It finally happened. It started at Christmas, and finished at Easter. The middle school choir room has received some much needed tech upgrades, including (drum roll, please) Apple TV!
The middle school choir room has been neglected for a long time. Since the former high school was converted into the current middle school eight years ago, there has been a succession of middle school choir teachers and administration. The room never got the treatment that so many other rooms in the building received. Over the years, it did have 2 good speakers, a good amplifier, and a 5-disc CD changer. This year, for the first time, I am teaching 7th grade choir in addition to my K-5 duties. To my good fortune, there was a rotating music account fund and this year was the choir's turn to spend it.
I had two ideas for the funds:
Option A - some combination of laptops and mobile devices
Option B - projector, Apple TV, network, screen, rack, and other hardware
I decided to go with Option B. I have been doing this long enough to know that if you don't have the infrastructure in place to start with, the rest of it will not be successful. There will be options in the future for mobile devices - I can get some out of future budget monies, BYOD, etc. I already have a few laptops and mobile devices. What we needed a strong foundation for future growth.
So, back in December, I started putting together a list of items and talked to the person in our district who orders technology for teachers. The first thing that was not going to be on this list was an interactive whiteboard. We were going to go a different direction - Apple TV. We were both excited for the possibilities, since no other room in the district (that I am aware of) has a permanent Apple TV installation.
Don't get me wrong - I was an early adopter of interactive whiteboards in our district. I still use the one in my elementary classroom regularly and have plenty of colleagues who couldn't imagine life without it. But it has its limitations, the first of which is cost. Meanwhile, I have had Apple TV in my own house since Fall, and often bring it to use in our elementary computer lab and church, both of which have HDMI projectors.
But the choir room needed a few things in addition to the Apple TV:
• an HDMI projector - the most expensive part of this project. Yes, you can get converter boxes, but we didn't have a projector in the choir room yet, so might as well just get an HDMI projector right away.
• a mount for the projector.
• a screen - in my case, big enough for 60 kids to see clearly at once. We purchased an 8' wide screen to replace the tiny screen that used to be in the room.
• Cables galore, and cable conduit to make things look nice. 50' HDMI, 50' RCA cable, 50' SVGA cable, 50' internet cable, new speaker wire, and more.
• A rack to put all of the equipment in, including an existing amplifier, CD changer, and VCR/DVD. Since the manufacturer calls it a "Command Center", I think the tech staff pictured something like NASA used to launch the shuttle. It is a perfect size for a classroom and can handle rack-mountable components.
• An audio converter for the Apple TV that allows us to run audio into the existing stereo amplifier. This is a Toslink to RCA audio converter. Well worth the $30 for converter and a few cables to get great sound instead of the tinny sound from the projector. (The DVD/VCR player just uses RCA cables directly into the amplifier for audio).
• A router as a workaround for Apple TV on a secure, enterprise network.
With this new system, you can use any nearly any media you want at the push of a button and have fabulous audio and video. But best of all, the Apple TV will allow me - or anyone else with an iPad or new iPhone on the same network - to mirror directly to the screen. Yes, I also own the Reflection App and it is good, but it's a gamble - Apple could shut it off with a simple update. And the room still needed these upgrades - the projector, the screen, the rack to pull it all together, etc. Now the choir room went from being the least tech capable room in the district to one of the most forward-leaning spaces for learning. I think when other people see it in action, they will want it, too - just like interactive whiteboards were. Apple TV is one of those things you have to see to understand.
Total cost is still being determined, but I purchased ALL of the above for approximately the same price as a single interactive white board. Remember - we were starting from scratch here - most classrooms already have a lot of this equipment or wouldn't need all of it. Plus I think I might have enough leftover in the account to purchase one of the newly-reduced price iPad2 for student use.
Once Spring Break is over, I'll post about how I am actually getting to use the new equipment to help improve student achievement in choir.