July 15, 2012
Teachers Talk - Was it the SMART thing to do?
Lawrence McMullen, Teacher, Okanagan Adventist Academy, Kelowna, BC

The Dilemma: To buy SMART Board or an iPad/Large Screen TV – Decisions … Decisions??
Finally after weighing the pros and cons of using a SMART Board or using my iPad2 with a large flat screen HD TV, I decided to go with the latter and have been very satisfied of how it is working out. In coming to that decision I was looking for a couple of things I felt I needed:
  • a whiteboard alternative with the ability to use different color pens to help distinguish between various points – supporting the visual learner.
  • the ability to use background pictures (eg coordinate plane graphs, illustrations of anatomical systems, the cell, etc) and to annotate over them as part of my classroom lectures
  • the ability to access and use the appropriate video clips available on the internet (eg YouTube.com)
  • to connect to my computer and be able to broadcast/control its contents from anywhere in the room
Although both the SMART Board and the iPad/TV solutions satisfied most of the requirements above the ability to roam around the room while lecturing was the tipping factor in the decision making process. So with the promise of wireless iPad mirroring (via the iOS5 inclusion of Air Display as part the enhancements to the iPad functionality), it was time to acquire all the components to make it work. The system I finally ended up with was:
  • Apple iPad2 – considered a leading player in the tablet market and especially the large number of apps available via the App store. Being a “closed system” I wanted something that was relatively free of malware/virus/hacking that has surfaced as a problem on the “open” Android OS tablets.
  • Apple TV to allow for “mirroring” of the iPad2 display.
  • Wireless router
  • Samsung LED UN55D6000 55 inch LED flat screen TV. Although most any size HDMI capable TV would have worked I wanted something that could be seen from the back of my classroom. Also required was a wall/ceiling mount for the TV.
  • Various cables to connect VHS/DVD players, Apple TV, and iMac computer to Samsung TV.
  • Before the iOS5 operating software was available for the iPad2, I used a wireless solution to walk around the classroom – controlling the computer via the iPad2 using a program called Doceri     (http://doceri.com/).
  • A variety of apps to make it all work on a day to day basis. (http://edudemic.com/2011/11/ipad-high-school/)
  • Goodreader– an iPad2 app that allows for opening, reading and annotating pdf files.
    (http://www.goodiware.com/goodreader.html). I use this app to display to the class, the page from the textbook that I am currently referencing. Previously I would ask students to turn to such and such a page and expect that they were seeing what I want them to focus on. With this app they are able to visually see what I am emphasizing and can see what I am highlighting as points of importance.
  • Dropbox– a computer/iPad2/iPhone solution that allows for your files to be accessible across multiple devices. I have pdf versions of all my textbooks and thus have them available, via Dropbox  (http://www.dropbox.com/), from any of my devices (any of my computers, iPhone and iPad that have Dropbox installed). When I update a file it is readily available on all my other devices.
  • iDesign– a vector drawing program to be used in the geometry sections of my Math classes.  (http://www.touchaware.com/apps/idesign/).
  • Bamboo Page– a program that is a virtual notebook/whiteboard
    (http://www.wacom.com/en/Products/Bamboo/BambooPaper.aspx). This app allows me to use the iPad/TV display as my virtual whiteboard. With the various pen colors it is very easy to illustrate/emphasize points that would typically be placed on the blackboard. What is very useful with this app is the ability to send the notes via email to anyone who wishes to have them. You could also save the notes in PDF format and have them accessible as a download from a web site or transferred to students via USB memory sticks. There are lots of note taking apps available – its just a matter of finding one that works for you.
  • Bibleand Logos Bible – Bible programs that support multiple translations in one app.
  • Doceri– pdf reader/ annotation program with whiteboard capabilities and computer control functionality. This company also makes an attachable stylus for the iPad2 that works like a pencil with an eraser on the other end. (http://doceri.com/goodpoint.php). This app lets me control my computer from the iPad (sometimes you may wish to show a Flash based movie which the iPad does not support but can be played on the computer). The program toggles between the computer screen mirroring/control and a whiteboard functionality. This program also is useful in delivering PowerPoint presentations.
What this solution has allowed me to do is wander around the classroom while I am lecturing. In doing so I can easily check that the students are engaged and focused on my lecture without having to turn my back to the class. The versatility of the iPad itself, lends itself to a variety of teacher tasks not directly related to lecture presentation such as keeping track of attendance, gradebook management, picture taking of classroom activities and video recording of student presentations for immediate playback and feedback, and parent-teacher email correspondence, use of Skype to communicate with students/teachers in other parts of the country to collaborate on projects, to mention just a few. Additionally when I am not lecturing I can have a slideshow of nature pictures, showing the beauty of God’s creation being displayed on the big screen as the students are working. The iPad/Large Screen TV has worked to my expectations and I am totally happy with the decision. So in retrospect I guess it was a SMART decision.
Below is a list of sites supporting the use of the iPad in education.