Using VNC Connect to Mirror Classroom Teacher's CPU to Low Vision Student's iPad

In a typical classroom, the majority of the teacher’s lessons are projected in front of the entire class. This is great! Unless, you are student who has low vision. Now these lessons become frustrating, inaccessible and even painful.

Do not lose hope! The source for those lessons is in more cases than not coming from the teacher’s computer or a document camera. Which means these lessons could be wirelessly mirrored right to the student’s iPad. Giving him or her the clearest starting point to access, enlarge or screenshot images and text in real time. 

I have known about Real VNC for a while and how the ios app can be used to easily mirror with Mac OS computers. I even made a video outlining this process. This was great and we had a lot of students utilizing this but found many more students needed an easier set up and on the Windows OS. I worked with 2 low vision students who desperately needed this at the same elementary school with multiple classroom/teacher computers. This led me to really investigate to find an easy and free way to accomplish this. Real VNC Connect was that way.

Before we get into this process I can’t help but stress the importance of having the school sites IT on “our team”. It was only because of the help from Tina who is the IT Guru from this particular school site that this process was up and running so smoothly and fast. In fact I often tell the TVI’s in our dept. how these IT personnel need to be our best friends when possible. I’ll have the students I work with write a thank you email or cards for situations like creating a dedicated wifi network for a Note Taker, allowing permissions for installs, helping set up VNC systems, etc.  I find things like this bring them onto “our team” and they feel like they are personally supporting our students in a direct way, which they are.

OK, back to business. Now this process will seem a bit front load heavy, meaning there is a little bit of set up required for each classroom computer that will need to have this mirroring function. But once that initial setup is done then, the student will have one touch access to projected curriculum in real time along with the rest of the class!

First determine what computers on the school site actually need this set up as the maximum number of connections will be 5. Some classes depending on the teacher’s style and content might very rarely or never use a projected lesson, while other may use it daily.

Here is a video presentation that will walk you through the setup process on both the classroom computer and on the student’s iPad:

Everything you will need for this can be found at the Real VNC website.

Student holding an iPad with lines drawn to 5 other pictures of devices (representing that a student can instantly connect to 5 different teacher devices).

Things to remember

If you are setting this up for a specific student then use their email or a dedicated one just for them. As this account will allow up to 5 different computer profiles for easy mirroring.  If you start putting different students on shared accounts at different sites then it becomes way more confusing and kind of a mess.

Check the radio button that is labeled “personal use”. Business accounts aren’t free and are much more involved.

Setting Suggestions/Security

  • There’s really no need to use their printer driver so you could uncheck this option during the installation process.
  • Make sure you choose Home Use and correctly enter the right account info
  • I would highly suggest checking the option to create a desktop icon.  This makes it easier for the classroom teacher to find and turn off VNC if need be. Also makes a pretty little icon. I haven’t seen it much in elementary schools but I have seen a security concern (rightly so) with this setup in a high school setting so let’s address some of those issues here:
    • Under Settings>Options>Users and Permissions>Global Permissions.  Make sure the 3 check boxes are unchecked. This will allow the student to mirror the source computer but not control or be able to click on anything on the source computer. A student can’t control, click or change anything on the mirrored computer.
    • Under Settings>Options>Connections>Filter Connecting Users: Makes sure both check boxes are checked! When the student wants to mirror a dialogue box pops up and the teacher has to accept or click on “view only” before the student can start mirroring. A student could not mirror the teacher’s computer ever without the teacher clicking the ok button. The program will notify the teacher that the student is logged on and mirroring
    • Finally if the classroom teacher wants to disable the whole program from even being able to connect at all, simply click on the VNC Server icon or program and select the last pull down menu option which is: Stop VNC Server. The student will not even be able to request a connection and there is no way for the student to interact or mirror with the teachers computer. The teacher will have to open up VNC Server after it has been stopped in order to enable it again.

Now let's setup the student's iPad

Go to the App store and find VNC Viewer and download.

Make sure you remember your account info cause once you open the app it wants you to sign in.

Once you correctly sign in there will be a “teams tab”, all the computers set up using this process and account will magically appear! Meaning a student could walk into 5 different classrooms and begin to mirror within seconds!

Only on the initial mirroring will they have to enter that simple VNC password. We create a password then select the remember password option on this screen.

Remember! The same exact process will work on both operating systems Mac or Windows.

How about when the document camera is being used as the source for the projection?

Almost every document camera has a free program, which allows the document camera to be fed and viewed back to the computer meaning a student who is mirroring, again would have access to what’s being projected! You the classroom teacher or even the onsite IT could easily find the model of the document camera and locate and download the necessary program.

Just Another Tool in the Tool Box

There are few other programs that will accomplish the same mirroring ability for our students like which is a lot less involved initially, just create an account start a session and have the student log onto your session. This is a great option too that allows mirroring. The big difference between these two options is really the reason I even explored this option. The process to activate and setup a new session every time the student needs to mirror was a little too involved for the classroom teacher and was just not successful or consistent. The VNC method proved more involved for the initial setup but ended up with a one click mirroring system across 3 different classes and in this particular case was the answer to access the student was looking for.  So again this setup is just another great option or tool, especially if your student is looking for a reliable one touch mirroring system across multiple classrooms.  Once this system is in place and set up correctly the student will have one touch access in multiple classrooms to what’s being projected right at their fingertips in an accessible and comfortable format.

VNC Connect collage

Read more about: Assistive Technology