Under the Hood: @MathletePearce’s Classroom Tech Toolbox

Under the Hood - @MathletePearce Class Tech Toolbox

Many of the questions I receive through my blog or after leading a workshop are related to the equipment I use in my classroom teaching, at conferences when presenting, at the office prepping material, or even at home relaxing on the couch. I’ll try to touch on some of the tech equipment, big and small, that I use throughout my work (and play) day.

Under the Hood: Classroom Tech

Many assume that because I often blog about educational technology that my classroom would be busting at the seams with shiny new and expensive devices. However, there are really only three different types of tech devices in my classroom. Here they are:

Apple iPad 2

The Most Important Piece of Technology in My Classroom

Apple iPad 2 for Classroom

I have used an Apple iPad 2 for the past three (3) school years as my mobile interactive whiteboard. I use the iPad as my only delivery tool as it allows me to eliminate the need for chalk, overheads and any interactive whiteboard devices. Best of all, I can deliver content, use the iPad as a portable document camera and even pass the device around the room, without being stuck at the front of the room!

Prior to integrating an iPad in my classroom, I used a SMARTBoard Interactive Whiteboard System for five (5) years and haven’t looked back since. Apple iPad is hands-down the best tech-tool you can bring into your classroom. The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) funded my classroom with a cart of 30 iPads to lead a part-time, one-to-one iPad program. Now, I can’t imagine teaching without them!

It should be noted that an iPad Mini, iPad Air or other more recent generations of iPad would be great options increasing the speed of the apps you may utilize during your lessons.

Apple TV

What Makes Me Mobile and Puts Student Work On Display

Apple TV to Mirror iPad in the Classroom

Apple TV is an inexpensive device (about $100) that connects to a WiFi Network to allow me to mirror my iPad screen to a TV or mini projector in my classroom. In other words, Apple TV turns my iPad into a mobile interactive whiteboard that allows me to roam the class and be where I need to be to assist students who need the additional support.

Mirroring your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch to the Apple TV takes only a couple taps and a few seconds. Best of all, students can do the same with their iOS devices assuming they are on the same network as the Apple TV.

I’ve said numerous times during workshops that I would prefer to have one iPad and an Apple TV over a class set of iPads without the use of Apple TV.

Epson PowerLite 95 XGA HDMI Multimedia Projector

The Unsung Hero – One of the Most Important Pieces, But Often Ignored

Epson PowerLite 95 XGA Multimedia Projector

The data projector often goes unnoticed in most high-tech classrooms, but I suppose it is because there isn’t much to say about it. Everyone knows the “role” of the data projector, but I must reiterate that I would be lost without mine.

The Epson PowerLite 95 XGA Multimedia Projector is an affordable way to go digital in your classroom in a hurry. Our district has purchased over 100 of this model for the Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry Project plus many more across the system and to date, has served us well.

It is important to note that Apple TV requires an High Definition input (HDMI) and the Epson PowerLite 95 does have an HDMI-Input. If you purchase a standard definition projector with only a VGA input, you can purchase a HDMI-to-VGA dongle/adaptor such as a Kanex ATVPRO.

Under the Hood: Prep-Time Tech

As you can imagine, I am never far from technology. Everything I do is digital. Paper is something I openly and without shame reject when participating in professional development, taking part in a meeting, speaking, or even when participating in an interview. Here are some of the tech in my toolbox for my prep-time:

MacBook Pro 15.4-inch with Retina Display

My Most Expensive Personal Item & My Best Tech Investment

MacBook Pro 15.4-inch with Retina Display

I expect one of two possible reactions after I tell someone how much I spent on my laptop; complete disbelief or the nod of approval. Typically, PC-users represent the first reaction with fellow Mac-users taking the second.

Since I began geeking out on my old IBM PS/2 with a 170 MB hard drive, a 2400 baud modem and only 4 MB of RAM, I was a sole PC-user. I briefly had touched a few Macs throughout elementary school to do simple word processing and to learn how to type, but never really gave them a chance.

When a white MacBook was included to sync my cart of 30 iPad 2 devices, I was more frustrated with the differences than impressed. However, the feel of the keyboard killed my stiff Acer laptop and I began using the MacBook more and more. After realizing how useful the multi-touch finger gestures were, I eventually fell in love. I have no regrets when it comes to my MacBook Pro 15.4-inch with Retina Display as the solid state hard drive is lightning fast offering a boot time of 10 seconds and has no moving parts for extended battery life. Computer storage could still be susceptible to faults, in which case you might want to seek out RAID 0 Repair Technology services and others in order to restore any potentially lost data. 8 GB of RAM never hurt anyone either, allowing me to have a multitude of apps open across multiple virtual desktops.

Still riding the PC-dinosaur into the sunset? Jump. Off. Now.

ZAGGkeys PROfolio and Keyboard Case Cover

My Essential (and only) iPad Accessory For Working on the Move

ZAGGkeys PROfolio+ Keyboard Case Cover

Although I do almost all of my prepping on my MacBook Pro, there are cases when I am on the road or have no power/battery on my MacBook is dead and I’m forced to do some serious work on the iPad. Even though the built-in display keyboard on iPad is pretty convenient, I am pretty old school when it comes to the “feel” of a real keyboard. If you do cave and make a keyboard purchase for your iPad, I believe it is important that the keyboard is built-in to the case to ensure the iPad is still mobile and convenient for “on-the-go” situations. The ZAGGkeys PROfolio and Keyboard Case Cover is a perfect complement to your iPad.

If you can roll without a keyboard for your iPad, more power to you! I just can’t kick the habit!

Under the Hood: Presentation Tech (Cords, Dongles, Adaptors, and More)

Some of these could fall under the Classroom Tech category, as I always have dongles on-hand incase our classroom WiFi is acting up. However, most of these are in my laptop bag for speaking engagements and workshops when I am walking into a new building and don’t know what the technology setup will be. Here they are:

iPad 30-pin to HDMI Dongle

For Times When Your WiFi Goes Wonkey!

Having a 30-pin to HDMI adaptor in my laptop bag is always a life-saver when there are Wi-Fi issues at school or in the building you are presenting in.

Keep in mind, you should buy the dongle that will work with your specific iPad and projector. Here are a few quick links for different iPads and Projector combinations:

Apple Mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt) to VGA Adaptor

Displaying Your MacBook Pro Desktop on the Data Projector

I almost never display my MacBook Pro screen on the projector in my classroom, but when I am speaking, delivering professional development, or workshop, I often have a KeyNote slide deck prepared. Having the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adaptor handy is always a good idea. This can also come in handy if something goes wrong with your iPad and Apple TV in the classroom.

Note that an Apple Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adaptor would suffice if you have an HD-Ready projector.

Kanex ATVPRO AirPlay Mirroring for VGA Projector

Use Apple TV on a VGA Projector

Many schools who are moving away from Interactive Whiteboards likely have a projector on a media cart or mounted on the ceiling. The older a projector is, the less likely it is that it will be HD-Ready with an HDMI input. Rather than discarding VGA Projectors, simply purchase the Kanex ATVPRO and you’ll be AirPlaying to your current projector in no time!

Under the Hood: Relaxing/Personal Time Tech

When I do decide to call it a day, I still find myself doing some reading, social networking, searching for that next real estate deal, or other distractions to relax my mind. While I’m still debating a drone purchase from somewhere like DrDrone for photography and filming when I’m not in the classroom, I’m sure you could guess what smartphone I’d be doing my “relaxing” on, but just in case:

Apple iPhone 5s (Gold)

My iPhone Journey from 3G, 3Gs, 4 and now to the 5s

Apple iPhone 5s Gold Unlocked

My iPhone journey began back with the iPhone 3G and I haven’t turned back. Simplistic, yet functional beyond what most users (including myself) need in a smartphone. I’m using Garage Band on my iPhone 5s to create into music for YouTube videos, signing legal documents digitally in GoodNotes, and handling my day-to-day activities all from the palm of my hands. And now, with full AirPlay display mirroring functionality to broadcast the screen to Apple TV… What else do you need?

If you’re on the fence, pick the proven winner.

I hope this catalogue from my Tech Toolbox serves as a useful list as you look to make any tech investments for your classroom or for you personally. Feel free to comment below or ask any questions in the new discussion forums!


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About Kyle Pearce

I’m Kyle Pearce and I am a former high school math teacher. I’m now the K-12 Mathematics Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board, where I uncover creative ways to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in mathematics. Read more.

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