One of my goals as a blogger is to share the things I’ve discovered and am discovering in my ministry. Something that I’ve become particularly passionate about is utilizing technology in ministry. We all know that technology can occasionally be a hinderance rather than a help, but when it’s used well and put in the right hands, technology can be a tremendous blessing. Tech In Ministry will explore how.
I remember the first time I saw a preacher use PowerPoint when delivering a sermon. I was 17 years old, and I was visiting the college I would eventually end up attending. The congregation we attended on Sunday morning looked just like any other Church I’d been to except for the big, white rectangle that hung behind the pulpit. The service proceeded as I would have normally expected, but when the sermon rolled around big, white text on a plain black background showed the scripture that would be the basis for the lesson.
I kid you not: I was amazed.
Twelve years later, and we have reached a point where virtually every Church auditorium in the US has a projector and a screen for presentation purposes. Music and/or lyrics are displayed for worship times, announcements are run before and after service, and specialty software has been created for managing burgeoning media libraries. In large congregations with decent size budgets, this has spilled over into teen rooms and classrooms.
But not every Church has the budget to equip their teen room with a projector, screen, computer, and other necessities for a traditional projection setup. In my case, our classroom is oriented in such a way that using a traditional projection system just doesn’t work. So, I set about trying to find both an inexpensive and effective method for sharing media and presentation slides with my teens. This is what has worked for me; your mileage may vary.
I began by looking at display solutions. My classroom is a long rectangle. It’s about 15-16 feet wide by 35 feet long. It looks something like this:
Because of the dimensions of my classroom, and the placement of all those doors, I’m somewhat limited in how I would set up a projection system. So I decided not to. Instead, we opted for a mounted TV. Anymore, flatscreen TV’s can be purchased for very little. A decent TV in the range of 32 inches or larger can be purchased for around $250 on Amazon, and for comparable prices at places like Target and Best Buy. That’s far less than a good project that gets decent performance in a florescent lit room. Projectors under $300 very rarely output the lumens that are needed for use in a fully lit room.
Of course, you can also ask the congregation for a donated TV. Around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Superbowl, people tend to upgrade their sets, and it might surprise you the quality of television some of your members are prepared to cast aside. A well placed request in the bulletin can lead to a great donation with no hit to your budget.
When I was getting my system set up, I opted to wall mount the TV. Because space in my classroom is limited, I didn’t want anything more than the bookshelves I already had to take up more floor space. If this is the rout you plan to go, skip buying from a brick and mortar retail store and go with Monoprice.com. The price for a good mount simply can’t be beat.
First and foremost is compatibility. Many people rile against Apple’s compatibility issues, noting that Apple devices are typically built to work within their “ecosystem”. Admittedly, the Apple TV works best with Mac and iOS devices, like the iPad and iPhone. The Apple TV is capable of utilizing AirPlay, a method that Apple built for sending content to the Apple TV from their other devices.
If you choose AirPlay from control center in iOS 7 (by swiping up from the bottom of any screen), you are given the option of choosing to send audio or video to an Apple TV on the same WiFi network. Alternatively, you can choose to mirror your device’s screen, allowing you to present the content of any application on the connected TV.
I’ve found a number of really practical uses for this, including using the classroom TV as a smart white board to draw diagrams and notes for the teens when discussing topics that might benefit from them. Using one of the many presentation applications available in the App store (I really do recommend Keynote), you can also prepare slides to accompany a lesson and present right from an iPhone or iPad.
With the launch of OS X 10.8, Apple allowed newer Macs to also take part in AirPlay. You can now extend your desktop to the Apple TV, or mirror your screen.
But what about people who live in a Windows or Android world? Well, there’s some good news for you as well. For Windows users (and people with older Macs) a company called AirSquirrles has released an application called AirParrot ($10) that will allow you the same convenience that comes natively on Apple devices.
Android users have just been given access to AirPlay mirroring (they’ve had the ability to send audio and video for a while) by an app called Mirror which is in public beta. If you’re running up-to-date software and have root access to your phone, it’s very easy to mirror to the Apple TV on Android.
Aside from compatibility, the Apple TV has a number of other features that make it an excellent classroom device:
- It’s tiny and can easily be tucked behind a wall mounted TV.
- It has access to Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, iTunes content, and virtually anything on your devices to use as teaching aids.
- It’s absolutely silent.
- It doesn’t require you to connect or disconnect a device every time that you want to present.
- It’s much less expensive than buying a computer specifically for presenting.
- It’s extremely portable and will connect to any HDMI capable display, so you can use it at camp, retreats, or anywhere else where presenting may need to happen.
All of this essentially means that, regardless of what your current hardware is, you could easily have a wireless presentation system in your classroom for around $400. Less if the TV is donated. It’s not a perfect solution for everyone, but it’s a solution that has worked for me, and it’s one of the least expensive ways to accomplish what it does.