iPads in the Classroom, An Unintended Wrinkle

If you ask whether we are a PC based school, or a Mac based school, my answer is always the same.  We are a "best tool for the job" school.

Image: FastCompany.co
We love the interoperability of shared OneNote folders for our students and teachers (yet another post), the use of SharePoint to create individualized Connected Learning Sites for each student with access by parents / teachers / other students automatically controlled by Active Directory.  We also love the rich ecosystem of apps that are only available on the Apple side of the table.

We've been piloting creating an environment in the classroom where pen based tablet PC's and Apple iPads can co-exist simultaneously and without unnecessary complexity for the teacher.

In short, teachers had to be able to connect to the projector and display both the PC and iPad without changing inputs on the projector, and switch back and forth between the devices as easy as falling off a log.

We experimented with using AppleTV, but found that aside from switching the video input on the projector (consuming valuable teaching time) those wonderful little remotes (about the size of a stick of gum) would easily be misplaced.  Setting up the school's wireless network to support AppleTVs in adjoining rooms securely was achievable but somewhat complex.  If it was set up on a shared open network, you just knew it was a matter of time before some student (usually an adolescent male) would discover that you could display certain kinds of images in class...

iPad screen on a PC via AirServer

We were delighted to find a product that solved all of these issues.  Enter AirServer (www.airserver.com) This utility is both highly affordable (less than $10 compared to the $100 / classroom for AppleTV) and simple to use.  It effectively turns the PC or Mac connected to your projector into an AirPlay compatible receiver, and you can easily mirror both the desktop as well as play media.  Our initial findings are incredibly positive, with one exception, which is the real reason for this post.

As it turns out, AirServer mirrors everything that happens on the iPad screen... including the keystrokes you enter whenever you are asked for a password.  Add the iPad's design (as it is with most touchscreens) and the characters of you password are displayed for the whole class to see.

When you consider that many people (and you know who you are) use a derivative of the same password for almost every online account, this can become a problem.

I'm not sure about you, but this is a real issue for me.  Am I the only one who sees a security hole here?

I'm surprised at how little I've heard of this problem in all I've read about iPads in the classroom.  A Google search will bring some articles to light, but I was surprised more people haven't caught on as yet.

So... while this won't stop us from bringing the iPads into the classroom, it certainly changes how we guide our teachers in their use.

By all means... go out and get AirServer... it's a great product.  This issue is Apple's to fix.  

Have you implemented iPads in your school or business yet?  Is this a potential issue for you?

I'd love to hear from you.


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