Blog Archives

Get Mirroring to Work at Your Library! by Bradley Jones

The ideal way to present iPad apps to a large group (as in more than 5) is to mirror wirelessly to a big projection screen. iPads come with a feature called “AirPlay” that makes this possible. With AirPlay, you can connect your iPad to your laptop or an AppleTV over a shared wifi network—connect that laptop or AppleTV to a projector and, blammo!—you’re projecting! (Read Tony Vincent’s article “6 Ways to Show Your iPad on a Projector Screen”). Unfortunately, many of us have discovered it’s not as easy as that at our library. Here’s the rub: AirPlay and AppleTV are consumer products designed to be used by individuals on a home wifi network. Institutional wifi networks for public use have safeguards to prevent people from accessing each other’s devices. Unfortunately, those safeguards also prevent AirPlay from working.

But there ARE workarounds (Yay! Workarounds!) One workaround is to create an “ad hoc” wifi network. That’s the official term for it, though it sounds informal and sort of, well, ad hoc (you can also say “peer-to-peer” if you don’t like “ad hoc”). The general idea is to create a wifi hot-spot—sort of a mini wifi network that you are in charge of—that allows your devices to do what they need to do so AirPlay can work.

Tony Vincent posted this link to instructions for setting up an ad hoc network in response to a comment on the “6 Ways” article above. I tried this out with a MacBook running Reflector App. Following the instructions, it’s pretty easy to set up the ad hoc network with the MacBook as the hotspot. When it works, your wifi symbol will have an up arrow in it.

Ad Hoc Network

Open Reflector App on the MacBook and connect the iPad to the ad hoc network by entering the name and password for the network that you created. Double click the home button to open the iPad’s “tray” and slide all the way to the left to see the “AirPlay” button.


Use that to connect to the MacBook and start mirroring. You would need a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter to hook the MacBook up to your projector. I didn’t try this with a Windows computer, but a quick Google shows me there are plentiful how-tos, so it should be possible.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention an internet connection. It is possible to use an ad hoc network for mirroring without an internet connection if all you want to do is project an app that is already downloaded onto the iPad. If you want internet access, you’ll need to have your laptop plugged in with an Ethernet cable. Also, you’ll probably need to have your IT Dept. “allow” the MacBook to connect to the network by adding its MAC address to their whitelist. (MAC is different from Apple’s “Mac,” I was surprised to find out—it means Media Access Control address. It is a unique identifier for any device on a network.) There are many variations on this set up you could try—for instance, if you had your laptop hooked up by Ethernet, but it was too far away to plug it into the projector, you could probably use an AppleTV added to the ad hoc network to connect to the projector.

Please note: you MUST put a password on your ad hoc network if you connect it to your Library’s network via Ethernet. Actually, it’s possible to set it up without a password but that would be Very Bad, especially from your Network Admin’s perspective. Not password protecting the ad hoc network opens up a backdoor to the library network and circumvents all the security work they do—please don’t do that.

Besides the ad hoc network idea, there is another workaround which we’re using at my library: we set up a separate wifi network just for the mirroring devices. My IT department actually already had a “test” wifi network set up that wasn’t being used—our Network Specialist had to open up the necessary ports and give me the name of the network and the password. They also needed to add the MAC addresses of the devices I’d be using to the network white list. Now, when I need to mirror, I connect the AppleTV and the iPad to this network, connect with AirPlay, and mirroring happens.

I hope that this post is more helpful than confusing—and there are certainly more questions to address, so please share your successes and challenges with mirroring setups in the comments! Many thanks to Dave Nelson in our LAN Department for talking me through the ad hoc test for this write-up. And, since it is bad form to have a whole blog post with almost no pictures, here is my cat, Marcel…


Bradley Jones
Youth Technology Librarian
Skokie Public Library

Summer STEM Programs, by Bradley Jones

Over the summer I got to do several really fun STEM-y type programs for grade school aged kids. One of my favorites was “Light Painting”—an app-based combination of digital and physical fun which yielded this photo, among many more.

light painting

Another was “Rubber Band Race Cars,” which was more low tech but afforded great opportunities for experiential learning. You’ll find the full write-ups here with more photos, videos, and how-to details!

Bradley Jones
Youth Technology Librarian
Skokie Public Library

Tinker Group Presentation, by Bradley Jones

Tinker is a networking group in the Chicagoland area for library staff who work with children, teens, and technology. We share programming ideas and provide an opportunity to get hands-on with new technology. Participants in our meetings had expressed interest in learning more about “iPads in storytime”. I asked Little eLit’s Cen Campbell to present and she graciously accepted—appearing virtually and speaking with passion and clarity to a group of 50 about joint media engagement in storytime. Please see our meeting recap which includes Cen’s slides, and check out the other interesting kids’ technology goings-on!

Bradley Jones
Youth Technology Librarian
Skokie Public Library

iPads in Storytime: Primary Time+ (Part II) by Bradley Jones

Last fall, my library started its first storytime incorporating iPads. I wrote about it here previously, and I wanted to follow up on how it’s going. I also want to say that I have been greatly encouraged by and learned alot from reading other people’s posts on this blog. So thanks everybody–you are all awesome!

Primary Time+ is a weekday evening storytime for K-1 kids with caregivers offered once a month (except in the summer). We present a variety of formats (oral tales, big books, action songs with ukulele, & “regular” picture books) and always end with a parent-child app sharing time. We make handouts available with recommended apps, app review resources, and (since Kendra at Read Sing Play mentioned it) I’ve been providing copies of this information sheet from the Fred Rogers Center titled “Advice for Parents of Young Children in the Digital Age” to refer to and give to interested parents. For the past several months I’ve also been getting my feet wet presenting one iPad app story each session.

Here’s a bit of a recording of me presenting The Very Cranky Bear. There were only a handful of families on this night, so the atmosphere was quiet and low-key. The quality of the video isn’t all that great, but you can get an idea of how this particular equipment setup works. While a little painful, it was actually really helpful to see myself on video–I could see things I didn’t realize I was doing. One mistake was showing the iPad screen to the group while it was being projected behind me. This ends up dividing their attention–some kids are watching me and the iPad and some are watching the screen. I’m also looking at the screen instead of the kids much more than I imagined I was.

On another day, I did the iBooks version of Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes. I had the publisher’s website open to the song clip so they could hear how the song goes once. During the story, I left the iPad sitting on the projector stand so my hands were free to accompany the sung refrain with ukulele–reaching over to swipe the iPad to turn pages (maybe there’s a foot pedal for this?). This also freed me to get up and walk around in front of the projected screen.

I’ve been using a 30-pin to VGA dongle and cable to connect the iPad to a portable projector. This setup let us get started with the equipment we had on hand, but there are disadvantages to it:

  • The portable projector has to be at least 6 feet from the screen–putting it sort of right in the middle of the room.
  • Even 6 feet from the screen the projected image isn’t as big as it could be.
  • The 30-pin dongle plug will come loose if you don’t keep a finger on it.
  • You are tethered to the projector stand, which makes it harder to refer to the projected images than if you could stand up in front.

Just last week we successfully got a wireless mirroring setup to work. As Holly Southern mentioned in her post, it takes some fiddling to get it to work with your library network, but is totally worth it. Here’s more about that fiddling: We got an Apple TV ($99) and this special HDMI to VGA adapter (also available from Apple for $59). The problem (as my IT network specialist explained it to me) is that our library, and many others, block certain ports on their wifi network. This prevents patrons from accessing each other’s computers while sharing the wifi network. But that is exactly what the Apple TV and your iPad need to do–they have to access each other over the shared wifi network via these ports to do the mirroring. The Daring Librarian (‏@GwynethJones) recently tweeted this article which covers this info and has a link to this table of the specific ports that different mirroring setups require to be open. Whether or not AirPlay will work at your library depends on which ports are closed and why–hopefully this information will help you be able to talk to your IT department about it. In our case, opening all the necessary ports would hurt network security, so what my super-awesome IT person (have I mentioned how much I love them?) did was create a new, password protected wifi network separate from the public one with the ports open just for mirroring devices. I can’t wait to try the mirroring live when PT+ starts again in the fall!

Bradley Jones
Youth Technology Librarian
Skokie Public Library

iPads in Storytime: Skokie Public Library Primary Time+

skokielibrary-16_600Here at Skokie Public Library, we just started a storytime incorporating iPads. It’s a monthly program for K-1 graders called Primary Time+ and we’ve done 3 so far (see photos of what it looks like on Flickr!). Paula Shapiro (a former intern who now is a children’s librarian at Deerfield Public Library but still generously volunteers to help with this storytime) and I have been presenting a “traditional” storytime format for the first half or so of each 45 minute program. By “traditional” I mean we open with an action song (accompanied by ukulele duet!) and then trade off presenting some longer picture books—we’ve also worked in a couple of jokes and magic tricks. Then we usually split the group in half if there are enough people—attendance has been between 7 and 12 families. One half gets tablets and does individual parent-child app sharing with me available for guidance and questions while Paula runs an early literacy board game like Zingo. After 10 minutes or so we switch groups.

Our library has 4 iPads and 2 LeapPads, enough for half the group. We have a folder on each iPad loaded with a selection of recommended apps such as PopOut! Peter Rabbit, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App, and The Monster At the End of This Book. We always provide a handout that lists the apps that we’ve featured, as well as free resources such as Tumblebooks on the library’s website and the free beta. The handouts also list websites for app reviews. We gather print copies of the featured books as well and display them for checkout on a table with the handouts. For the last couple of minutes we bring it back down with “The More We Get Together” on uke and say goodbye!


I haven’t done much modeling by presenting app stories, but reading the discussions and posts on this blog has made me realize that it’s important to start doing so! One reason I haven’t yet is because of the logistics of using the overhead projector (lowering the lights, PC running the projector is in the back of the room, etc.). However, I did do a brief demo of Toontastic last month just holding an iPad, which seemed to work okay. We’ll explore our options.

pigeon on the train

On the morning of our last Primary Time+ a pigeon happened to stroll onto my CTA train car just before the doors closed. I took a few pictures of the pigeon walking back and forth with my phone camera and then shared the photos with the PT+ kids—just by holding up my phone and having them crowd in while I explained what happened. A lively exchange of ideas ensued, including–you guessed it–“Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride the Train!” While this was a spontaneous incident, thinking about it afterward I realized that it was actually a good example of how we can take advantage of new technology to enhance and even create opportunities for exploring storytelling and narrative skills.

Bradley Jones
Youth Technology Librarian
Skokie Public Library