November 14 , 2016

Say Goodbye to Classroom Connectivity Issues

Reflector Student Press Shot

Picture this: Your school finally purchased the iPads you’ve been requesting for months. You’re eager to get started and excited for all the collaborative opportunities your students will get to experience. Now it’s time to figure out how to strategically use all of these devices. You ask yourself, “How can all of my students be collaborative with one another if they are all working on separate screens?”

You do some research with your fellow colleagues and discover that Reflector 2 will allow students to wirelessly display their devices to your computer screen. By connecting your computer to a classroom projector or interactive whiteboard, you could share these mirrored student devices with the entire class.

You and your colleagues are instantly impressed with its recording, mirroring and customization capabilities, and you can’t wait to implement this screen-mirroring technology into your lesson plan. There’s only one problem. You and your students are on separate wireless networks. In order for Reflector to work, both teacher and student need to be on the same network. What’s the solution? Reflector Student.

The Reflector Student app is a free Reflector companion app that runs on each student’s iOS device and acts as a workaround for schools that experience Reflector 2 connectivity problems due to restrictive networks. This will resolve issues for schools that host their student and teacher devices on separate networks. Students can connect their iOS device to a teacher’s Reflector 2 software using the following options in the Reflector Student app:

Reflector Student Connection Types

  • Bluetooth discovery
  • Quick Connect Codes™
  • iOS camera linking

Once paired, mirroring across subnets and tricky networks is a breeze. Reflector Student remembers the pairing, allowing it to automatically display in the device’s AirPlay list to make connecting faster in the future.

Reflector Student also shows your students the other devices connected to Reflector. This allows them to see other student or teacher devices directly on the iOS device that's in front of them.

Reflector Student In Action

Discover Reflector Student for yourself, or download it for free in the App Store.

November 7 , 2016

Alpha Squirrel Guest Post: Using Technology To Improve Math Education In Brazil, Part Two

This is the second of a three-part blog series* featuring Alpha Squirrel EdTech Expert Marc Faulder. Marc is an educator and Interactive Technologies Leader at Burton Joyce Primary School in the U.K. He has spent the past two years working with the University of Nottingham in England on a research project about closing the math gap for marginalized students using tablets and math apps. They used math apps from onebillion, a London-based nonprofit, to measure the impact that this intervention has on learning.

Marc is traveling to Brazil with his team to continue the research project and scope out the possibility of launching the onebillion initiative in Brazil. They’ll also train teachers on the use of technology in the classroom. Read part one of Marc’s journey.

Learning Gains in Brazil
It was a successful first week in Recife, Brazil, and our agenda took new directions each day. Our time was flexible because we initially dedicated much of it to observation and knowledge exchange. We were able to follow the lead of our local partners to maximize the opportunities for this scoping visit.

Recife2

Projects Shared
During the first week, we met with teachers, researchers and professionals from various organizations and schools. Marie Neves from CESAR was instrumental in initiating these relationships, arranging meetings with ABA Global School, DAMAS School and The British Consulate. In all three meetings, we spent time learning about their positions in this region. We also agreed to visit a rural school based outside of the town of Escada, Brazil.

With each partner, we shared three of the projects that we are bringing to Brazil:

  • Closing the Gap in Math – How can mobile technology and the onebillion software support marginalized learners?
  • Stories of a Lifetime - How might we keep local legends, myths and fables alive while also sharing our place in the world?
  • Connecting Classes Across Continents - How might we develop deeper understanding through the use of global connections to broaden learners’ perspectives?

Recife3

DAMAS school picked up two of the three projects we presented. They are particularly interested in joining the global research project in Closing the Gap in Math, as well as Stories of a Lifetime. ABA Global School will be joining us on all three projects. At The British Consulate, we gained expert advice on how best to scale up these projects in Brazil and who to approach for support in further developing our outreach here in Recife.

Recife5

One school visit we made on Friday was extraordinary. Driving inland, we saw life in rural Recife and found our way to the town of Escada. Just beyond the town, we stopped at a village built by a sugar cane factory. The villagers work on the planation, and the State of Recife provides schooling for the children at Dr. Jose Henrique Municipal School. Local people helped us find the school and introduced us to Regina, a school coordinator. She was very welcoming and showed us around. We met other staff and children at the school. It was a good opportunity to make the comparison between city and rural life in Recife. We also had a chance to share the onebillion math project with the head teacher, who had never used tablet technology before. Amazed by what she saw in the Portuguese version of the app, she agreed that this would transform math learning in her school.

Recife7

This visit allowed me to make use of the Book Creator text that the Burton Joyce children authored for ABA. The staff and children at Dr. Jose Henrique Municipal School were able to step inside Burton Joyce through the use of technology and see what life is like elsewhere in the world. The U.K.’s green fields and open spaces were a contrast for them but similarities were drawn from soccer and music. After an hour at the school, we exchanged contact information, and we plan on working together on a project in the future.

Recife6

Knowledge Exchanged
Meeting Roberta Ferraz at ABA Global School has been a highlight of my trip. Roberta is the Educational Technology Coordinator at this primary school and is a passionate educator who brings new ideas to the school curriculum. Working on many initiatives herself, including podcasting programs and student cinema projects, she was very inspired by Stories of a Lifetime and Connecting Classes Across Continents. Roberta will coordinate the pilot study of the cross-cultural math evaluation of the onebillion software.

Recife8

Leading up to my visit, children at my school authored a Book Creator text about Burton Joyce Primary School and life in their village. Roberta invited me to co-teach with her when I return to the U.K. next week and share this book with students at ABA. We have organized a FaceTime call between our classes at Burton Joyce and ABA so that children can connect over this personal text. Following this lesson, students will begin working on their own book about ABA school and Recife, which will be sent to us at Burton Joyce. This exciting project builds on the work I did with St. Francis Xavier School, Goa, back in 2015. I look forward to publishing a second global book in this series at the end of this collaboration, as well as extend the reach of the Connecting Classes Across Continents program.

Daniella, a coordinator at DAMAS school, is going to bring Stories of a Lifetime to her school alongside Roberta at ABA. Stories of a Lifetime celebrates local legends, myths and folklore in localities. Children who work on this project will research, script and illustrate their retelling of this local story. This can be in their first language with English subtitles or told in English. Once their story project is complete, teachers upload this three-minute video story to Vimeo and share the link with myself and ADE Jason Milner. We embed their video story in their country portfolio on the Stories of a Lifetime website for other schools to use as a learning resource. Those schools who access these stories are encouraged to respond in their own way via their school blogs and share this work as comments on the school’s Vimeo profile. You can find out more about this project on YouTube. 

Professional Learning
Daniella (DAMAS Coordinator) and Roberta (ABA Coordinator) have invited me to visit their schools next week to provide training to their staff. I will help their teachers learn how to best utilize their tablets so they can work with Stories of a Lifetime. We will also train staff to use the onebillion software and show them how to implement this teacher-led intervention in their part of this cross-cultural study. Roberta is very keen to develop the use of technology in early years at ABA, and I will be showcasing my class’s work with iPads to the ABA teaching staff.

My own professional learning has benefited from working internationally. There have been many opportunities to reflect on my practice and learn how best to collaborate with teachers abroad. As an Apple Distinguished Educator, I am experienced in collaborating with teachers inside of this network. To apply this skill internationally, as an educator visiting from abroad, has been very useful to me. With four days left on this trip, I look forward to a week of professional development and project implementation with our new partners.

*Marc submitted this post to Squirrels on October 31, 2016. You can contact Marc and follow his adventure on Twitter

November 7 , 2016

Reflector 2 Classroom Checklist

ChecklistAs education enters a new age of mobility, classrooms are starting to resemble modern-day coffee shops. Teachers aren’t limited to standing up at the front of the room doing most of the talking. Students can collaborate through technology and take charge of their own personalized learning no matter where they are seated in the classroom. Classrooms are transitioning to more of a comfortable and collaborative learning environment.

Today’s classroom arrangement bears little resemblance to the classroom we experienced as kids. Chalkboards are now interactive whiteboards, students are turning in their textbooks and notebooks for iPads and ordinary pencils are being tossed aside for stylus pens. Who would have pictured a classroom like this 10 years ago?

We pose the question: with all of these devices and technology competing for attention in the classroom, is it possible for students to actually be collaborative with one another? How about with teachers?

The answer is yes. The Reflector 2 screen-mirroring software allows students to take a hands-on approach to their education and facilitates collaboration while they apply key concepts in the classroom. Students can share their work side-by-side, present group projects and have competitions when working with apps such as Kahoot or Quizlet. Teachers can even be collaborative with their students by showing instructions next to student results.

So, what do you need to make this collaborative, mobile classroom a reality? Here’s your Reflector 2 classroom checklist:

  1. Mac or Windows computer to run the Reflector 2 software
  2. iOS, Android, Chromebook or Surface Pro* devices that students can share content from
  3. Projector or interactive whiteboard if you want to display student content to the whole class
  4. Reflector Director (optional) for teachers to access the Reflector 2 controls from their iPad or iPhone instead of from their computer
  5. Reflector Student (optional) to show students the same Reflector 2 display on their iOS device that the teacher sees on the computer, as well as provide connectivity alternatives for schools with restrictive networks

Pro tip: You can wirelessly connect as many mobile devices to Reflector 2 as your school network allows (sweet spot is usually between four to five devices).

That’s it! Pretty simple, right?

If you would like to learn more about Reflector 2, you can watch our “How To” videos, including How to Connect to Reflector 2 and How to Record Mirrored Devices on our YouTube channel. Or, you can visit our website to learn more about Reflector in the classroom.

*Microsoft Surface Pros require our sister app, AirParrot 2, to wirelessly connect to the teacher’s computer because Surface Pros do not come equipped with a native screen-sharing functionality such as Apple’s AirPlay or the Chromebook/Android Cast technology. 

November 4 , 2016

Reflector Student 1.1 for iOS is Now Available

An update to the Reflector Student iOS App is now available in the App Store. Reflector Student is a Reflector 2 companion app that helps students connect to Reflector 2 over restricted school networks. It also shows students the devices that are mirrored to the teacher's computer. No matter where a student is seated in the classroom, they can open Reflector Student on their iOS device to see the other devices that are displayed on the teacher's computer screen.

Reflector Student 1.1 update notes: 

- Improved catch-up performance when a screen stream is behind
- Improved performance when running on 32-bit devices
- Resolved an issue where rebroadcasting would not work properly on iOS 10
- Resolved an issue where some device screens would be shown in the wrong orientation
- Miscellaneous performance and stability improvements

You can grab Reflector Student version 1.1 for free in the App Store.

November 1 , 2016

Why Higher Education Is Investing In Smart Classrooms, and What’s Missing

The college experience is gradually starting to resemble an education utopia for students. Higher education institutions are becoming a place where young adults can grow as individuals while surrounded by on-demand conveniences and like-minded peers. State-of-the-art leisure facilities and smart classrooms filled with collaboration and presentation technology are abundant.

That comes at a price, though. The cost of tuition has been increasing and state funding for higher education institutions has been decreasing ever since the recession. As tuition costs rise, high school students must make tough decisions when deciding which college to attend. This leaves schools looking for ways to add value and differentiate their offering from competitors to appeal to prospective students.

Funding down, tuition up
On average, states are spending 18 percent ($1,598) less per student, and annual published tuition at four-year public colleges has jumped by 33 percent ($2,333) since the 2007-08 school year. So how do schools differentiate themselves and show value in marketing materials for prospective students?

Lavish recreational facilities, apartment-style dorm rooms and pristine landscapes can all add value to a student’s educational experience. This is true of smart classrooms, too. It’s why higher education institutions are devoting more resources to equip learning spaces and offices with technology that facilitates collaboration, presentation and instruction.

According to The Center For Digital Education, higher education institutions will spend $10.8 billion on IT support and services this year. Network upgrades are a top priority on the agenda. Increased connectivity on college campuses can help educators reach students with modern teaching methods such as blended learning, personalized learning and competency-based learning.

The typical list of amenities in “smart classrooms” on college campuses looks like this:

  • MacBook or PC laptop
  • Projector
  • Large wall screen or TV
  • Apple TV/Chromecast
  • Microphone
  • Lighting controls
  • Speakers
  • Document camera
  • HDMI/VGA cables
  • Interactive white board
  • Wireless presentation pointer

What’s missing
While this technology contributes to a smart classroom, it doesn’t create a truly wireless or collaborative environment for students. It doesn’t do for instruction what a rec-center sauna does for the “college experience.”

Wireless content sharing is a common problem for higher education institutions. Imagine if every building on campus – academic buildings, administrative buildings, university libraries, student centers, conference centers and residence halls – had one simple and universal way to wirelessly display computer screens to TVs and digital projectors. Wouldn’t that be....convenient?

The key word there is “simple.” A school’s IT department must operate within a range of technical know-how that varies greatly among staff, students and faculty on campus. What’s common technical knowledge to a computer science professor may be a completely foreign concept to an adjunct journalism professor. This creates a barrier in the adoption of new tech services and solutions.

Collaborating in smart classrooms
The theoretical simple and universal screen-mirroring solution for college campuses mentioned above? Yeah, it exists. Think of it as a facilitator that’s used to display content in meetings, lectures and presentations. It makes HDMI/VGA cables obsolete and allows any student, teacher or faculty member to present from anywhere in a given room.

Content sharing is never going to be viewed as a game changer from a student’s perspective, and it’s just one component of an advanced smart classroom, but it’s an important feature of any room intended to foster collaboration. You can’t have a truly smart, collaborative and connected classroom until every individual in the room has the ability to quickly display his or her screen at a moment’s notice.

What makes your campus stand out?
While per-student funding decreases and tuition costs increase, higher education institutions will continue to look for ways to differentiate from competitors and add value, from campus technology offerings to student lifestyle enhancements.

What are some ways your school has tried to differentiate itself from competing schools? What’s in your school’s smart classroom? What type of technology would you like to see introduced to the classroom, lecture hall or administration offices?

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. Our excitement and passion lies in creating high-qualty, budget-friendly software that can be used to enhance the devices already found in today's home and work environments. Follow our blog for all the latest product releases, #TeamSquirrels news and industry insight!