Capturing whiteboard activities

The use of whiteboards in the classroom by students is likely to be part of a larger activity, possibly involving the student arriving with ideas and knowledge, and almost certainly leaving with further work to be resolved. The latter requires that individuals and groups capture their workings as the basis for what they do next.

What happens next may be class-based discussion, perhaps with groups comparing their whiteboarded ideas, but digital capture allows students to create personal visual notes, portfolio resources or draft diagrams or data sets to be worked up later beyond class.

Photographing the whiteboard

The ubiquitous digital camera allows the student to photograph the whiteboard to create a record of what was done. There is a danger that because it is so easy to do this, the photograph will be instantly forgotten until the student comes to clear out their photo library to create space. It is useful, therefore, for the academic to be clear about the value of whiteboarded knowledge and how their students can optimise the value of class activities by writing up whiteboard notes, annotating pictures or reconstructing diagrams using a tool such as Powerpoint. Whiteboard photographs can also be easily embedded in Word documents or blog posts, for example, and these can be used to write reflective notes or ‘lab reports’.

Video commentaries

Caption: This video was produced by academic staff following a Peer Review and Enhancement activity. Participants are reflecting on how personal smart devices can be used to enhance feedback engagement. Ideas were first mapped to a whiteboard and then video was used to explore the ideas further.

Whiteboard video narratives can be easily produced and shared using phone or tablet video functionality and are especially useful for capturing group work or making group presentations from classroom activities. For example, a concept map can be constructed by the group using the whiteboard with each student writing up ideas as their discussion unfolds. Once the visualisation is complete, students can use the video app functionality on their device to pan and navigate around their whiteboard diagram adding a deeper commentary as they do so. To achieve this the camera is brought close to the whiteboard to focus on point drawn or written on the board while the group members talk about their contributions. This second pass of the whiteboard (first thinking and making, then reflecting and describing) using the camera allows each contributor to pull out deeper meaning and connections in light of the full picture that has emerged.

Animated narrative


Using a free tablet animation tool such as Stop Animator (iOS or Android) or Stop Motion (iOS or Android), a process diagram, decision tree, or visual notation can be captured point by point and produced as an animation. The idea can be reviewed and further analysed using playback and pause controls.

It is a very quick and simple process and is usually best achieved using handheld photography by aligning the frame of the camera shot with the border of the whiteboard or by marking registration points on the whiteboard with which to align the camera. The point is not to create the next Disney masterpiece but to capture the flow of ideas or process. Using a small frame rate and slow playback speed will be adequate for most educational purposes.

Wiping and rebuilding parts of the animated visualisation offer further possibilities.

Voiceovers can be added to create commentaries that explain processes or develop ideas. Using this approach, details within a picture can be produced.

Colour and capture

In the above ideas consider the use of colour to add meaning, e.g.

  • Different contributors in a group;
  • Different meaning within a diagram (decisions, instructions, description, importance, etc);
  • Connecting ideas across a board.

Practicalities

  • Clean the whiteboard thoroughly before using it;
  • Whiteboard glare, especially from projectors, can go unnoticed until photographs are reviewed; however, they can obscure sections of a whiteboard. Lighting and camera positioning need to be considered carefully therefore and it may help to close window blinds.
  • The quality of capture needs to be realistic. Making high-quality whiteboard productions is usually not the primary purpose of the exercise, so spending too much time setting up capture techniques needs to be avoided. Similarly, the whiteboard production is not usually the end point of a learning activity, so students may need to be reminded of how this fits into the bigger picture.
  • Consider finding out about the functionality of the classroom visualiser for capturing high-quality drawings and building animations.
  • Consider other photography and video apps, for example Coaches Eye can be used to video a situation such as role-play and allows the tutor or peers to add spoken or written feedback onto live action.
  • Consider where you or your students will save or uploaded visual work, or how the work can be integrate within other resources.

Online tools for capturing student activities in class

See also the Blended Learning section of the Spaces for Learning toolkit, in particular, the technology-enhanced generative activities and tools page.

See also: