iPad Unleashed: My New Wireless Lecturing Setup

I have tried many different combinations of hardware and software in my classroom, but believe it or not, my current set up seems to have staying power. It turns out I love walking around with my iPad and annotating my slides from anywhere in the room.

First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Teddy Svoronos, the world’s expert on presenting with an iPad, inspired me to go wireless last year. The details of his current setup (described here) are different from mine, but at the core, we’re both annotating pdf’s with an iPad that’s projected on a screen at the front of the class.

The heart of my system is a Macbook Pro which drives the projector and lets me plug in my iClicker server. A hardware polling system is old school, but I toyed with PollEverywhere last spring and really missed being able to create questions on the fly. The other day I had a slide up with four scatter plots labeled A-D and realized that I wanted to ask a question where the answer was one of these plots. One click to the “Start Poll” button in iClicker and it was done! iClicker also lets students choose between using a hardware clicker or an app on their phone.

Having a Mac at the center has other advantages too. I’m teaching econometrics this semester, and I often want to show an interactive data analysis session. Stata won’t run on an iPad, but it’s perfectly happy on my Mac.

The star of the show is my 12.5” iPad Pro. I convert my PowerPoint slides into a pdf and load it into GoodNotes, another Teddy Svoronos recommendation. AirServer software runs on the Mac and allows me to connect my iPad using AirPlay. Whatever is on the iPad’s screen shows up in a big window on the Mac. I resize it so it takes up most of the screen but leaves a little room for iClicker. I have a desktop space with a pure white background just for this. My campus has a pretty complicated wireless network, but the AirServer Connect iOS companion app lets the iPad find the Mac. Teddy and I both found this to be unreliable in the past, but since mid-Fall 2017, it’s been rock solid for me.

This spring I’m teaching in a big auditorium with lots of space for me to walk around up front. I cradle the iPad in my left arm and have the Apple Pencil in my right hand. It works remarkably well. I can swipe back and forth through my slides, draw arrows, underline key concepts, and label pictures. When there’s a long mathematical derivation to do, I head to the podium.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I write about my presentation tech, but given how much I love this set up, it might be a while before I change anything.

Update: Check out the video tutorial that George Orlov and I made to demonstrate the set up process.