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Making Your Connection: Laptops in Technology Classrooms

Not so long ago hooking up a laptop for classroom use was pretty straightforward. Most laptops had a fiifteen-pin VGA connector. For PC users, the only issue was which function (Fn) key combination was needed to send a signal to the projector. Mac users either had VGA connections or they used an adapter to connect.

Today, connecting a laptop can be far more challenging. We still have to deal with adapters, function keys and output choices, but we also now have more variety in our laptop hardware! Some still include VGA output, but also HDMI (the connection used by most HDTVs). Some have eliminated VGA and only use HDMI (mini or micro) or DisplayPort (mini or full size). And recent Macs have switched to yet another connector, Thunderbolt, which has its own set of adapters. In addition to the alphabet soup of connection standards, we see native display resolutions that vary wildly.

To top it off, we have new copy prevention standards throwing a wrench in the works. HDCP (high bandwidth digital content protection) was introduced to prevent copying of digital audio and video content. It can cause viewing problems.

LTS is taking steps to simplify connecting your laptop:

  • • Last year we began installing digital switching and scaling devices in our technology classrooms. The scaling device will resolve many problems caused by a mismatch between the native resolutions of the laptop and projector.
  • • In all of our laptop-only classrooms we’ve added a full size HDMI connection and a scaling device that will tell your laptop what setting to use to best serve the projector. You still may need to make some adjustments to your display settings.
  • • As we work through the life-cycle in our classrooms with an instructor station PC, we are adding HDMI and Mini Display Port cables and installing scaling devices. You should not have to make any adjustments to your laptop settings in these classrooms. Just turn on the system, and as it warms up connect your laptop via one of the provided cables. Select "Laptop" on the touch panel controls, and then choose the cable you are using.

PC users may still have to use function keys to send a signal, and Mac users may have to set mirroring to “on” in the Display preferences. If you want to manually set your laptop resolution we suggest 1280x800 for PC and 1360x768 for Mac.

We strongly suggest testing your laptop before your first class. If you want help connecting a laptop to a classroom projector please contact ens0@lehigh.edu. To see which rooms have digital connections, go to the LTS Sites and Classrooms Directory then select "HDMI Interface" in the "All Equipment Types" drop down box at the bottom of the page.