Trying to find a good way to use whiteboards in a hyflex classroom is a common concern. There are a variety of ways to address this depending on the specific problem you’re trying to solve. Below you’ll find some common scenarios with advice on how to make them work well for you and your students.
What are my digital whiteboard options?
There are lots of whiteboard options out there. Your individual needs are going to shape which one makes you happy. A few examples are included below but it’s a big world of options. Look at the example links to get a better idea what they make possible. Try a few out and let us know if you need help finding one that better fits your needs.
Whiteboard Options that are Free and Supported by Middlebury
There are a number of options that Middlebury supports centrally. Keep in mind that any of the tools that let you draw could be used as whiteboard options. Some factors that might shape your choice are which tools you are already familiar with and whether you want students to be able to work with you collaboratively.
- Zoom’s built-in whiteboard is an option that may meet your needs. It can be collaborative and synchronous. Shared screens can also be annotated in Zoom.
- PowerPoint allows you to draw over the top of slides that you’re already sharing. You also have the option to save the annotations. If you like the idea but also want the freedom of a blank canvas, just include a white slide when it makes sense. PowerPoint doesn’t support synchronous collaborative annotation.
- Microsoft’s Whiteboard is available as an app for any device or via the web (whiteboard.microsoft.com). You can enable students to work with you collaboratively/synchronously/asynchronously or just use it yourself. This video does a good job covering the basics. It is free for us and part of Middlebury’s Office 365 system.
- Adobe XD has a whiteboard plugin that may interest people who already use that tool. It can be used collaboratively or as a single author. See the XD plugin video for more details.
I have a tablet, but drawing/writing with my finger doesn’t work well.
You may just need a stylus (basically a pen) rather than using your finger. There are a wide range of stylus options. Some styluses are universal and will work with iOS, Android, or Windows devices. Others, like the Apple Pencil, will only work with iOS devices.
On one end of the spectrum are simple styluses like the Adonit Mark (~$7). For many people, the simple stylus will do everything you need and it works regardless of the operating system. On the more sophisticated (and expensive) end of the spectrum is the Apple Pencil (~$100). It is a good choice if you’ve already own a compatible iPad and have fairly sophisticated needs (pressure and tilt sensitivity for instance).
I want to write with a pen but don’t have a tablet
Drawing tablets are an option. Again, they vary in cost and complexity. Basic drawing tablets give you a something akin to a mouse pad that you can draw on with a stylus. These take some getting used to but offer some really nice options for people who want a more natural writing interface. The more expensive tablets will be closer to iPads and have increase functionality.
I want to write on paper
Some rooms have document cameras or document cameras are available to check out through the library or media services. This option would let you write or draw on paper and display it on the screen in the room. You would join the room computer to Zoom and share your screen to make the same image visible to the remote students. Using a dark marker and writing larger text will make things easier for everyone. Consider saving and sharing an image of the final product for future reference.
If you don’t have access to a document camera but this type of interaction appeals to you, there are stands you can buy (or make) for a phone that give you similar capabilities. This is a pretty comprehensive description of how to use your phone as a document camera in Zoom.
I want to show the actual whiteboard
When you use the actual whiteboard in the room, you want to make sure you’re not giving online students an inferior experience. Usually that means you need live video of the whiteboard in use. That can be difficult in certain rooms. Glare off of the whiteboard can also make things more complex. It all depends on where the camera is, and whether the writing is dark and large enough to be easily read.
If the installed classroom cameras are not providing a good view of the whiteboard, you might consider using an external webcam, a iPhone, or iPad. You can join those devices to the Zoom meeting and share their screens. You may need a tripod, stand, or a willing volunteer.