Whiteboarding tools that work with remote teaching technologies

If you typically use a whiteboard or chalkboard for lectures, recitations, or office hours, there are a number of low- and medium-tech solutions (including creative uses of household objects) that you can use to communciate with students in both live online meetings and recorded lectures. Below are a few options.

For all of these options, it can be helpful to run a test meeting with a colleague or family member to ensure the setup is working properly. It is also recommended that you allow at least 20 minutes before sessions with students to set up.

Household Whiteboards

If you have a small whiteboard that you can hang on the wall or lean against a chair, you can position your laptop's webcam on a chair so that the whiteboard is in the frame during recorded or live remote teaching sessions. This video provides one example of how you might set this up. In some situations, you can also use pieces of paper and a thick pen. 

When using this approach for live online meetings, it can be helpful to designate someone to help monitor the chat and point out questions or comments.

Tablet and Stylus

If you have access to a tablet or another touch screen device, you can connect to live online sessions using the mobile apps for BlueJeans or Zoom and use the platforms' annotation tools as a digital whiteboard. For best results, use a stylus pen if one is available.

You can also use BlueJeans and Zoom to record in empty rooms to create lecture recordings for students.

Smartphones as Document Cameras

Your smartphone’s camera can be used as a low-tech solution by using common household items. Below are the steps for setting this up.

  1. Join the web conference (BlueJeans or Zoom) as the meeting host from your computer.
  2. Then, also join the meeting from your smartphone using the BlueJeans or Zoom app. Use the participant link (do not log in as the host from the phone).
  3. Click ‘Start video’ from the smartphone app. Make sure the camera on your smartphone is facing the desired direction.
  4. Use objects from around your home to position the smartphone’s camera toward a whiteboard or piece of paper. You may need to adjust lighting as necessary to reduce glare. For the pens, use bold, dark colors so that your writing is easily visible to your students.

Option A: Place the phone between two objects that can hold it in place. 

Option B: Create a stand with a cardboard box. Cut two of the sides away and cut a hole in the top for the phone's camera.

Option C: Create a stand with two stacks of books. Position the phone's camera over a gap in the books.

  1. Only activate audio on your computer’s audio. Mute audio on the smartphone to avoid feedback.
  2. Ensure that the whiteboard remains the most prominent video by ‘pinning’ it from your computer.
    • In Zoom, hover over the upper right corner of the video from the smartphone until three dots appear. Select ‘Pin video.’
    • In BlueJeans, right click on the video from the smartphone from the list of People and select ‘Pin.’

Google Documents and Other Text-Based Collaborative Tools

If you want students to collaboratively generate text-only content during an online meeting, you can share a link to a Google Document (or other tools that allow multiple collaborators) with students using the web conference's chat tool.

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