What is whiteboarding?
Whiteboards are installed in all of our classrooms at Sheffield Hallam University. They replace flip charts and offer an expansive space for engaging students in group-based problem-solving, planning and visualisation activities.
Related pages in this section on whiteboarding look at topics including concept mapping, listing and sorting, as well as the use of technology-enhanced generative learning activities.
Whiteboards are key to the active classroom. Low tech, they offer extensive space within the room for students to work creatively to construct visual representations of their learning e.g. mindmaps, lists, and process diagrams. Student groups can draft out ideas and receive immediate feedback on them from teachers or peers. These workings can be captured on smart device cameras by the students themselves and further developed elsewhere.
Consider moving furniture away from the walls to support whiteboard work so as to encourage small group activity during teaching sessions without causing undue disruption.
Walls, windows and whiteboards
Walls, windows and whiteboards are important parts of the contemporary university classroom.
Internally, glass partitions between classrooms and central breakout spaces in some areas, make connections, especially where it is expected that classrooms and breakout spaces will work in conjunction with each other.
This affords some connectivity, therefore, and allows the teacher to engage with students easily, whether they are in the room or adjacent to it..
In a flexible room, tables can be reconfigured in less than five minutes to establish room for small group break outs so that students can develop ideas, consider key concepts or come up with responses to challenge in short activities.
Whiteboards replace flip charts in the modern classroom. The whiteboards provide a greater expanse of writing space than would have been possible on flip charts and this allows students to work more visually. Students can work up details at close quarters and stand back to get the big picture. They can also sit in proximity to whiteboards as they develop ideas.
Chairs and tables can be cleared to one side to create floor space to make it easier for groups to work on the whiteboards.
Ways of using whiteboards
Methods such as concept and mind mapping can be used for idea generation tasks and to establish and analyse connections between conceptual dimensions and frameworks. Many students are asked to devise or illustrate processes and timelines. This can involve a lot of changing of minds; however, writing on the whiteboard surface can be easily corrected.
Students can begin sessions in a question generation activity by listing things they would like to find out about. At the end of the session, the class can review questions, note how much they have learnt and identify those questions which have not yet been addressed.
Whiteboard work creates an instant gallery and peer groups can be invited to tour and feedback on, or further develop, the work of their peers.
The physicality of writing on walls in groups suggests how inter-group activities can be staged across a room by looking at the possibilities afforded by team territories.
Having generated ideas, graphical visualisations, collected data from activities, and other information on whiteboards, students can be engaged in synthesising their whiteboard work in other parts of the session. Alternatively, students can create video commentaries from their whiteboard work and these can be uploaded into Blackboard or onto a Padlet board.
Student-generated content produced on whiteboards work can be easily photographed and shared online for follow-through work and writing up.
Table-based discussions can be used initially to generate ideas on post-its or flip charts. Desk work can be categorised by being stuck on the boards using board magnates or blutack. Key ideas on paper can form nodes in concept maps with connections, boundaries, hierarchies, etc., being developed and drawn onto the board. Alternatively, student groups can be involved in ranking or sorting activities in which they are provided with post-it note items to be put in order.
Compare and contrast activities can be used in which students are presented with printouts of objects and asked to identify similar or different characteristics e.g. flags representing different countries, pictograms representing different industries, example cultural icons representing particular era, etc..
Groups can be asked to produce virtual posters to summarise findings. Groupwork produced on whiteboards can be photographed as the basis for individual reflective blogs or evidence for PPDP eportfolios or can be projected in subsequent sessions to pick up on ideas from previous sessions, as necessary.
Whiteboards make excellent ‘parking spaces’ for discussions. The parking space boards offer a space where students can record important but ‘off-topic’ thoughts for later consideration to ensure the focus of discussions is not lost.
Whiteboard stop animations can be produced easily by drawing, erasing, and building up pictures with pens or sticky notes to represent processes and narratives. Free stop motion animation tablet apps like Stop Animator can be used. Such activities are good fun if not technically perfect! The short videos can be posted to Blackboard, social media or student portfolios.
Come armed with whiteboard pens for you and your students. Conclude sessions by photographing whiteboards and post the photographs to shared online spaces like Blackboard. Better still, ask the students to take responsibility for posting their own work.
Don’t forget to bring board cleaners so you can leave the boards ready for the next group that comes into