I've been playing with the iPad again (I know, it's all I seem to do at the moment, but hey someone has to do it). This time I've been playing AirVideo.
This app works in conjunction with a piece of software on a laptop / desktop machine, and allows video content on the laptop / desktop to be viewed on the iPad over a wireless network.
Before I had even tried it I was thinking how it could be used in the classroom. Video instructions could be made available for lessons, and these could be accessible to pupils as and when they need them. Unlike a single machine at the front of the class that can only show one video, the iPads would be able to show different videos to different pupils. Yes, the same is true of laptops, but the ease of portability of the iPad means it could be shared around a table with ease, just like a book could be shared (try moving a laptop across a table without disrupting everyone working on that table and note the difference).
Anyway, before I got carried away with how to use it in the classroom I thought I would test it. I installed the software on my macbook in seconds, and from the simple preferences window said which drives / folders to share.
I opened the app on the iPad and instantly there was my MBP listed as a "server". Clicking through I was able to see the content of my MBP video folder on the iPad.
I first tried to open a purchased movie from iTunes. This failed due to DRM, but other video clips within iTunes that I had added (like the school videos) worked perfectly. It was obvious that non DRM videos in iTunes would be fine to stream to the iPads.
My next thought was YouTube. Could I stream videos from YouTube over AirVideo? Initially, the videos on YouTube would have to be downloaded using websites like keepvid.com and getvideomp3.com onto the computer. Again, there seemed to be DRM issues. Official clips and programmes from known broadcasters would not download, but other videos were fine. I tried a Family Guy clip and a 2Simple tutorial. Both downloaded without issue, and both could be streamed to the iPad and viewed.
Additionally, the video automatically filled the screen when I pressed 'play' - and I mean filled the screen - showing off the iPads large screen brilliantly.
Finally, I wondered about iPlayer content. AirVideo was showing me the channel idents for BBC1 - 4, but when I downloaded a programme into iPlayer, it would not play. DRM issues again?
So, it seems like AirVideo will work for downloaded YouTube clips, video clips self created and non DRM content too. What I haven't tried though, is whether ripped DVD content will work.
Finally, the version of AirVideo I was testing was the 'free' version and had limitations. One of these limitations is that only 4 clips can be shown in the list on screen at anyone time. In the paid for version, all videos within destination folders would be visible.
Of course, all this potential could easily come to nothing - we are talking about technology being used in schools. A place where the filter is King. My glimmer of hope however, is that this App doesn't actually require any data to come into, or leave, the school. It's all handled within the network. We'll find out next week whether this could be a useful addition to the list of "uses for an iPad".
Oh, and if you don't have iPads in school, then AirVideo is also available for iPodTouches / iPhones allowing streaming of video still on a slightly smaller screen.