5 Tools to take your iBooks to the next level

One of my favourite tasks last year was to help teachers create iBooks. I use iBooks Author and associated third party applications frequently, but sometimes it isn’t always what is needed for the task at hand. I often remind teachers that there are plenty of ways to create content! and sometimes we only need quick and simple tools to create materials.


My current top 5 favourite picks are:

Thinglink:To annotate an image with interactive tags. Provides a unique weblink that you can embed in an iBook, LMS, etc. Here’s one on “Historic Buildings of Claremont” I created recently for an iBook.

Canva: Create posters, presentations, graphics and more. Allows you to download or even share with other Canva users to edit too.

Piktochart: Most popular for creating infographics, but also allows you to create posters and presentations. Easy to download or share your creations using a link.

Skitch: Annotate images easy using this tool. Features such as the integration of Google Maps makes it a simple tool to use! Also works in tandem with Evernote.

Marqueed: Another great option to annotate and draw on images.


Other tools I have been using recently include Prezi and Emaze, but please use the animations with caution if you have students that are likely to get motion sickness! It is also important to mention that you may want to use some of the existing applications you may already have, but in a different way. Why not use Keynote to create an infographic, poster or animation?


These tools give many options for sharing, whether it is a download or a unique link. As I have been creating digital content everyday, I have really tried to ensure that there is diversity as it is easy to fall into the trap of using the same tools, which make the work all look too similar. It is also easy to insert these into the iBooks I have been creating to make them look a little more interesting. It’s important to keep exploring and trying new tools to ensure we are using the best for task at hand with our students.

Free Customised Recording Booths for Classrooms

Getting creative with teaching and learning spaces is a challenge, especially when you need to record something.

Being able to record your voice quickly and easily is one of the best upgrades that classroom technology has had in the last few years. With an emphasis in schools on literacy, teachers are often looking for ways to improve student’s reading and listening capacity. There are countless apps to use to record student’s voice, but the most difficult thing is to find a place to record in the bustling classroom.

Enter the trusty photocopy box! I am always looking for a way to recycle and repurpose items in a school and this has proven to be a perfect solution to the recording problem. With a small semicircle cut at the top for the student to put their head into, the box becomes a perfect sound recording booth, with the iPad inside. I have been making these for many years and still get asked about them!



With much emphasis on the open learning spaces in the classroom we want students to be flexible in where they can record, but still stay within sight of the teacher. It works particularly well with the smallest members of our schools!

Pokemon Go @ School

If you work in a school, you are going to have to deal with the fact that students (and teachers) are going to play this during class time. I know some of you’ve built great digital citizenship at your schools and have guidelines in place like: games allowed during break only etc… but this is going to push all the boundaries you have in place.

Get behind it or on top of it, you can not ignore it.


It’s only just been released, it hits the sweet point of everyone under 25 and the gamers/geeks above that. It’s family friendly and firmly rooted in our pop culture. This will be somewhat of a storm in a teacup when you return to school after these holidays, it will eventually die back down in popularity but there will remain a large portion of users that are dedicated. So take the initiative and set the expectations your school or classroom has about Pokemon Go. I hope you get behind it because there are some great opportunities for learning and some very cool things you could do.

Below we’ll look at what you need to be aware of and share some ideas of what you can take advantage of too. You can check their support page for most FAQs about the app and if you still have a question just ask it in our comments section.


Start now

Simply put, decide which side of the fence you sit on and get into it, either Gotta catch ’em all or No pokemon for you. Once you’ve made that decision you need to decide how you’re going to respond, then you’re going to need to send some emails.

Gotta Catch ’Em All

  • Post to Facebook the pokemon seen at your school
  • Introduce the gym or pokespot and the significance of the artwork/landmark
    • Let them know the school will be running events around Pokemon Go
  • Run weekly competitions
    • Biggest catch
    • Most number of specific type of Pokemon
    • Most number of Eggs hatched in a week
  • Check the Learning Opportunities section below and share some ideas with relevant staff

No Pokemon For You

  • Send your staff an email reminding them about your schools policy for games and the use of devices on school grounds
    • If you don’t have a policy for that, consider this an appropriate time to make one
  • Alert them to Pokemon Go and the expected usage at school and ask them to be vigilant in maintaining the school policy
  • If you have a welcome back assembly or morning news, put a piece in about Pokemon Go
    • “I’ve had a much more active term break thanks to Pokemon Go, but I would take this opportunity to ask you all to leave our wild pokemon in peace during school hours and I invite you to battle at the [insert local gym location] gym after school.”



There will be injuries to people and damage to devices, the game is played in an app via interacting with real physical locations. Make sure your schools policy about damage to personal devices is up to date/exists and be mindful that there are going to be a few injuries from people not being mindful.

Ensure any physical dangers are clearly signed and take the time to inspect the area before students return. Just imagine what damage a blindfolded person would do to themselves in that area, an impromptu rope fence could save a bunch of drama.



PokestopYour school will either have a “Pokestop” on it, or very very close to it, so about 25m around it will become a congregation point.

Pokestops are real artworks or landmarks, in the app you can interact with them to randomly generate items you need to catch pokemon. There is a cool down period of 5 minutes after each interaction. You can also install lure modules into the pokestop that increase the number of pokemon in the immediate area.

There is a lot about community and communication in this game, it is mostly a single player affair even with the Gym component it doesn’t really require a great deal of team work. It does encourage a “look at what I’ve got” sort of thing though and mostly (thanks to the Pokemon series) this is taken as “Well done!” sort of approach, Ash and Pikachu would be disappointed in unfriendly behaviour. Also nobody wants to be thought of as being bad to their pokemon, even Team Rocket (the antagonists) are the most naive of evil characters.

This means that these points of congregation are going to be lively but in general very positive.

Gotta Catch ’Em All

  • Put out signage advertising known pokemon that can be caught
    • Provide seating or umbrellas/shelter
  • Add Lure modules at specific break times you advertise to students

No Pokemon For You

  • Station a duty roster to the position
  • Signage reminding of the school policy and consequences



GymIf your school has a Gym (in Pokemon Go) on or near it then things are a little different,  it will be a congregation point.

Gyms are real artworks or landmarks, in the app you can interact with them to battle other teams. There are three teams Yellow Blue & Red, any current resident team colours will be added to the Gym image.

Though still mostly positive and also the only teamwork reliant aspect of Pokemon Go, Gym battles are inherently team versus team. There will be some banter and interaction between rival teams but like everything in Pokemon, most people aren’t going to be huge jerks about it.

Gyms are owned by a team until all the stationed pokemon are defeated and another team takes up residence, rinse wash repeat.

Gotta Catch ’Em All

  • Arrange a battle royal
    • Prize is announcing the winner in the newsletter/website
  • Recognition of the top pokemon trainer at the gym at specific time of the week

No Pokemon For You

  • Same as for the Pokespot
  • Monitor for Gym ownership change
    • this would be a bit hypocritical though



Be aware Pokemon Go is GPS based and you must be in proximity to the landmark to interact with it. If you have one onsite, the general public will loiter around it at some point, especially if a Lure module is used.


Learning Opportunities


The combination of Combat Power (CP) and Hit Points (HP) that are increased through power ups and evolution currently hasn’t had it’s algorithm released. Nobody really knows but there are some likely variables (like the level of the player themselves).

  • As a class, work out the highest CP and HP of a Pidgey
  • Provide a graph of the increase of CP and HP
    • Starting level Pidgey of 10 CP
    • Ensure the player level is no higher than 10
  • Estimate an equation that is likely to produce this outcome


    • Split into 3 groups
    • Triplicate the above exercise
      • Are the results consistent
      • What are the possible variables causing differences
    • Test estimated equation against similar and different pokemon

This can go on and on and we haven’t even reached “What effect does Evolution have on CP & HP?”, “Is there a consistent algorithm for all pokemon or just for types or not at all?” and “What is the cheapest way to max out an evolved Pokemon using stardust?”

Plus almost every pokemon has a different weight and height from each other that may or may not be related to the initial CP the pokemon had when captured, can it proven there is a pattern and can it be reverse engineered to show what initial Pidgey capture a Pidgeotto with CP 199, HP 44, Weight 1.29kg, Height 0.93m?



There is so much you could look into and do with this that you could throw a pokeball and you’ll hit on something great. For those of you that have a rigid teaching plan in place, you could incorporate this by  getting students to submit there top 5 pokemon and their stats into a spreadsheet and then use that spreadsheet data instead of your carefully prepared donald duck and mickey mouse data.


Have a look at the Pokedex in the app – the descriptions are great and there are some very nice and simple explanations. Not to mention you can actually make them evolve which leads to some great conversations about what features remained and in what ways they improved, remember they live to battle other pokemon (battles end in a KO, not death). Also remember that pokemon are more often found where they would naturally occur, such Magicarp mostly being found near water.

  • Find 3 animals with a similar adaptation as a Nidoran pokemon
  • List 3 ways Spearow changes when it evolves into Fearow and describe likely factors that make this a positive adaptation (exclude battling as factor)


Also remember that pokemon are more often found where they would naturally occur, such Magicarp mostly being found near water, so there a few environment things you can tie into.

Tell us

There are so many ways to make Pokemon Go a really positive engagement at your school and we really look forward to hearing ideas and experiences of what the pioneering teachers out there come up with. Please let us know and share any of your ideas in the comments.

Website Image Size is important

It’s like the old spy technology cliché Smaller is Better.

The smaller the file size the faster the load time. Thats pretty much the crux of it, and for schools you’re going to find that your demographics’ internet access speeds vary wildly. So small file sizes for images is pretty important.

At this point I could show you a bunch of speed tests and bench marks but you already understand the idea so instead I’m going to help you do something about it.

Image formats

From here there is a whole conversation about the right type of image format to use in each application depending on image composition. Other people have done it better than me and you probably only use JPG and PNG files. I’m guessing you probably only started using PNG files because of a non-white background somewhere. GIF and SVG have their places too but really lets just focus on the first two because there is weird caveats and complexity that you’r/I’m not interested in today.

Just use PNG

#badlydefinedconcepts OK that is a super generalisation but if you’re reading this then honestly save yourself the drama and get used to working with PNG files.

Compression FTW

Thats how we squish them down to make them smaller. There are a bunch of different types of compression and you probably don’t care about them because you’d need to know the composition of each image and the amount of horizontal or vertical repetition and … complex blah.

The point of this post then?


This is the answer, it’s been in my bookmarks for so long that my link points to its original .org url. Now save it to your Bookmarks Bar, Favourites or Top Sites because you’re going to use this site alot. This is the finishing tool that makes all the difference. Forget about the rest of it this site is MAGIC.

Magic tricks

All images uploaded to TinyPNG where fullscreen screenshots @ 2880 × 1800 px.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 7.04.42 PM






It makes a difference to your users, you might be surprised how heavy websites are now and paying attention to the details is important.

TeachMeet – Digital Citizenship Presentation

Last week I presented at a TeachMeet #TMWA_DL in Perth, I’m always anxious when presenting to teachers. I’m not scared of teachers, it’s more like awe; I respect what they do and see the hours they put in, how much of themselves they give and this makes me want to do a very good job when I am talking to them. So I end up being anxious, also I’m a bit rusty with my presentation skills. Inevitably I didn’t get across the true nuance of what I wanted during the presentation. So in an more-than-likely misguided attempt, I will try to do so here and with any luck it might be worth sharing.

Also thanks @GabrielleTrinca for the opportunity to present.


Digital Citizenship Presentation

I’ve worked in Education for over 10 years, in a number of schools, and my most recent role was as an ILT Manager for a K-12 school. So I wanted to share with you a different perspective on Digital Citizenship in schools as my experience with Digital Citizenship is a bit interesting. I’ve written policies and organised PLDs yet the interesting part is I was only really involved in Digital Citizenship when shit hit the fan. When the principal, deputy or a parent called me directly.

  • “My 12 year old daughter has naked photos online”
  • “My 14 year old sons junk is on Facebook”
  • “SnapChat something something Tinder something something”

Mostly the calls were looking for “what do I do now” and I’ll write something about that later because responding to these type of situations really does deserve its own post. But that small sample is not indicative of the worst kind of calls I’ve had.

Why is it not surprising?

The really scary part here is you’re not surprised that those previous examples are the kinds of things that happen.

Your not surprised, but you should be.
You should be shocked, but you’re not are you?

If we take the first idea and leverage it into a bad “In Real Life” (IRL) example it would be something like this:

A 12 year old girl takes an inappropriate and compromising polaroid photo of herself. She then shares that photo with her friend, who then photo copies it and begins handing it around school.

Now thats not just surprising, its ridiculous and if it did happen “shocked” would feel like an understatement right?

So why is it shocking IRL but Online you’re not even surprised this would happen?

Before we consider this any further I need to define a term.

Online Reality

This is the term I use to describe the realm that your Digital World exists in. It is intangible but very real, it is where your social media interactions occur and it is where you leave your Digital Footprints. It does not have any feeling or sentience it just is, which makes it harder. It means it doesn’t care about you in any way, your age, gender, sexuality, religion or politics; it just exists.

Maybe at your birth your Parents took a photo and introduced you to the world through Facebook.  BAM welcome to your Online Reality you now have a Digital Footprint. Everyone lives here, also I should point out that the normal rules IRL don’t really apply here. The boundaries and restrictions are different or missing all together.

So it is no wonder we aren’t surprised by the initial examples, we subconsciously understand that our Online Reality is basically blank and the rules and boundaries are a bit sort-of-not-really-there.

Post Revolution Chaos

We have been through The Digital Revolution and we are now living on the other side, the ensuing chaos. Massive change happened and it happened too quickly for us.

The Digital Revolution was the convergence of hardware technology, the maturity of web services, economic growth and decline and bunch of different societal changes in a short period of time culminating in paradigm shift for our society. #badlyexplainedconcepts

Back to schools context – So for us in Australia at the same time as we are coming to terms with a Digital Revolution we see a massive influx of devices into schools. In fact the NSSCF wanted to help us get to a 1:1 ratio of computers to students in schools. Which from where we were was a massive undertaking, they came pretty close too, it’s yet to be seen if schools can maintain a 1:1 ratio (or near that). We were originally on a very slow path of technology adoption, one where we knew that “one day” computers would be a part of the classroom.


As Individuals we were unprepared for the immense changes that Online Reality had on us, not to mention how we tried to deal with this as Families.

It goes with out saying that Schools were super unprepared

We didn’t have wifi and internet bandwidth or sometimes the basic infrastructure to support a school network. Let alone providing training and development for teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum or how to use Digital Citizenship in our lessons and tasks.

This is still the case for a lot of schools

It shouldn’t be anymore

We have tools and resources available for Digital Citizenship that are brilliant; Check out Ribbles’ stuff http://digitalcitizenship.net. You probably should have seen it by now, if not then you’re in for a treat. Mike Ribble presents Digital Citizenship in clear and concise way, I implore you to explore the nine elements and review the 3 repetitions to see where you fit and what you can do to support and foster Digital Citizenship.

The 3 repetitions should be used to help your school understand the role it plays and its responsibility for its own Digital Citizenship. It’s a straight forward example of a framework for implementation of positive Digital Citizenship.

Why are we so bad at it?

Firstly my premise here is that most schools have terrible Digital Citizenship. This is due to a number of factors from blissful ignorance to bad implementations. I would sumize that the biggest reason for poor Digital Citizenship is:

We use traditional approaches and try to apply them to our Online Reality.teachmeet.008

It will fail, so why are you surprised? inherently you know that our Online Reality doesn’t have the same rules as IRL. Thats why we’re not surprised that the initial examples are things that happen. Yet we continue to try and use traditional approaches towards student behaviour and curriculum development in our Online Reality.

At best forcing a traditional approach into an Online Reality will have little to no impact. At worst the impact is massively negative to the point the student disconnects with the schools or teachers’ Online Reality. This creates a scenario where a students Online reality is orphaned from IRL and that means if things go bad there is no-one to connect to; and I might end up getting one of those phone calls, in the worst scenarios I don’t get that call.

There are places where it works though, why?

This is kind of the paradox here, a few schools do have positive Digital Citizenship. The active kind, not the “we don’t ask and they don’t tell” kind. The really interesting thing is you can’t take their lessons or what they’re doing and use it in a school with bad Digital Citizenship because it will fail. Mostly because it’s already the same thing, that is to say the two schools approaches are traditional, it just that in one of them it works.

In my observations of schools with good Digital Citizenship, it is a combination of being mindful of Digital Citizenship and being open to connection. It is less about how we teach Digital Citizenship and more about how your students connect.

Culture is the keyteachmeet.009

It is the Culture of the school that defines Digital Citizenship success, specifically the culture of the student body. Schools with positive Digital Citizenship have students that interact with their school differently.

Just talk to connect with me

So what is different about these schools:

  • They have open paths to dialog
  • There is no fear of sharing
  • Low risk of disconnect


Disconnect is scary, it’s not hard to imagine what kind of impact that can have and is part of the reason I created Concern. It’s a platform for students to self and peer report to a trusted adult in an online environment. It creates an initial path to dialog for students and though it is faceless (pun intended) it has what students care about, with integrity it provides safety without judgement.

Strong relationships need open communication

This first step removes the scariness and immediacy of connection. It begins a conversation that spreads from Student-Student to Student-Teacher, Student-Parent, Parent-Teacher and so on. This changes the dynamic of interactions at a whole school level, in the simplest terms it effects cultural change.

As individuals we need to be mindful of our Online Reality
As Teachers we need to be aware of our students Online Reality

Summative points

  • Positive Digital Citizenship can only be achieved through open communication
  • Connect with each other and create open paths to dialog.
  • Don’t need to reinvent the wheel, use the great tools and resources already available.
  • Be an Advocate of Digital Citizenship
  • Be mindful of your Online Reality
  • Act the culture your school needs.
  • You are the person that can make a difference.

Accessing iBooks from online

Just a proof of concept that uploading an iBook for parents at schools can happen as easily as a Parent iBook proof of concept download link.

How to get it working in WP

So you’re going to need to add a MIME type to your WordPress if you want to download iBooks from it =)

Go find a plugin

I’m not going to tell you to jump in and modify your function or phpconfigs – go find a plugin. I use Manage Upload Types v1.2  by Jeremy Madea you can get it by visiting the Manage Upload Type plugin site.

Once you have a MIME type configuration tool you will need to add the following type:

ibooks        application/x-ibooks+zip

It only took a little googling to find This solved my question Re: Ibooks – download website link not working on the Apple Support forums. So full kudos to v76yo who already did the hard work for us.

Drop in Jump page

While we are building the how-to on creating website layout for education we recognise that some of you out there need a solution for now. So with that in mind we have knocked up a quick Jump page that can be used to navigate between your disparate systems.

Fair warning: this solution is for those of you happy to play with HTML


Corpus Jump page

How do I make it work?

All you need to do is dump the unzipped contents of the download into the root HTML file of your site and then adjust the links and pics. The CSS will make sure the site is responsive and looks good on any device. It is licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 so feel free to modify, adapt and share it however you like.


Tips to tweak it

The images for the links are 640×360 (16:9 ratio) so they should look great even on a fullscreen 27″ iMac – looks sweet on an iPad too. BTW its also pretty small @388Kb!


Making icons look pretty

We will cover how to make sweet touch icons later but for now you might like this little helper to convert your logo image into every kind of webclip icon you’ll need with correct names including the favicon.

Webclip icons


Download it

We used the Corpus Christi College intranet as content for the template to show the site as a working demo.

Drop in Jump page

eBoard Solutions

update (8 March 2012)The new Apple TV released this morning provides 1080p HD – it also runs on iOS5.1. The current process will not work with the new Apple TV or iOS5.1. If you update your Apple TV to iOS5.1 you currently will not be able to use the device as an eBoard. FireCore will undoubtedly release a new Seas0nPass and aTV3 flash eventually and I’ll let you know when they do.

A simple software solution to implementing a scalable eBoard system. The first eBoard system using Apple TV 2 hardware was conceived and deployed at a college and it came with a few provisors. Namely that the number of manageable number of eBoards would be no more than 5, but after the introduction of the initial 3 their value and the promise of their potential, meant that with in months they are burgeoning on having 25+ eBoards through out the college. The solution below will be cheap enough that primary schools could afford to set this up.

When you consider adding an Apple TV 2 adds wireless mirroring, you can understand how for a very small outlay you could also add them to existing projectors (many colleges are doing this, and financially it makes sense) to provide the same functionality of an expensive custom system. You might be thinking by this point “Well that’s nice but you started of saying only 5…?” and thats what I’d hope you would be thinking, as well as how incredible the advantages of adding Apple TV 2’s to classroom projectors is.

So why 5? well simply the set up and management get out of control very quickly and at a college where there are lots of MacBooks, iMacs or iPads the traffic across the bonjour network (not to mention mDNSResponder hiccups on windows hardware) means that even with a small 1 to 1 cohort your eBoard will drop connection with the managing iTunes account. Also to refresh the eBoards requires a script to reset iTunes on the managing computer. So managing more than 5 eBoards using the standard setup just becomes too much overhead.

The Solution

In the interests of people that don’t actually read the whole article I will leave out the original design and in place I will leave the revised version yay! So here is what your going to need to do and why this solution might only be temporary. Even though I generally hate hearing the solution to Apple hardware solutions requiring Seas0nPassing (JailBreaking) I have to admit that in a college this is the only way to keep costs down and infrastructure change to a minimum. This also provides the first problem as thanks to a ruling in 2010 the US Copyright Office essentially made Seas0nPassing legally acceptable, that is until later next month when the rulings time limit  will run out. Hopefully the ruling will be be made permanent (go here to help the EFF make that happen) and I won’t have to write a new and more complex solution later.

What you need


  • Apple TV 2
  • TV (720p or higher)
  • HDMI cable (not expensive ones)
  • Micro USB cable

You will also want something to mount the TV where you want it and something to mount the Apple TV 2 where you want it. The Apple TV 2 requires line of sight for the remote control to work so take that into consideration. Also if you mount the Apple TV 2 in a bracket, ensure that it is not enclosed by metal as it will affect the wireless signal (check it in place to make sure the connection and signal is fine before you do anything drastic.


  • wireless network that allows bonjour (port 5353)
  •  power
  • computer

If you have a wired connection and you can get an ethernet cable to the Apple TV 2 there is obviously no need for the wireless network, but add an ethernet cable to the hardware requirements. Check that the reflections in the room won’t interfere with viewing the TV from the most common angles. Yes, I’ve seen things installed with out the power points in place so check.


You are also going to need a install all the above software on to the computer before we start. This can be done from any computer there is no specific requirement to use either a Apple or Windows OS.

What to do

Test that the Apple TV 2 has connection to the network from where you plan to install the  TV. The Apple TV 2 has no facility for connection to the internet through a proxy so just having signal to the network is all that you need. Install the TV and test the Apple TV configuration connects to your network.


Get your computer with the latest version of iTunes and an internet connection, you’ll also need the apple TV 2, a power cord for the Apple TV 2 and the micro USB cable. follow the instructions here to Seas0nPass the Apple TV 2. The only tip that might help here is that sometimes the USB cable doesn’t provide enough power to get the Apple TV 2 into DFU mode, so you can jump start that bit by plugging in the power cord and once the DFU mode is initiated (quick flashing light)  remove the power cord.

Be patient I did 4 in a row perfectly then had one that took 5 attempts to get right, just know that it will work and you have every right to hate the iTunes error messages. A quick google search will help with the codes but basically make sure the power cord doesn’t stay attached, don’t put the HDMI cable near it until it is Seas0nPassed and make sure you disconnect any devices that are connected to your iTunes this includes connection with Wifi Sync.

aTV Flash:

After successfully Seas0nPassing the Apple TV 2, go and install and mount the Apple TV 2 to the TV. Configure it to the network settings (get the IP address of the Apple TV 2) and then return to you computer to start the aTV Flash. Make sure you are on the same network as the Apple TV 2 as this program will find the Apple TV 2  with out it being physically connected to your computer. Run aTV Flash on the Apple TV 2 by selecting the correct IP address.


 This is optional if you have a solid shared drive structure at your college, but this way allows for connection from anywhere, anytime and ensures there is an independent backup of the messages. This is where management and scalability becomes much easier too, in fact even with the original setup this is the key to managing multiple eBoards. Download and install DropBox onto the managing computer, many IT Admins won’t necessarily like the idea of installing DropBox onto a server and that is not  a problem, just install it on a computer that will have un interrupted connection to your network and to the internet. Get a SMB share setup with the folder structure that matches how you want to deploy the eBoards. Connect your managing computers file connection to the SMB share to be synced in the DropBox.

Now based on who you want to be able to manage each eBoard share the synced folders setting permissions through DropBox. This means that the Staff or Students that are in charge of updating the eBoard can set up DropBox on their devices and instantly update to the eBoards by copy files into the correct folder on their local device.


This is the part that makes Seas0nPassing worth it, go to your Apple TV 2 and you will find that aTV Flash will have installed a Management option on the Apple TV 2 menu, inside you can navigate through and enable XBMC. Once installed, enter the XBMC main menu item, from here you can navigate through to Pictures. Add the SMB share folder for the eBoard and thats it working. From here I suggest going through and disabling the majority of the menu options and adding your own graphics to brand the setup  and as a tip don’t remove the settings  menu from the main menu of XBMC.

Interestingly you can use XBMC from behind a proxy  to access the internet and even set up a http control panel to manage it but you won’t really need it unless you plan on taking over all the Apple TV 2’s and broadcasting the same looping video or something similar as XBMC was designed much like the Apple TV 2 to be a personal entertainment system.

Keynote – PowerPoint:

The eBoard is designed to show pictures only, this means either becoming very efficient at Photoshop or utilising presentation software. Create your own template that suits your users and brand it so it looks like the kind of message board you intend the eBoard to feel like. Store the template in a shared drive available from the DropBox this way the slides for each eBoard can use the previous  days layout. Both Keynote and PowerPoint allow you to export presentations as a set of pictures and uploading, deleting and managing existing pictures in the shared DropBox folder allows ownership and control of the eBoards for Staff and Students.

The Conclusion

With iPad mirroring intact and all the advantages that the Apple TV 2 and an iPad provide in conjunction they should be considered a smart board killer. The apps and the flexibility of having students engage with this type of system is both scary and exciting the benefits are huge and policy is the best method for developing correct use. Colleges and schools can use the scalability of this implementation for a variety of scopes and the flexibility of the system allows anyone to set this up. It is also, despite what it might sound like above, a very simple process to get them into place. There are many ways to setup an eBoard the advantages of which are quickly realised once in place.

If you have any questions or need any help contact me or leave a comment below.

Final Tips:

Make sure the Apple TV 2 is set to never sleep and the screen saver is not on.

Use the same type of settings in the XBMC too.

iPad mirroring and passwords will become a big issue, make your policy about who can use the Apple TV 2 as a mirroring device, who has password access  etc. very clear from the start.

Staff passwords are vulnerable whilst being projected on any screen and with the iPad showing the character for a brief second, Staff and Studtends need to know not to type passwords when they are mirroring.

Choose a good theme from XBMC and spend a bit of time branding the look of it.

If you need to refresh something thats not working for some reason on the Apple TV 2 there is an option in XBMC to do a restart and it will reset the devices cached memory.

eBoard Messaging system using TV2s

TV2s as a cost effective implementation of a college message board system

After many a false turn and problem discovery (they lurk behind every corner) we finally have a generic styled multi user eBoard system. I’m finishing of the documentation still and will be training the relevant staff early next week on how it all works.

A few quick tips if your heading down the path though :

  • TV2s are near the cheapest solution you’ll find (until the RasberryPi)
  • You don’t need commercial grade TVs just get something BIG and currently TV2 is only capable of 720p, so no need for a super HiDef TV cause it’ll go to waste. Try and get a TV with an auto on and off timer, most TVs come wit this standard.
  • Teach the TV to recognise the TV remote as an TV@ remote.
  • Don’t forget you need HDMI cables too, The Apple ones available online are actually great for price and they’ll arrive with the devices.
  • If your behind a proxy – forget about internet connectivity (unless you have a Kolbe iProxy setup), this also means expect to take them offsite to do the required updates before installation as they have no proxy settings.
  • You will need a single dedicated machine and NO it can not be your server (Your Server is probably on a different vLAN by now anyway right?)
  • Figure out who your invested users are early, once people see it working during testing they’ll all want in. Having selected the managing staff early will make them endeavour to make it work (if it isn’t updated daily then you wasted a heap of money on what could have essentially been done with a printer).
  • Get a slick Keynote, intact get it so good that it can double as your College external presentations template, the branding will give all staff and students a sense of ownership too.
  • No matter what your ICT department thinks, it can be done, infact there are so many ways to do it I plan on posting the best way we have discovered.
  • AirPlay is awesome and dangerous… Make sure you know early on how you want to deal with AirPlay mirroring as it is the great extension of the device and is not easily traceable. Get your policy right before it goes in and let the staff know not to type passwords whilst mirroring.
  • Dropbox is your answer – for many reasons the most important of which is that the service automatically updates folders and connection even after outages. No need to write SSH keys and scripts.
  • Dropbox is your answer – yep its important enough to mentioned twice, this is the simplest way to control staff access and even student level access if you wish, just share the appropriate folder… so simple. Plus you effectively allow staff the freedom to share pictures and information from anywhere (imagine that Pilgrimage, Ski Trip or Conference being uploaded in real time)
  • Don’t rush it, the eBoards are a form of communication, it’s better to get them right than turn people off them by implementing them badly. Get the right people involved.