I’ve been trying to use my iPad in the classroom as much as possible, as a device for use in schools it is close to being perfect. One of the drawbacks has been working out how to get what’s on the iPad to be projected onto my classroom wall. You can connect it with the iPad VGA connector to a computer and project that way, but only a handful of apps support this. This can apparently be expanded somewhat by jail-breaking , but I don’t really want to go there.
Then last week Wes Frier alerted me to an App called Air Sketch. Air Sketch is a fairly simple drawing application with a killer feature, it will broadcast whatever is on the screen across your network to a webpage. If you open that webpage in a HTML 5 browser from any machine attached to the same network you will see the iPad screen. Any updates made on the iPad appear almost instantly on your PC or Mac. Air Sketch was £1.79 but there is also a free option to try.
So I can walk around my classroom with my iPad and write on it with my Pogo Sketch Pen. Everything appears as if I was stood at the Interactive Whiteboard using SMART Notebook. Just being able to do this from anywhere in the room is a great help, I can get pupils to demonstrate work quickly without getting them to the front of the classroom. We have GCSE exams next week, so spent a lot of Friday working through old exam papers, this meant as soon as I spotted a common problem in the class I could demonstrate a solution from sitting next to whichever child had the issue, but for the whole class to see, or better still get one of the pupils who did understand the answer to demonstrate it to their colleagues.
Air Sketch allows you to import both PDF files and images into the software ready for you to annotate over. Air Sketch adds itself to your ‘Open In’ menu, so you can open a PDF straight from the Mail app, or Dropbox for example:
The PDF import is a useful feature and a good idea, but I had some issues with the clarity of the documents when they were imported. Pogo Sketch works in landscape mode, and my PDFs were in portrait, zoomed out they were too small to annotate and too small to read on the projector:
Zoomed in they lacked clarity:
I found the easiest way to work around this was to open the PDF (or indeed Word, Powerpoint etc) document in the standard iPad viewer, zoom into the section I wanted to display then press the Home and Power buttons simultaneously to take a picture. I could then open Air Sketch back up and open the image from the Picture menu:
The little toolbar along the bottom of that screen allows you to rotate the image and fill the screen with it ready for annotation:
Overall this is a great utility, it’s not perfect but is really exciting. Surely it’s only a matter of time before other app developers build this technology into their own applications? I hope Air Sketch itself gets an update soon to allow better importing of other files, more brush options, some hand-writing smoothing and other features that some of the other note-taking apps have been perfecting on the iPad.
Have you got any other apps you couldn’t live without in the classroom? Do you think the iPad will soon offer a serious alternative to an Interactive Whiteboard? When you consider the cost of this solution versus an interactive whiteboard or a tablet PC I think the market leaders in those areas must be running scared.
This works beautifully with the new iPad Software 4.2 – the ability to multi-task is a killer. More on that in my next post….