Using Virtual Whiteboards for Better Collabortion

Six key ideas from the webinar

The emergence of virtual whiteboards for remote teams are a rare diamond in the Covid rough. In fact, they serve as an incredible resource for teachers who are looking to build more community, connectedness, and collaboration in their classrooms. Virtual whiteboards offer all the value of the “real” thing and—dare we say it—they may even be better than the real thing.

Our recent webinar explored the ins and outs of one virtual whiteboard tool, Mural, and offered practical examples of how teachers could start using it fairly quickly. Below we offer some of the key takeaways from the session. Watch the entire playback here.

Take the time to learn about one, any one!

There are a lot of virtual whiteboard tools out there. This conversation focused on Mural because it is free (as is Jamboard, another great free option), but pick one that works for you and ideally, other colleagues, so that the tool can be consistent.

Carve out time to explicitly teach and learn the technology.

Create a fun obstacle course or other process to ensure students (and/or faculty) learn the tool through completing tasks. Without a clear expectation that students are on the same page, the online platform itself can turn into a challenge rather than an opportunity for students to come together.

Think of the whiteboard as a community space.

Invite students to take a seat at the virtual table through a seating chart with names from the class around the “table”. Students could use icons (or words) to communicate norms, and move the icon over to their “seat” to share an emotion or thought with the class. In Zoom, students are often navigating both the screen and chatbox, and this table setup eliminates that extra cognitive load.

Virtual whiteboards can improve real-time collaboration.

Students have the opportunity to create a visual mood board or participate in a group brainstorm by using virtual Post-Its and moving them around on a chart (such as a risk vs. impact graph, which is also an interesting way to incorporate a business principle to a class discussion).

Working on a whiteboard as a class deepens connections.

Whether synchronous or not, simply sharing the same space (even when that space is virtual) helps students build community. Often, the “messiness” of an activity can be captured via a whiteboard and invites creative thinking and participation in a way that an organized schema may not.

Whiteboards help to prioritize process as well as product.

Using a whiteboard all semester or school year provides a visual documentation of classwork over time as well as supports individual students in documenting the evolution of their thinking. Also, since the technology supports students in delving into a topic all at the same time, the teacher can view their work as it unfolds in real time, giving them more insight into their final submission.

Sample Whiteboard link: