GoodNotes and AirSketch In the Classroom

Our guest blogger this week is Dr. Mike Flynn, chair of the Department of Health and Human Performance.  After attending the FTI in 2012 Dr. Flynn implemented both AirSketch and GoodNotes which are note taking/whiteboard apps that will allow you to annotate on PDFs.  In this post he talks about his experiences implementing these iPad apps into his classroom environment.


In my final year at Purdue before coming to the College of Charleston, I was walking down the hallway of the Health and Kinesiology building.   I saw a retired professor who came back to the building daily to exercise.  He was peering into a classroom, shaking his head, and grumbling.  “Tony, what’s up?” I asked him.   Tony turned from the window with a scowl on his face and said, “Too much doggone technology. Doesn’t anybody just teach anymore?… Just too much darn technology…”  In mid rant, I stooped and peered through the glass slot in the door to see the professor using…an overhead projector!

I suppose that each of us has a different perspective about technology use in the classroom, which is why I was so excited to be involved in the summer 2012 FTI.

After participating in summer 2012 FTI I left with several great ideas for using technology in the classroom.  I immediately started using the GoodNotes app in my lectures, because it allowed me to put much less information on my slides and to use my stylus on the iPad to fill in the missing information.

For me, use of the GoodNotes app in this fashion had two primary benefits. First, it prevented the students head-down-scribble with each new slide… that is, the students trying to write down everything on each slide (this despite my posting slides on OAKS).  The students didn’t have much to write because my slide only had a few bullet-point prompts for me or a question that I could ask to stimulate the discussion.   Second, being able to write the information in on the PowerPoint slide helped me greatly with my pacing and ability to place emphasis on important information.  I could trace the line on a graph in a bright color, circle an important anatomical structure, or check off the bullet points as I covered them.  Several students commented favorably on the GoodNotes/stylus combination in their written comments on the student evaluations.

My only complaint about using the GoodNotes app was that my iPad connection to the classroom computer was made with a very short cable (GoodNotes requires the iPad to be connected to the projector).  I felt like I spent too much time with my back turned to part of the class.  However, after soliciting some help from Mendi at TLT and going through some trial and error (you have to use the right WIFI/browser combination), I started using the AirSketch app.  Airsketch (which is a wireless whiteboard app and doesn’t require the user to be wired to the projector) allows me to walk around the classroom with my iPad…and when I draw on the PowerPoint slide with my stylus, it automatically shows on the screen. Magical stuff for an old Luddite like me!

The primary downside of AirSketch for me…I found some difficulty getting the PowerPoints to load easily.  There is likely an easier way to manage this than the clunky method I developed, but the process of getting the presentations into AirSketch was not as simple and intuitive like most of the iPad work I have done.  The upside is tremendous.  I can roam the aisles, engage students in class, check to make sure they are following classroom technology rules, etc.  Students really seem to perk up when you walk down the aisle and stand next to them while you are speaking. It is also good way to engage some of the quieter students as they seem more willing to answer questions when you are standing close by.

A minor downside of both GoodNotes and Airsketch is that you lose the PowerPoint animation. Some of my old slides would not work because there was information, typically brought in later in an animation, that blocked other info on the slide. (This is because the PowerPoints must first be converted to PDFs to be used by the apps)  The loss of animation is a minor annoyance compared with the positives I outlined above.

Overall FTI was a great experience for me. I often wondered why I would need an iPad, now I am rarely seen without it.  I use it for taking notes at meetings, for accessing old minutes or agendas at faculty meetings, and doing everything I can do on my desktop—except type quickly!  Maybe with some practice, I will increase my speed and accuracy?