bad as the Hitachi wireless dongle.


Instapaper iconNear the top of my essential apps list (and I’m using this in the broadest sense of applications that run on PC and Mac OS X platforms, the iPad and iPhone) is Instapaper.

What is Instapaper?  It is a free app/service for web browsers ($4.99 for iPad/iPhone) that allows you to send the text of whatever web page, blog post, e-newspaper article, e-whatever to a server, where it is stored until you want to read it later.  The ads are stripped out, though it preserves article graphics, and it is reformatted beautifully.

To use Instapaper create an account at, install the Read it later link in your browser and in Safari on your iPad or iPhone (the installation of the bookmark on these platforms is a little arcane, but the instapaper help files do a good job of walking you through it) and then just click Read it later… to save the article to your Instapaper account.  Later on you simply login to your Instapaper account and read the articles you did not have time or the inclination to read.  You can also add the Instapaper send features to Google Reader and even connect your articles at Instapaper to your Kindle for consumption.

Consuming Instapaper content in your browser amounts to little more than revisiting the site where the article resides, but on the iPad it is spectacular.  The text is download and reflowed for beautiful formatting, and built-in controls allow for font family, size, spacing, margins spacing, and brightness controls.  Links within articles are preserved, and articles can be marked as favorites, deleted, shared or printed.  From your master list of articles you are allowed to create folders in which to organize them, archive them, or disseminate them to your friends or social sharing services.

Instapaper Font Controls

You often hear people say “I didn’t have time to read it…” when what they really mean is that among the thousands of articles and information sources we are exposed to in our daily lives on the Internet they were not willing to commit the time to read something  long or the least bit complex because it would have robbed them of time to read the remainder of the wide array of materials they need to get through.  Instapaper solves this problem by making these longer form, more complex articles available later.  You will still hear people say that they didn’t have time, but we all have the same amount of time.  Bringing your attention to bear on what you need to read when you do have the time is the key, and that’s where Instapaper comes in.  It allows you to read on your iPad, phone or laptop while standing in lines, in lobbies, on buses, trains, wherever.  It expands your time horizon, to put it grandly.

To store resources for a research project I would not recommend Instapaper.  I would recommend Evernote and Zotero.  But for managing the vast amounts of reading we must do each day, Instapaper is great.

Win Key Taskbar Shortcut

Does the arrangement of the icons on your Windows 7 taskbar matter?  It does if you want to use a really nifty keyboard shortcut.

If you arrange the icons on your taskbar so that the first 10 are the programs you use most frequently, you can launch the programs by holding down the Win key and pressing the numbers 1-0, corresponding to the position on the taskbar of the programs’ icons.

The win key is the one the lower left of your keyboard with the little Windows flag icon on it and (maybe) the word “Start”—press it alone and it should bring up the Start menu.


Holding down Win and pressing 1, as in the illustration above, will invoke the first program on the taskbar.

Here are the first 10 icons on my taskbar.  They are the programs I use every day, multiple times per day.

By holding down the Win key and pressing 1 I can invoke the Windows Control Panel—you wouldn’t think I would have to resort to the control panel as often as I do, so maybe I’m not that typical, but perhaps not—Win + 2 will invoke the Windows Explorer, Win + 3 will invoke the Calculator, and so on.  Win + 0 will invoke the tenth program on the list, in my case Expression Web 4.  You can rearrange your icons as you wish by simply dragging them around the taskbar (but I think most of us have 10 programs we use constantly and do not WANT to rearrange them).  Once you get used to it, you’ll be launching your commonly used programs this way,and it will become a natural part of your workflow.

Using Checkboxes to Select Files with Windows 7

Each semester I have the opportunity to present a workshop called “Basic Computer Basic Basics.”  I should have called it “Elementary Basic Computer Basic Basics for Novices for Dummies 101.”  You get the idea.  It is a workshop that covers the basics.  Actually, what happens is that computer beginners never come to this workshop.  At the college level I don’t think there are any computer beginners.  The people who come are those who wish they had asked certain critical questions early on, but didn’t, and now it is too late.  Those are the ones who are the intended audience for the workshop.  What actually gets covered in this workshop is not all basic basics.  I’ve noticed with computers it goes like: 1.  This is a keyboard; 2,,) this is the mouse; 3) this is the calculus.  Things have a way of getting very complicated very quickly.  We try to minimize this effect in the workshop, but it is had to stay basic.  In any event, here is a tip I include in that workshop that even some non-basic users appreciate.

In part of our workshop we talk about selecting files with Windows 7.  It comes as news to many that you can select a contiguous range of files by clicking on one file, holding down Shift and clicking on another.  Every file between the two clicks is selected.  You select a non-contiguous range by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on selected files.

So far, so good.  What inevitably happens, though, is that some people who attend the workshop have trouble with consistently holding down Ctrl while clicking various files.  All it takes is one slip, to deselect a group of selected files, and then you have to start all over again.  It actually takes practiced fine motor control to do this successfully.  Some people simply do not have this sort of control, or are unwilling to perfect it.

All is not lost.  With Windows 7 there is a way to select files by clicking in a check box, without the aid of the Ctrl key, to select multiple files, contiguous or non-contiguous.  In fact, it is such a useful setting that one wonders why it is not a system default.  Tradition, I suppose.  Here is how you turn it on.

Open Windows Explorer.  Click the drop-down next to Organize and choose Folder and search options.

Folder and search options in Win 7Click on the View tab, scroll all the way down, and then place a check next to “Use check boxes to select items.”  Then click OK.

Now in Windows Explorer you can click check boxes, without having to hold down Ctrl to select non-contiguous files.

In Details view (i.e., if you click the Change your view drop-down and choose Details) you will see a check box next to the Name field header.  Checking this box will select all files, or hovering over individual file names will cause a check box to appear next to it so that you can select individual files.  If you click the check box next to Name all files will be selected and then you can individually deselect any files you don’t want selected.

Name Selector in Detail ViewIf you choose one of the other views (i.e., not the Details view) you will not see the check box next to a Name field, but can achieve the same sort of functionality by selecting the top file, holding the Shift key and selecting the last file, and then, after the check boxes appear next to each file, de-selecting the ones you do not want.

Simple, elegant, and useful.

Recording Sound with Windows 7

To be sure your microphone is connected and recording sound go to the Control Panel (click the start button and type “control” in the Search box and press Enter).

On the Recording tab of the Sound dialog box be sure the microphone you want to use is selected as the default microphone. If it is not, right-click it and choose “Set as Default Device.” If you do not see it listed among the Recording devices right click the dialog box and choose “Show Disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” are both selected. If your mic was disabled be sure it is connected to the computer correctly and is enabled.

Speak into your mic to be sure it is working. You will see an audio level meter activate as and begin to register sound as you speak.

If you need to adjust audio levels, click the Properties button, click Levels, and adjust.

Sound Dialog

Zip Folders and Blackboard 9.1

Last week I discussed uploading the multiple files necessary to creating a Camtasia-produced screen video and then creating a file link to them in Blackboard 9.1.  In the course of that discussion I mentioned that you must zip the files into a compressed folder (what Blackboard calls a “package” file) before uploading them.  The procedure is simple, but just to be clear, here’s how:

How to create the ZIP folder

1.  Navigate to the folder that contains the files you wish to zip into a compressed folder.

2.  Select the files

3.  Right-click the selection and choose “Send to compressed (zipped) folder…”

Zip folder creation procedure in Windows 7

Rename the folder if desired (it will receive the name of the file you were hovering over).  It is best to give it a meaningful name for later reference.

An alternative method is to create an empty compressed zipped folder and drag the files into it (right-drag to copy them into it).  This process will compress them.

[Note:  On a Windows computer, to extract the files right-click the zipped folder and choose “Extract All…”]

How to upload the ZIP folder to Blackboard 9.1

Blackboard 9.1 calls compressed (zipped) folders “Package files.”  To upload and AUTOMATICALLY unzip the files in your Blackboard course do the following:

1.  1.    Click Files on your Control Panel and click on the course ID to go to your files area (or simply click on the double chevron after the Files entry in the Control Panel [»]).

2.  Hover your mouse cursor over the Upload link in your course files area and choose “Upload Package.”

3.  On the Upload Package screen click the Browse button, navigate to the compressed folder you created in Windows, select it (by clicking on it), and then click Open in the Windows Explorer dialog box (or simply double-click the zip folder).

4.  Do not change the File Encoding setting in the Upload Package dialog box.  Leave it at its default.

5.  If you are uploading to a files area that contains other files do not check the “system automatically overwrites the existing file with the same name” check box, just in case this condition exists.  It is a good idea to create a folder to upload files into to eliminate this possible problem.

Upload Package Choices in Bb 9.1

6.  Click “Submit.”  The files will upload and will be automatically uncompressed.  You do not need to perform a separate Extract or uncompress function.

That’s it.  Remember, you do not need to perform any sort of extract or uncompress operation on the files once they are uploaded.  It happens automatically.

Pretty easy, but I guess it does not go without saying.