Air Sketch – a Smartboard Alternative?

SmartBoards are great for language teachers – if you happen to have one in the classroom you’re teaching in. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. I’m lucky to have one in my new language center, but I don’t always teach there.

sometimes I wish during a conference presentation that I could draw over my images. During the last SOCALLT conference, for example, I showed blueprints of the new language center. It would have been nice to draw on these images and interact with them.

Air Sketch

Just a few weeks ago a fantastic new iPad app was released: Air Sketch.

It provides a blank surface on which you can write. Other computers on the same network can display that iPad image in an HTML5  -compatible browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, …). I can also put an image on top of that blank canvas and doodle over that. Fantastic. No installation on the computer is required, just a browser. You can, and may want to, password protect it. Otherwise everyone on your network could see your air sketches.

It tried it out on my home network and at my institution, and it worked like a charm. Actually, it worked on my laptop, a classroom computer, and even my iPhone! If you don’t have a network available (think conference hotel…), you can establish an ad-hoc network with your laptop.

Missing Functionality

It’s of course not completely a smartboard. You can’t type anything, only draw and highlight. You can’t interact with it on the screen, only on the iPad. (Which is actually great, as I can walk around the room with it, write and annotate anywhere while teaching or presenting. I can even give it to a student.) It only accepts images so far, so you have to take screenshots or export your ppt into individual jpgs. (That may be a good thing. At least it will keep you from using too many slides in your ppts…). But it’s a fairly new app, and the first updates added some nice functionality. So it’s somewhat limited, but it’s fairly inexpensive (if you have an iPad…), mobile, and simple to use.

See for yourself, here’s a little video I just made to show how it works:

Air Sketch / iPad

Concrete Plans for the Fall Semester

Teaching a film class and a first semester German course, I can see many uses already. First thing that I will do is buy an iPhone/iPad stylus, like this one. Then writing will be faster and more natural than using my fingers. For the film class I think using stills and being able to annotate then, draw, doodle, mark, and write will be great. I can even make screenshots right on the iPad and upload the images onto moodle. Well, I’ll give it some more thought. It will certainly be cool during upcoming workshops and presentations.

Test Version

Before you pay for the full version, I recommend testing your networks with the free, very basic version. Please share your ideas and comments with me. Do you think this might be useful for your classes or presentations?

Air Sketch


As I write for my own blog,, and collaboratively for, I will publish some posts on both blogs. I you subscribe to both, I apologize for any duplicates!

Felix Kronenberg is working at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. His research interests include academic space design, video games and language learning, digital storytelling, and the culture of advertising. He teaches German and language pedagogy, and maintains the Language Technology Boot Camp blog and web site.


  1. Barbara · July 27, 2010 Reply

    Thank you Felix! Keep it coming!

  2. Smartboards air | Playstation3st · May 2, 2012 Reply

    […] Air Sketch – a Smartboard Alternative?Jul 27, 2010 … SmartBoards are great for language teachers – if you happen to have one in the classroom you’re teaching in. Unfortunately, that is not always … […]

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