AppleTV in Educational Settings

Recently I’ve been experimenting with configuration and use of Apple TV in the classroom as a means of providing teachers and students with wireless projection capabilities for their supported iOS and Apple devices over AirPlay. This came to a head for me when I heard the announcement from Apple in late September that the version of iOS for Apple TV (v 5.1) included support for connecting the Apple TV to enterprise networks that use the WPA2 / Wireless Certificate / Radius methods for authentication. In the ACT, the public school system uses such a configuration, and until this recent update Apple TVs could not be connected to the wireless network.

So I investigated the process and found that is is actually a relatively simple one. The requirements are:

  • A 2nd or 3rd Generation Apple TV;
  • A Mac capable of running the latest version of Apple Configurator (available through the Mac App Store)
  • The certificate file for the wireless network to which you are connecting
  • A Micro USB cable (available from all good retailers, or perhaps as an inclusion with a mobile phone you have had over the past 5 years or so)

With those 5 things, the process became fairly simple to setup. The steps are all essentially laid out in the following three Apple Hot Topics from their support website:

  1. Apple TV: How to configure 802.1X Using a Profile – this can be used for setting up a profile for any iOS device, including iPads, iPods and iPhones so that the user doesn’t have to manually enter configuration details.
  2. Apple TV: How to configure a proxy using profile – again, can be done for any iOS device. You can even set these profiles up using iPhone Configuration Utility, but Apple Configurator may be required for Apple TV support (at least at the moment)
  3. Apple TV: How to install a configuration profile – This is the final step once you’ve built your profile, and ultimately is the way you prepare it for deployment.

There are a couple of gotchas that you ultimately need to be aware of when you do this, and a few steps involved specifically for connecting to the ETD network:

  1. The EDU network uses different settings to the STU network – this is in place at the moment but will, after the move to SchoolsNet, will no longer be in place, making things a bit easier. For this to work at our school, I needed to use STU (since students cannot connect their devices to EDU).
  2. The credentials for connecting to the STU network need to be present on the AD server for your student network – teacher credentials won’t work, so you need to have an account on your student server and use that one.
  3. Proxy settings for STU are required – make sure you use the same settings that are in place on your STU desktops and laptops (I won’t publish these settings here – if you’re a teacher in the ACT ETD, you’ll be able to look them up at school). You should be using the Automatic Proxy settings (not auto-detect).
  4. You will need to get a copy of your wireless certificate off the student server. You can export a copy of the certificate from your server so that you can put it on the Mac that will be running Apple Configurator.
  5. When transferring the profile to Apple TV, you MUST have the power cable plugged in – the HDMI cable isn’t necessary (I found that I couldn’t plug both HDMI and USB 2 in at the same time because the cables I had were a bit fat) but can remain plugged in.
  6. Finally, your STU wireless network needs to be able to support AirPlay – this requires multicast/Bonjour to be active. It is active on our network due to it being used for wireless printing for our Cafe App.

Other than that, it is a pretty painless procedure. Once the profile is installed as outlined in the third Hot Topic, all you need to do is double-tap the home button on your iOS device, tap on the AirPlay icon and select the device from the list of AirPlay devices on the network. If you’re using an AirPlay capable Mac, the AirPlay icon appears in your toolbar at the top of the screen when an AirPlay capable device is present.

There are a couple of settings you’ll want to turn on for your Apple TV:

  1. Consider setting an Airplay password if you want to restrict use of the Apple TV to a few people. This might be something you want to do, but it does limit the way you can have students use the device.
  2. If you want to allow anyone to connect via AirPlay, it is a good idea to turn on the setting that requires you to enter a 4 digit passcode to connect. This way, students or teachers need to be in the room to connect their device, and you won’t get students from the other side of the school throwing their display up without you knowing.

For the cost of a big screen TV that supports HDMI (< $1000) or a HDMI-capable projector (< $1200) and an Apple TV (about $100), you can have the capability in your classroom for anyone with a capable device to display their work to their peers. This gives the teacher the flexibility of demonstrating something from anywhere in the room, and for students to do the same. When you compare this setup to the cost of an Interactive Whiteboard (in the order of $4000-$7000), the potential for deploying this on a large scale is pretty significant if money is tight and doesn’t carry with it the restrictions of having to plug yourself in via cables in a specific place in the room.

I’d be interested to know what you think of this set up, and am happy to help you get yours up and running if it is something you’re interested in pursuing.

7 thoughts on “AppleTV in Educational Settings”

  1. jimgriley

    Yep, I’m a fan. I’ll be setting up a demo in our senior site. The interesting thing will be modifying old projectors with an RCA – HDMI box, which should only be another $50 – $100.

  2. Chris

    Hi Bruce, Iv’e happened across your Blog between banging my head of the desk in frustration, I’m desperately trying to set up our Apple TVs on our network, it works great when using the guest network, but if i try and do it on the staff one which is WPA2 I cant get it to work, I’ve come to the conclusion that the certificate is the stumbling block, could you answer me one quick question? When I add the certificate to the credentials in the configuration, should it show in the the trust section of the wireless settings?? Because ours doesn’t, but i get the feeling it should? Also what extension are you using on your certificate? Any help would be gratefully received, cheers Chris

  3. Bruce Post Author

    Hi Chris,

    That’s right – after adding the Certificate in Credentials (make sure you Save), it should be listed in the Trust settings of the Wi Fi tab. Then, tick the box and it should be applied.

    The one thing to watch out for is that the certificate is current/hasn’t expired. Just double check all of those details and it should be a simple, straight forward thing to do.

    If there is still a problem with your certificate, my advice would be to get one of the guys responsible for setting up the certificate in the first place to double check there hasn’t been a field or value left off or something.

    Oh – and our certificate has a .crt extension, but I don’t think that is a deal breaker.

    Good luck with it – let me know how you go.

    1. Chris

      Cheers for the reply Bruce, I’m totally baffled with this…..the certificate is fine, it only a couple of months old and every other device is fine to use it. No matter what i do it just won’t show in the trust section of the wifi tab 🙁 Thanks for your help though

  4. Chris

    Just an update, we’ve managed to convert the certificate we had into a .cer extension, this now shows up……so now connects, but only after the Apple TV has been hardwired to an alternative internet connection, due to the fact the provider we use blocks Port 123 which the ATV needs to set the date and time, without setting the date and time it cant connect to the Wifi, going around in circles here!

  5. Bruce Post Author

    Kerberos does that – often 5 minutes difference in time is all that’s needed to deny the connection. To get around that, I think we may have set up the time manually or via another connection (like a personal hotspot or similar). Maybe a local time server on the network would be a solution to that? Even though you can’t point directly to it in the config anywhere…

    Odd that port 123 is blocked though – seems a bit much to me. Surely you could get it opened up?

    1. Chris SIlverton

      Thanks again Bruce, the only solution we have is to hard wire the apple TV where we install it (using my iphone as a hotspot would have worked, but there is very little coverage in school), once it gets the server time we can unplug it, then it joins the wireless…..not ideal however if the teacher turns it off, we have to go through the whole process again. As for opening the port up we have a strict educational ISP… they are very cautious, thanks for all your help though.

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