"See for yourself," I said as I projected a shared Google Doc on the screen. I copied the document's shareable link, pasted it into Google's URL shortener (goo.gl), then copied and pasted the short link back into the document.
"Type the link into your browser, then edit," I said. Within a few seconds, several animal icons appeared in the upper right portion of the screen. (These "anonymous animal" icons display when someone accesses a shared document while not logged in to a Google account.)
Because I had connected my Chromebook to a projector, everyone in the room could see the document change as people made edits. I've found that a shared document shown on a shared screen invites people to participate. Paper agendas and handouts can't compete.
To share a Chromebook screen to a projector, you need one of the following: a cable, a Chromecast, or an Apple TV and an app.
Wired: A cable
Plug one end of an HDMI cable into your Chromebook and the other into a projector (or TV). Turn on your Chromebook and login. Your Chromebook should detect the external display and show configuration options. For example, with most external displays, you can adjust the resolution and choose whether to mirror or extend your display.
You may need an adaptor for either end of the cable — or a different cable entirely. Most older projectors offer only VGA connections, not HDMI. For example, I use an adapter from Cable Matters (about $22 from Amazon) to connect my Chromebook's HDMI port to VGA projectors (Figure A).
Many projectors support HDMI, but if not, you may need an adapter. From left to right: VGA cable, HDMI-to-VGA adapter, HDMI cable.
Wireless: Google Cast to Chromecast
Google's Chromecast device ($35) plugs into an HDMI port on your projector (or TV). During setup, you connect the device to your wireless network.
To wirelessly share the contents of a browser tab to a projector (or TV), install the Google Cast extension. Select the Google Cast icon, then select your destination Chromecast device (Figure B).
Install the free Google Cast extension to cast video and audio to a Chromecast device.
Google Cast doesn't mirror your screen. Only the contents of the tab display, not the entire screen. As a result, Google Cast won't work well to demonstrate some Chromebook features, since the Chrome menu (upper right), app launcher (lower left), and multiple tabs won't display.
Google Cast sends both audio and video content. However, some apps, such as Netflix and YouTube, support direct casting to Chromecast. When available, use this feature. As you might expect, video or audio that won't play on your Chromebook won't play on your Chromecast.
You can connect a Chromecast device to a VGA projector, but you'll need an adaptor. I've used the Chromecast to VGA converter (about $50 from svideo.com). It seems to be essentially the same as the HDMI to VGA adapter mentioned above but with an added part that lets you attach the Chromecast to the adapter. If you use this adapter, keep in mind you may need separate speakers, as many meeting room projectors lack sound.
AirParrot to Apple TV
An Apple TV also connects to the HDMI port on a projector (or TV). Unlike the Chromecast, which requires a wireless connection, an Apple TV can connect to either a wired or wireless network.
AirParrot ($9.99 from the Chrome Web Store) installs as an app, which you then launch from the App Launcher. Make sure your Apple TV is awake, launch the app, then choose your destination Apple TV.
Note: Alternatively, the company makes another app, Reflector, that allows a device to act as an Airplay receiver. A Mac or PC running Reflector, for example, could serve as the destination device.
You choose whether AirParrot mirrors your desktop or a single application. AirParrot can mirror your entire screen wirelessly, which makes it an excellent option for Chromebook training. Documents, slides, and websites all display well.
However, AirParrot doesn't send audio (at least as of October 2014). So, AirParrot won't work to show YouTube, for example, in a classroom. The audio displays, but without sound (Figure C).
AirParrot mirrors your Chromebook screen to an Apple TV, but without audio.
Best choice for ...?
The three alternatives solve slightly different problems. Use a cable to convey everything you see (and hear) from your Chromebook to the attached projector or TV. Choose a Chromecast to share web content, video, and sound, but not the full screen. Or use AirParrot to mirror your entire screen to an Apple TV, but without audio.
The solutions share a common goal: to make it easy for more than one person to view a Chromebook screen.
I encourage you to share a collaborative document during your next class, meeting, or conference. I think a shared screen — and a shared document — helps move a group of people toward a shared understanding.
Give it a try. See for yourself.
What solution do you use to share your Chromebook screen with other people in a workshop, meeting, or classroom? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.