Thursday, September 11, 2014

Displaying your iPad on your classroom projector

Updated: added information about a WIFI adapter when using Airserver/Reflector.

With many classes using iPads, teachers are anxious to display work that students are doing on their iPads to their classroom projectors. This can easily be done for a minimal cost. There are a few different options depending on your classroom setup.


The simplest way is to plug the iPad into the projector using an adapter and video cable. If your projector has an HDMI input then you can use the adapter on the right from Apple (30-pin, Lightning) and an HDMI cable.
VGA Adapter HMDI Adapter. source:

If your projector only has VGA input then you can use the adapter on the left (30-pin, Lightning) and a standard VGA cable.

There are a few drawbacks to this setup. The first is that you are tied to the projector. You can get cables of various lengths, but you are still tied to that cable and can't wander around the room. Secondly, if your classroom computer is also connected to the projector then you'll constantly be disconnecting one device and then another.

If you have audio from your iPad you want to play, you'll also need an audio cable from the iPad headphone jack to your classroom speakers.

However, despite those drawbacks, this method is very reliable. Since you are connected directly to the projector you don't have to worry about the reliability of your wireless connection.


There are several options that allow you to be anywhere in the classroom while still displaying your iPad on the projector.

Apple TV

Apple's ubiquitous media streaming device also serves as a great way to display your content. Connect the Apple TV to your projector with an HDMI cable and you can wirelessly connect your iPad using AirPlay. If your projector does not have HDMI then you'll need extra equipment to connect the Apple TV via VGA. Check out this blog post for the list of equipment, totaling about $40.

That list doesn't include audio cables. The audio from your iPad will stream wirelessly to the Apple TV, but you'll need to connect the Apple TV to a set of speakers.

Also, the Apple TV and the iPad must be on the same wireless network.


AirServer and Reflector are two software solutions that allow you to stream video and audio to your computer. You download a little program to your computer and have it running. The iPad would then connect to that program via AirPlay. The computer would then be connected to the projector for video and speakers for audio. As with the Apple TV, both the iPad and the computer must be on the same wireless network.

AirServer costs about $15 for an education license, per machine, and is available for Mac and PC. 

Reflector costs about $13, per machine, and is also available for Mac and PC.

Both programs stream video and audio to your computer. Because your iPad appears on your computer in its own window, both programs also allow you to record whatever you do on the iPad.

It's also important to note that both programs require the iPad and the computer be on the same wireless network. If you're using a laptop that's usually not a problem. If your computer is a desktop then you'll need to buy a WIFI adapter. Amazon has an inexpensive one that gets good reviews. It will plug in to a USB port and add WIFI connectivity to your desktop.

You'll want to have a robust wireless network for these programs. In my real world usage, AirServer was a bit more reliable, but there have been updates to Reflector since that time that have made it more stable.

If you would like to display your iPad on a bigger screen for your class to see, there are several options available, depending on your setup. Think through your goals and pick the solution that will work for you!

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