iPad & Projection in Physical Education: Time to Get Creative!

“My umbilical cord to the projector was severed: I could freely move about anywhere in the gym and still project onto a screen. The potential for what my iPad could accomplish in physical education was unlocked.” (Physedtech.org)

My iPad / projector set up in the gym:

Here is an overview of how I've set up my “classroom” (the gym), to maximize the use of my iPad in Physical Education.


Where I work:

My current iPad/projector set up:

My projector is on a small platform on the stage, near the roof, behind an overhanging wall, keeping it safe from balls and other flying objects in the gym. The LCD projector is connected to an Apple TV via a Kanex ATVPro adapter. This great little adapter allows me to use a new HDMI source like an Apple TV with any “older” VGA-only projector. Audio runs out of the adapter along and down the walls to a large Sony Stereo via RCA cables. This setup allows for quick and easy use of any video/image and audio from my iPad. Everything is plugged in and ready to go at all times. I only need to power on my projector and stereo with their remotes and after that everything is controlled via my iPad. I can wirelessly show anything that's on my iPad onto the screen and play any audio from my iPad for all students to see and hear from anywhere in the gym.

How this setup has evolved to what it is:

This wasn't always my set up and there were definitely some challenges along the way. As some of you might know, technology isn't always placed in the PE teachers hands first. I, however, was extremely fortunate to be the first person at my school to be provided with an iPad. But the rest didn't always come so easily.

I started my iPad in PE journey when my school purchased the original iPad for the PE department (me) at my elememtary school. At that time I was using my iPad for assessments, attendance, and a few other tasks. Setup was simple and easy; charge and go (for 10 hours)! If you remember, the original iPad had no video mirroring abilities and very limited video output. No real setup was necessary.

30-pin Digital AV Adapter

A few months after its release, I was very fortunate that my school upgraded me to an iPad 2. This changed everything…. Full video mirroring with my 30 pin to HDMI connector, but I was still tethered via cable to a projector. I could display content on the screen, but any time I wanted to change a slide of skill cues, or reset a timer, I would need run over to the stage from wherever I was in the gym then change it and go back to what I was doing.

When AirPlay mirroring was released I was lucky enough to get my hands on a second generation Apple TV. Now, things in the gym would really change. My umbilical cord to the projector was severed: I could freely move about anywhere in the gym and still project onto a screen. The potential for what my iPad could accomplish in physical education was unlocked.

How my set up started:

What would I project onto? Where could I put a protector in the gym, so it wouldn't be a tripping or safety hazard? I had to get creative. I needed a screen and where would it go? The classroom teachers at my school were having their old overhead projector screens replaced with new 16:9 aspect ratio screens so there were an abundance of these old square retractable screens. So I took apart two old screens, performed minor surgery with a utility knife and made one large 16:9 screen. But where would it go? I wanted to put it central in the gym but I couldn't wheel in a projector cart that kids could run into or trip over, not to mention the power cords. So luckily I had a stage and was able to staple it onto our wooden backdrop, still highly visible but out of the way. As for the projector, I could lift it onto the stage, run a long extension cord to it and voila, I had a functioning projection system in the gym. But this didn't come without it's own difficulties. Every time I wanted to use the projector I had to get it from the AV room (competing for its use with other teachers), carry it over onto the stage, go up onto the stage and plug it in via a long extension cord. This process would take place multiple times in a day. This was time consuming and it was easy for balls to go flying and hit the projector. Nevertheless, I could project in the gym.

When iPad mirroring was released, I asked our technology director for an Apple TV, and eventually one was bought to test out at our campus. Soon after testing, I realized the Wifi signal in the gym wasn't strong enough to support mirroring. Unfortunately, expansion of the wifi in the school to reach the gym was not in the works… So it was time to get creative again. I asked if I could bring in my own secure wireless router for use in the gym. I set it up in my office and now I could put that Apple TV to the test. Needless to say, I quickly “stole it” and it found its new home in the gym. I still had the same setup but with a long HDMI cord running to the Apple TV that was also plugged into the wall. I could go anywhere and show any thing on my iPad. It was awesome! I used this for the remainder of the school year, although set-up was cumbersome, it still worked.

The asking continued for my own dedicated PE projector. But with a tight budget, this wasn't in the cards. Eventually after summer holidays, with enough persistence, our tech director let me commandeer one of the older, lesser used projectors in the school. I was able to use a VGA projector and only had to purchase an adapter to make it compatible with the Apple TV (ATV Pro). So up the ladder I went. I built my own brackets and platform, ran an extension cord, audio cables and created my very own unique spot for my “new” projector. I mounted the projector and currently have a fully functioning and simple to use system.

If I don't have a stage, are there alternatives?

While my current setup works, it is not my ideal situation, as the screen is on one end of the gym and it can be difficult to see from the other. A screen placed high on the wall in the center of the longest wall, would be ideal. There are a variety of options for this. A ceiling mounted projector, that is “caged” to protect it from flying objects or a short throw projector which is mounted directly to the wall, and only comes off the wall 1 to 2 feet, are two options. There are plenty of ways to bring technology into Physical Education you just might have to get creative!



2 responses to “iPad & Projection in Physical Education: Time to Get Creative!

  1. I have been working towards getting this, but I am teaching in the spectator gym for BB and VB and still trying to figure out how I can get a projector safely in my gym. Your ideas will get me brainstorming again.

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