Thursday, April 9, 2015

Android Tablets as an Interactive Whiteboard Alternative

A traditional interactive whiteboard can be very expensive and you have to stay at the front of the classroom to use it.  In a 1:1 environment, being at the front of the classroom is not always the ideal location since it is harder to see if students are staying on task with their devices.  What if there was a cheaper alternative to achieve the benefits of an interactive whiteboard and allow you to be more mobile in the classroom?  As long as you have adequate wireless network access, having an Android tablet will allow you to do what you would likely use an interactive whiteboard for and open the door to many other possibilities in the classroom.  Here are two ways to utilize an Android tablet for this purpose.


Mirroring your Android tablet with a Chromecast

With a Chromecast, you can mirror your Android tablet in the classroom.  A full list of compatible Android tablets and instructions on how to mirror them can be found here.  Instructions on setting up the Chromecast can be found here.  There are also a few things to be aware of when setting up the Chromecast in a school environment:
  • The Chromecast requires a HDMI input.  If your projector does not have one, you can use a HDMI-to-VGA adapter such as this.
  • The Chromecast only supports 2.4 GHz wireless networks.  So make sure it is not on a wireless network that is 5 GHz only.
  • Client isolation will need to be disabled on the wireless network so that your Chromecast and Android tablet can communicate with each other.
  • There is no password or PIN ability to lock down the Chromecast to prevent other people from mirroring to it while you are.  Depending on how you want the Chromecast to be used, you may want to put it and the Android tablet on a separate wireless network from what students are on.
  • If you are still having issues with the Chromecast, make sure your school filter is not possibly blocking some Google servers that you are not aware of.
Once you have your Chromecast working in your classroom, the possibilities are endless in the amount of content you are able to mirror from your Android tablet to it.  Below are some apps that I recommended trying in this environment.  These apps will work great at any grade level.

Google

Chrome, ClassroomDrive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Play Books and YouTube

Annotating / Interactive Whiteboard

Explain Everything, PapyrusRubeSkitch, and Xodo PDF Reader and Annotator

Assessment

NearpodPlickers, and Socrative Teacher


Controlling your classroom PC or Mac with your Android tablet

By using an app called Splashtop, you can remotely control your PC or Mac from your Android tablet.  This will allow you to still use your PC or Mac, and all existing software on it, while being mobile in your classroom.  If you do not have interactive whiteboard software already available, you can also download Open-Sankore, which is free.

Alternatively, you can use the Chrome Remote Desktop app to do this instead of Splashtop.  As of right now, it doesn't have some features that Splashtop has like being able to tap on the tablet and have the cursor jump to that location.

So that is a look at how you can use Android tablets as an interactive whiteboard alternative.  It is a great solution to look into if you are thinking about buying or replacing interactive whiteboards in the classroom.