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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.