For nearly 10 years I have worked at Michigan State University in a variety of capacities to create better learning experiences with technology. I currently work with MSU IT and the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology as an Instructional Designer.
For the past year, I have been working with several instructors on how to utilize technology to more directly relate to students in the classroom. This article will discuss how instructors can use mobile devices for teaching in classrooms.
Classroom Engagement Project
The Classroom Engagement Project was designed to help instructors with the implementation and adoption of technology that could help create a more interactive and collaborative classroom environment. During this project the following devices were explored as possible strategies for improving classroom engagement and instructor mobility:
The specific approaches instructors utilized were based on the mobile devices that they were comfortable with and the ways they wanted to work with students in the classroom.
We recruited faculty members and instructors who expressed an interest in using mobile devices to work more closely with students and had TLE money to invest in technology purchases.
After consulting with participating faculty about their needs and available approaches, the Hub made recommendations on technology purchases, supported mobile device use in classrooms for this pilot, and facilitated discussions between the instructors, vendors, and technical support staff.
Mobile Tools Used
The following details pros and cons of different technology devices, including device “Superpowers” or the areas they performed exceptionally well.
Wireless Presentation: Crestron AirMedia
Crestron AirMedia provides wireless presentation capabilities. AirMedia is developed by the same manufacturer that designs the technology used in MSU classroom tech carts. This product is designed for collaboration and instructor mobility.
Willie Wong, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, was looking for a way for students in his MTH 133 Calculus II class to to share their work and learn from one another.
Although, Willie was aware of the Rooms for Engaged and Active Learning (REAL) spaces, he knew availability was limited and certain criteria needed to be met to use them. He was looking to incorporate active learning practices in his teaching without taking up REAL resources.
Wille will pilot Crestron AirMedia in his MTH 133 in fall 2018.
- AirMedia is currently installed in many classrooms and lecture halls across campus.
- Students can connect to AirMedia and their screen can be displayed in the front of the classroom. The instructor can share up to four screens at a time using the quad view.
- AirMedia is compatible with Windows and Mac computers, as well as Google and Apple mobile devices through a mobile app.
- Up to 32 students can connect to the AirMedia device to view the classroom presentation.
- There’s a slight lag between presenter screens and displayed image when playing video.
- The user experience between different operating systems is inconsistent.
- There’s a lack of faculty member awareness of AirMedia capabilities.
- The AirMedia gateway device requires a wired Ethernet connection.
Crestron AirMedia offers flexible options for introducing instructor mobility in the classroom. It allows instructors and students to present text, documents, presentations, and lectures or course content wirelessly. This product also provides a host of features that help create a collaborative classroom environment.
The flexibility of AirMedia is easier for one person to manage in smaller classrooms.
If faculty or instructors plan on using the collaborative features in a larger classroom, I recommend controlling the learning environment as much as possible. You can do this by using dedicated mobile devices for capturing student work or utilizing learning assistants in large classrooms to help facilitate sharing. This can also help reduce variation between operating systems.
AirMedia’s strong suit is the ability to share up to four screens simultaneously.
Wireless Display Receiver: ScreenBeam Pro
The ScreenBeam 960 is an enterprise-grade wireless display receiver for educators who need wireless display connectivity to collaborate, create, and communicate.
Marty Spranger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology, was looking for a way to increase student and instructor engagement in a large lecture halls.
For Marty, it was important to make a lecture hall that was built to accommodate 600+ people feel as small as traditional classroom. To do this, he piloted the Top Hat Student Response System to solicit student feedback during his PSL 250: Introductory Physiology class at Michigan State University, a Surface Pro Tablet PC for its portability and computing capability, and the ScreenBeam Pro to wireless transmit his computer screen to the projector.
The ScreenBeam Pro uses Miracast technology that comes standard in all Windows 8+ devices to broadcast a computer image to a connected monitor or projector. Marty has been using this approach in classes since fall 2016.
This approach was developed by Marty and Chris Shaltry and promoted by the Hub. See a video (4:03) of how Marty uses this approach and the ScreenBeam Pro device.
- ScreenBeam Pro offers real time wireless display of a laptop or tablet from virtually anywhere in the classroom.
- After the initial connection is made between a mobile device and ScreenBeam Pro, the connection information can be saved making subsequent connections easier.
- Miracast connection capability is built into Android and Windows 8+ devices. No additional software is required.
- ScreenBeam Pro can be purchased for less than $300.
- The device is small and lightweight. It can easily be transported in a laptop bag.
- ScreenBeam Pro does not support Apple operating systems or devices.
- ScreenBeam Pro doesn’t work well with VGA connections.HDMI and VGA adapters offer a workable compromise.
ScreenBeam Pro is best used with a Surface Pro 4 device with a handle to make it easier to manage while walking around the classroom. This solution works best in rooms with HDMI connections to the projector.
Given that the Surface Pro is a Microsoft device, it works well Microsoft PowerPoint. The use of a stylus during Presentation mode will automatically trigger the ability to add and save annotations in PowerPoint.
The ScreenBeam Pro’s strong suit was classroom mobility in large lecture halls, quick connectivity, and that it works well with Miracast technology.
Wireless Presentation: AirPlay and Apple TV
AirPlay and Apple TV usage on campus has been designed for residential life applications. However, some faculty members have found the following methodology to be an useful strategy toward achieving instructor mobility in the classroom.
The approach involves two Apple technologies:
- AirPlay which is the proprietary Apple protocol that allows iOS devices to wirelessly stream content to other devices
- Apple TV which is a small network appliance which receives content from a variety of sources and streams the content to a monitor or projector.
Due to the residential application of this device, this approach works best in traditional classroom settings or small lecture halls where limited mobility is acceptable.
Cori Fata-Hartley, Academic Student Affairs Assistant Dean (Curriculum Coordination) for the College of Natural Science, was looking for a way to capture the work that students were doing in groups and in order to share the group work with the entire class. Additionally, she was most comfortable using an Apple iPad and the suite of iOS applications.
The strategy Cori implemented in MMG 413: Virology involved using an iPad Pro as an instructional mobile device. The iPad Pro was selected for the wider surface space that it provides over standard iPads.
From the iPad, Cori was able take pictures with the camera. By mirroring the screen of the iPad via the Apple TV she was able to display those images on the projection screen. This approach was piloted in the spring 2017. Although, she isn’t teaching this semester, she is considering using it for a course she is developing.
- AirPlay and Apple TV are compatible with the Apple iOS and related applications.
- Apple TV devices cost around $150.
- The AirPlay and Apple TV devices are small and lightweight and can easily be transported in a laptop bag.
- Use of AirPlay and Apple TV are fairly common among students and faculty members.
- AirPlay and Apple TV are cost effective if you already have an iPad.
- AirPlay and Apple TV are not compatible with PC and Android devices or operating systems.
- AirPlay and Apple TV have limited mobility. Instructors have reported satisfactory performance in this area, but I expect these devices would not work in all settings equally.
- AirPlay and Apple TV utilize the existing MSU wireless network in campus buildings. Connectivity can vary based on the density and usage levels of Wi-Fi in different campus locations.
The AirPlay/Apple TV approach is best used in smaller classroom settings where mobility limitations and the occasional disconnect won’t have a significant impact on the user experience. This method will fare best with existing Apple users who are comfortable with Apple technologies and want to take advantage of iOS applications.
Existing iPad users can use the apps and the interface that they are already familiar with.
The list below groups the items that are included in the strategies discussed in the article. It is recommended faculty also consult with their department and college IT staff before making any purchases.
|AirPlay and Apple TV||Apple TV||MSU Tech Store: Apple TV with Remote|
|AirPlay and Apple TV||iPad Pro||MSU Tech Store: Apple iPad Pro|
|AirPlay and Apple TV||Apple Pencil||MSU Tech Store: Apple Pencil|
|ScreenBeam Pro – Windows/Android||ScreenBeam 960A with CMS||ScreenBeam: Ideas for Education|
|ScreenBeam Pro or Crestron||Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – 12.3 in – Intel Core i5 – Windows 10 Pro – 4GB RAM – 128GB SSD – Comes with Surface Pro Type Keyboard and Surface Pen||MSU Tech Store: Microsoft Surface Pro 4|
|ScreenBeam Pro or Crestron||Rugged Surface Pro 4 Case||Rugged Surface: Pro 4 Case|
|Crestron – Windows/Android/iOS||Crestron AirMedia 101||Call the MSU IT Service Desk at (517) 432-6200 or toll free (844) 678-6200 for help with classroom technology, classroom support, media equipment, printers, or unlocking computer lab rooms.|