Student Engagement through Virtual Whiteboards (CTL Report #3)

Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash

I attended the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) workshop titled Active Learning Webinar: How Virtual Whiteboards Level the Playing Field for All Learners on September 23rd, 2020. The description for this workshop is below:

“This webinar is facilitated by Dr. Bobby Hobgood, Director of the Language Resource Center and Dr. Harini Ramaprasad, Teaching Professor from the Department of Computer Science.
Whole class engagement provides a richer, more equitable opportunity for students to share their understanding and ideas of course topics. Virtual whiteboards “level the playing field” in both f2f and online courses. In this workshop, we will explore two options for creating and integrating virtual whiteboards to 1) engage learners, 2) ensure all voices are heard, and 3) collect formative data on student progress.”

The two online whiteboards presented were (1) Whiteboard.fi and (2) Miro Board.

Dr. Hobgood presented the first whiteboard: Whiteboard.fi. This is a tool allowing students to connect through a link and draw on their own personal virtual whiteboard. As “students” in this workshop, we all got to play around with this. And that’s exactly what we did, with the presenter pointing out (with some chuckles) how many of us immediately started drawing, typing, and placing emojis. With this, we were able to note that students would very likely behave the same way, and that we could also (if incorporating these tools in our own classes in the future) give them a little free time to do the same and get used to the tool. Dr. Hobgood then showed us the teacher’s view of all the students’ whiteboards, how we could set one up, and how we are able to then present specific questions or prompts to all the students through this tool.

Next, Dr. Ramaprasad presented Miro Board. This is something we had actually used a lot in our teaching seminar course (ITSC 8665), so I was a little more familiar with this one before coming into the workshop. One difference that this online whiteboard had as compared to the previous one is that it can be used both synchronously and asynchronously. Students can open it up and make edits on their own time as well as during the class, while Whiteboard.fi must be used during the class, at the same time. Miro Board also provides many templates to start with, with a couple shown below:

Along with the experience we got using Miro Board in our teaching seminar, I also got some experience presenting and facilitating an activity with this tool in my Intro to Research course (ITCS 8110). One of our assignments was to give a personal presentation – to present something about ourselves such as where we came from, hobbies, why we are here, etc. Since one of the overall goals of the class was to build community so that we could get to know each other more and keep in touch even after the class, I hoped use my personal presentation as a way for everyone to warm up and have a chance to talk to each other more. And so, with Dean Mili’s permission, I facilitated a game using Miro Board after briefly talking about my various interests (such as art) and how I’ve come to appreciate the value we can gain in our work by incorporating our many interests (e.g., designing prototypes can benefit from my interest with art).

In this game, we divided the class into two groups. Within each group, students would take turns to draw out a given prompt. Each prompt was a word relating to one of the earlier presentations given throughout the semester. Then, the other students had to guess the word. If the word was successfully guessed within 60 seconds, that group got a point. Here is the end result (it is a bit of a mess, but it seemed like everyone had fun with it):

It was a good experience to first set up the Miro Board, design a starting template for the game, and then actually facilitate the activity. At the end, one peer commented that that was the most they had ever talked to other students in the class. I was really glad to hear this, feeling like I had achieved my goal.

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