Collaboration in the Classroom using Wireless Presentation

Active Learning? Collaborative Environment? Engaged Students? Flipped Classroom? You’ve no doubt heard these buzzwords over the past few years, but what exactly does it mean? While there are a lot of philosophies that go into modern learning and how to best approach it, Swarthmore’s Media Services Department has been working on updating the campus’ learning spaces to meet the needs of today’s students.

A key element of Active Learning is to allow both professors and students to present wirelessly to the in-room display or displays. Many of the learning spaces throughout campus already have Apple TVs in them, and this past summer we have started deploying a new product called Solstice on campus. While not every room has these devices in them, within the next few years we anticipate all classrooms will have one or both systems available.

So what’s the difference, you ask? Apple TV is probably familiar to folks who are Apple users. It is a simple device that you can connect to via AirPlay with your MacBook, iPad or iPhone. It does play protected content (Netflix, Amazon) and can be a very familiar way of displaying for those who are experienced Apple users. While easy to use, it does have some limitations: it is only compatible with Apple devices and does not allow for multiple users to connect at the same time.

Enter the Solstice, which was designed to be a true collaboration device. It supports Apple products, Windows computers and tablets, and Android devices. The Solstice also allows up to four users to share their work simultaneously. Once the user has downloaded the Solstice App, they connect to the Solstice Pod by entering the information that is displayed on the display in the room.

While there might be limitless use cases for the Solstice in the classroom, imagine some of these: In a Math or Science class, a student points out that they are having trouble with a specific problem. With a couple of clicks on their device, the student is able to share their work with the whole class. Or perhaps you are a faculty member who simply doesn’t want to teach from the podium – Solstice allows you to be “untethered.” Perhaps students could save time when they are presenting by not having to connect their laptop or download a presentation – they can simply present from their phone. Another example would be in a smaller work area – often called huddle spaces – people can gather around the screen to bring an idea to fruition as a team.

While around forty learning spaces around campus received an upgrade to Solstice, one of the rooms that will certainly showcase its abilities is Kohlberg 116. Featuring an astounding five displays, it is a true Active Learning room that will allow students to break off into smaller groups and work together as a team. It is expected that some more of these rooms will be developed throughout the campus in the next few years, culminating in a proposed large-scale room in the upcoming BEP Building.

So which one should you use? Obviously, if you are using Windows or an Android device, then Solstice is the way to go. If you are using an Apple device, and particularly if you are playing  content protected material, then stick with the Apple TV.

If you are interested in learning more about  Apple TV or Solstice, reach out to Media Services or contact your Academic Technologist. The app can be downloaded by visiting from your laptop or by going to the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android). Have a great semester!