A Better Interactive Whiteboard: an iPad and the Apple TV


The Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) promised a rich learning experience, but the reality of classroom use has, by in large, not lived up to its billing. An IWB has a natural bent towards “sage on stage” style teaching, and while some teachers do use it constructively, IWB use tends to reinforce a teacher transmitting information to the class. Student use of an IWB is usually very limited, and student use is limited by the logistical need to be at the front of the room.

Technology is disruptive, and the AirPlay feature between an iPad 2 or later and an AppleTV has to have IWB manufacturers concerned. Now with a sub-$200 purchase and 5 minutes of install time, any student can, from their seat, wirelessly project to the class. Collaboration flows much more freely when the presenter can change instantaneously from student to teacher and back.

Not only can the iPad replace all of the functions of an IWB, but it brings so many more options. Need a document camera? Snap a photo and on the screen it goes. Skype or FaceTime has less setup time when there’s no cords to fiddle with. Apps are released constantly, and developers are starting to add specific AirPlay features. Penultimate, for instance, has a distraction free AirPlay display so the focus is on the content, not the delivery.

HDMI to VGA Adapters

The AppleTV is primarily a home-entertainment device, and uses HDMI-out. New projectors may have HDMI inputs, but many older or more inexpensive projectors may only have VGA inputs. Thankfully, a few great adapters are available. The AppleTV is so small that often it can be mounted on the projector itself. Below are 3 recommendations.

Kanex ATV Pro – $59.95


The best option, requires no power and offers the smallest footprint, but also the most expensive.

Monoprice HDMI® to VGA & R/L Stereo Audio Converter $38.25

The cheapest option, but still great quality. Audio output is RCA and it does require power.

WOWParts HDMI to VGA + audio $39.99

Good quality. Requires power. Audio output is 3.5mm.

3 Taps is all it takes to mirror your iPad

  1. Double-tap the home button (or four finger swipe up if multitouch gestures are on)
  2. Swipe to the right.
  3. Select the AirPlay icon and choose mirroring for the AppleTV you wish to connect

AirPlay menu with Mirroring option ON

IWB vs. AppleTV & iPad

IWB AppleTV+iPad
Primary User Teacher All class members
Location of use Front of classroom Anywhere
Cost $3,000+ (IWB with projector) $960 (projector, AppleTV and iPad)
Upgrades after install Occasional Hundreds of apps released daily
Installation Costly, invasive 10 minutes, small footprint
Function Interactive Whiteboard Interactive Whiteboard, document camera, personal productivity device, eReader, and more.

 Recommended Apps


Solid handwriting app with a custom clutter-free AppleTV display.



Wirelessly stream almost any video type from your computer to your appleTV.


Explain Everything

Easy to use, yet powerful. Offers plenty of options to export your narrated presentations.



Drawing app with style, fun to use and focused.

Free, but all options unlock at $6.99


Splashtop Whiteboard

Turns your iPad and computer into an interactive whiteboard.


Tips and Tricks

  • Heavily filtered or restricted networks may cause issues with AirPlay.
  • Both the iPad and the AppleTV must be on the same wireless network.
  • In the AppleTV settings, it’s possible to set a password to connect to AirPlay. Consider using one to limit who can project.
  • Classroom management skills are needed to manage who is connecting to the AppleTV. Students can “bump” each other off the AppleTV if they try to connect when another student is connected.

The AppleTV + iPad combination is an amazing example of technology helping to amplify sound teaching concepts. With the introduction of OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, AirPlay support will come to MacBooks and Desktops, making its use even more exciting. There are times when technology makes you feel like you’re living in the future. This combo has potential to fundamentally change the way information is exchanged in the classroom for the better. Consider giving it a try before installing or replacing another IWB.

6-27-12 – Updated the table to reflect the fact that IWB manufacturers do update software and that hundreds of apps are released daily. Previously the table had stated that no updates are released for IWBs.


6 thoughts on “A Better Interactive Whiteboard: an iPad and the Apple TV

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