Whiteboard App

This summer I’m leading a weekly math circle for my daughter and her friends at our house. I hit a conundrum. How could I do the equivalent of write on the board and let my daughter see what I’m writing? One-on-one its easy, she can get close. But with a big group she would be blocking everyone else’s view. Also, I don’t have a blackboard or whiteboard at home, and no video magnifier she could use to see it closer.

We hit up on a solution that is absolutely terrific! It does rely on a lot of expensive Apple products, so not for everyone, but I thought I’d share it here anyway. I’ve already shared it with my daughter’s TVI, and its sounds like she might have been thinking along these lines already for use in school.

Materials: Two ipads, an apple pencil, and an apple TV connected to a big screen TV.

Setup: Both ipads download the free Microsoft Whiteboard app. From my ipad, I create a new “whiteboard” in the app, and share a link to it to my daughter’s ipad. (You only have to do this once.) I mirror my ipad to the big screen TV via the apple TV. (Easy—just swipe down from the top right of the ipad screen to get the menu where you turn on mirroring.)

Usage: As the teacher, I write on my ipad with an apple pencil in the whiteboard app something that I would normally write on the board. Everyone can see it in real time. My daughter, who has the whiteboard app open on her ipad, sees it up close on her ipad. Moreover, the rest of the “class” (my daughter’s friends) can see what I’m writing on the big screen TV.

Neat Features: The Microsoft Whiteboard app  has a few additional neat features I like. First, its free. Second, I can draw with a thick bold white pen on a black background which is much easier on the eyes because its not so bright. Third I can display a ruler on the screen and use it as a straight edge to draw straight lines, with the cool feature that the ruler is a built in protractor displaying the angle of the ruler. This is going to be cool for geometry.

Finally, three tips for using it smoothly, which would be relevant for implementing it in school:

1) When I pan left or right, or zoom in or out on my screen, my daughter’s screen does not follow along. She needs to manually do the same panning and zooming to follow me. Our solution was to make sure our screens were centered with the same zoom to start, and then I never changed the zoom or scrolled around. Perhaps with practice this summer my daughter will get good at panning to follow me, which would give the teacher more flexibility. However, it does mean that she can zoom in on a portion of the screen to see better without disrupting anyone else’s view, which is potentially a plus. 

2) The main hiccup we had is that when my daughter swiped her finger on the screen to adjust the screen position/zoom, she didn’t realize she had the pen tool activated, so she was crossing out what I had written so nobody could read it. Luckily if this were to happen by mistake in class at school there is an easy fix. My daughter can hit the “undo” button repeatedly and it will quickly undo all of her edits without affecting anything the teacher wrote. Then she just has to press the check mark on the tool bar to close the editing tools. Then she can swipe to pan and zoom without accidentally writing or erasing. Not a problem.

3) Both of us had a bit of trouble with our ipads going to sleep in the middle of the math circle and needing to wake them up repeatedly – but I think we should be able to adjust the screen saver settings to solve that.