The promise of being able to quickly and easily wirelessly mirror a screen on a projector or display has failed to materialize for schools – until now, that is. Barco’s ClickShare can not only simplify mirroring a screen, but uses both 802.11ac WiFi channels for top resolution and video quality.
I looked at Barco’s CSE-200 set, which has a host base station that you plug into a display’s HDMI port, and a pair of small ClickShare modules. The kit is a huge step forward in terms of making screen-sharing easy and quick, but at $1,750, it’s an expensive necessity. There are also versions with a single ClickShare button module and one with four.
After you’ve plugged the base station into a projector, it instantly shows directions for connecting. Rather than a discourse with IP addresses and passcodes, it has three visually-oriented steps and few words. For PCs and Macs, plug one of the ClickShare modules into a USB port and load the software right from it. It takes less than a minute to install and you only need to do it once.
After that, press the module’s central button, which has a lit white circle; it turns red when you’re connected. In about 10 seconds, what’s on your screen is seen by the entire class. Click again to disconnect when you’re done. On the downside, the clicker gets kind of warm if used for more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s not hot, but could be uncomfortable for a small child to use.
Connecting Android and iOS phones and tablets is a little more complicated and constraining. That’s because there’s no ClickShare module available to plug in. You’ll need to get and install the ClickShare app, but the set up screen has a QR code that makes it a snap. Shoot a shot of the QR code and the software download page pops up. Again, you only have to do this once.
The phone and tablet ClickShare screen has a circular button that looks like the one on the ClickShare module. Tap to connect.
Because the base station has AirPlay technology built in, an iPhone or iPad can mirror what’s on its screen. You can also select individual files from the device’s local storage on an Android or iOS system or an online storage service that are sent to the projector. It’ll even work with the phone or tablet’s camera for a live feed of a chemistry experiment or a student reciting a poem.
On the downside, for schools that have standardized on Chromebooks, Barco doesn’t have software for these devices, but is working on it and could have an app ready by summer.
At any time two can share the display in a split screen format. I displayed an HP EliteBook Folio and a Google Nexus 9 at the same time, making it a good tool for comparing or contrasting what’s on the screens of students or putting an image of the Declaration of Independence on the side and the text on the other. Other Barco ClickShare products allow you to connect up to four screens, but none let the teacher save the material for later use or distribution to the class.
Because it uses both the 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi wireless data channels, ClickShare can deliver high-quality HD imaging while allowing any of the clients (teacher or student) to annotate the screen; this obviously works better with tablets and touch-screen notebooks. The device has excellent sound synchronization and delivers smooth video up to its range limit of about 40-feet.
While at $1,750, all but the best budgeted districts will be hard pressed to get ClickShare systems for more than one or two classrooms. It’s a shame because ClickShare belongs in every classroom that has a large display or projector.
+ Easy wireless connections to projector or display
+ Uses both 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi channels
+ Includes audio
+ Software for tablets and phones
+ Split screen
- Chromebook software not ready