Using an iPad Tablet as a Digital Whiteboard

By Duane Glover and Karl Platzer

projectionIt wasn’t very long ago that the number of AV presentation technology-equipped classrooms at SJU could be counted on one hand. Now practically every classroom here has built-in digital presentation technology with a computer at the podium and a projector aimed at the front of the room. This modern ability to show students any manner of digital content, be it PowerPoint slideshows, web pages or video clips, is an undeniable enhancement to classroom pedagogy, but frequently the directness and spontaneity of writing on a big board in full view of the students is required to get the information across.

Our newest classroom spaces were constructed with this best-of-both-worlds requirement in mind, however, in many of the older classrooms, the new projection screen is positioned directly in front of the only whiteboard or chalkboard in the room. If students need to see the board during a PowerPoint slideshow, turning off or muting the projector, manually raising the screen and turning on the lights in the classroom is cumbersome and disruptive to the flow of the class.

A much more elegant method for integrating handwritten notes into the digital classroom space is to use an iPad or tablet as a digital whiteboard so you can switch between displaying a slideshow and handwritten notes by simply pushing a button:

  1. Connect your iPad to the laptop input on the podium using the Apple 30-pin to VGA Adapter or Lightning to VGA Adapter. VGA_adapter
    (3rd party video adapters may limit the iPad’s external display to only specific apps, rather than mirroring the iPad display, and high-definition video may use HDCP controls, so be sure to test your set-up ahead of time.)
  2. At the podium AV control panel, select Laptop as your video source. You should see your iPad display being mirrored on the projection screen.
  3. Use your favorite freehand writing or drawing app to display your handwritten notes on the projector.
  4. To switch back to the display of the podium computer select PC from the AV control panel.

Basically any simple drawing app can be used as a digital whiteboard or blackboard, but when annotating a presentation or PDF, I like to use GoodNotes. GoodNotes is easy to use, with a simple but intuitive tool bar at the top of the screen that provides pen, eraser, highlighter and zoom tools. GoodNotes also has a great palm rest feature that ignores input from the base of your hand on the lower part of the iPad screen so you can position your writing hand more naturally. It also has robust import and export features that accommodate many different file formats. GoodNotes is available in a free version with a 2 notebook limitation and a full version for $5.99.

If you will be frequently using handwriting on your iPad, you should consider purchasing a stylus or pen, which will provide finer control than your fingertip. Many different flavors are available, so shop around to find what works best for your handwriting and your budget. For all-around use, I like the Wacom Bamboo Stylus Solo, which is currently priced at just under $30.

Below is a handy list providing links to GoodNotes and several other free handwriting apps for your information:

GoodNotes

TopNotes

Paper

Penultimate

ShowMe

Educreations

Bamboo Paper