Like many schools that use Apple computers, Silkwood School, in Queensland’s Gold Coast Hinterland, relied on Apple TV for in-classroom screen mirroring. But again like so many of those schools, the staff at Silkwood had become frustrated by the limitations of using a home entertainment product in a modern educational setting. Most significant amongst these frustrations was Apple TV’s lack of functionality for security and controlling access – for example, if a student was given access for screen mirroring in class it also meant that they had access to play music through the system from the oval at lunchtime. As a result, the Apple TV units were locked down to teachers only, which in turn locked out much of the benefit of having a presentation system at all.
The issue came to a head when the school started to move away from Apple computers and incorporate more Windows machines. As Andrew Kemp, Silkwood’s ICT Manager, explains, “The integration of Apple TVs to Windows was awkward. So we actually went back to HDMI cables, which obviously restricted how we could use the system, and who could use it.”
Kemp then set about finding a wireless presentation system better suited to Silkwood’s needs, and that led him to Vivi.
Evaluating wireless presentation options
Middle School Class teacher Alana Carlson’s memories of the evaluation process highlight the importance of testing presentation technology in a hands-on way. “We tried a product called Air Parrot. There were a lot of restrictions and it was very temperamental and difficult to use,” she says. If the school hadn’t tested the product so thoroughly, they might’ve only discovered these shortcomings after the full system was installed. Thankfully, their process for reviewing available options was carefully considered.
“We went to market a couple of times and looked at other alternatives,” says Kemp, “but the simplicity of Vivi won it for us.”
Supporting new ways of teaching and learning
Silkwood runs an educational program that’s quite different to most schools, and Vivi is now a cornerstone in its delivery. From year nine up, students do core learning over three days and use the other two days to work on projects that are of personal interest. “We get a lot of outside providers to come in and work with the kids,” explains Carlson, “and we try to set them up with mentors who are working in those fields.”
This personal work culminates in a major end-of-semester project, which the students can now present to their teachers and peers using Vivi.
“It’s fantastic for them to have control over what they show on the display,” says Carlson. “And it’s cut out a lot of that, ‘Oh, it’s not working, I have to get a USB and put it in my teacher’s computer’. It’s really good.”
Another innovative aspect of Silkwood’s approach to education is their Student-Led Conferences, which replace traditional parent-teacher interviews. “Students present the work they’ve done over the last semester, and what they’re going to do over the next semester, to their mum and dad or their family, and their teacher,” Kemp explains. “It’s about encouraging the students to take ownership and responsibility for their learning. Having Vivi available to the students for their presentation makes that a much more effective process.” The conferences are held across all grades, with students as young as six or seven years old collating pictures and text into presentations to show what they’ve learned, and using Vivi to share them.
While the school is still at a relatively early stage in the adoption of Vivi, Kemp doesn’t hesitate in giving the system his full backing. “Yes, I would recommend Vivi as a solution,” he says. “We needed a better way than connecting a HDMI cable and with the potential to grow to do other things … [like using] multiple screens and not have so much lag time, and Vivi has delivered on all of that.”
Vivi’s commitment to close consultation with schools, and to regular updates and software enhancements, gets another big tick from Kemp.
“Vivi has managed to do what they said they would do [in terms of software development],” he says. “Trust is a big thing in a relationship, which is why I’m sitting in front of a screen about to order another fourteen Vivi units!”