Synchronous Toolbox: Online Whiteboards

The online whiteboard is a very popular distance-learning tool. Teachers can use it as they would a physical whiteboard or flipchart. They can write and draw, or display pre-prepared content. But they can also do a lot more. Teachers can record lessons, preserve notes and discussions, or create a presentation, and make them available to students.

You can have students write on the board, as you would in a physical classroom. You can invite students to fill out diagrams or crossword puzzles. They can add their ideas to a class brainstorming session. Online whiteboards come with “shape libraries,” which can be used by students (or teachers) to quickly create engaging diagrams, charts, posters, and other visuals. Many whiteboards come with pre-made templates for teachers or students to use.

Some whiteboards can be used by more than one person at a time, so students can work together on a task. For example, the teacher can ask students a question, such as the meaning of a word in a target language. Students rush to post their answers. The first student to enter the correct answer gets a point.

On some platforms each student has his or her own whiteboard, and in breakout rooms they can share a whiteboard. The teacher can see all the students’ whiteboards (while students can only see their own and their teacher’s). So, when students use their whiteboards, the teacher can assess their progress.

When used well, the online whiteboard makes lessons more engaging and helps maintain students’ focus and attention. It keeps students actively involved, and encourages collaboration, especially important in online classrooms.

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