My lectures (mathematics) are delivered in a theatre with full projection facilities, and my lectures are given as PDF slides. But I often need to explain something not covered in enough detail on a slide, in response to a particular student difficulty (my lectures are very interactive!). For that I can use the whiteboard in the same room.

However, my lectures are recorded, and the recording system only picks up, as its video, what's projected through the computer onto the projection screen. My whiteboard ramblings (which often amount to a significant part of each lecture) aren't recorded, although my voice is.

A simple solution would be a graphics tablet which I could switch to and write on; as it would be projected through the computer system it would be recorded.

So - does anybody have any advice for a relatively inexpensive graphics tablet which would work for this purpose?

(A few years ago I used a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet, running Android, which came with a nice digitizer pen. But my newer Lenovo Yoga tablet doesn't support such pens. And I don't want to buy a new whizz-bang tablet+pen. A cheap-and-cheerful solution is my hope here!)

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    Is just photographing the Whiteboard before you clean it not an option? – xLeitix Feb 21 '15 at 8:42

My personal experience with different media used during lectures (basic calculations during an engineering course)


I experimented with my tablet (Galaxy tab S) but to be honest, my handwritten notes look like a child had written them. The Galaxy S is not particularly designed for taking handwritten notes, so maybe other tablets are suited better. Graphic tablets from Wacom may be suited well. The possibility to project the notes live while explaining something to a particular group anywhere in the classroom may be a big advantage but in my opinion it does not outweigh the unprofessional look. Unfortunately, no shop in my town has Wacom tablets in stock. Otherwise I would try them. One of my students uses the new tablet-laptop from microsoft and is very satisfied with his handwritten notes. Still, the writing looks not very professional.

Document camera:

There are different models and I used a document camera in the price range of 700 $. The camera itself can be used to capture the notes while writing on a notebook. The video can be streamed live using standard video software. Additionally, it is possible to record the session and save the data on a SD card (including your voice). I like the feeling of a pen on paper and my notes look much better than on a tables. In my opinion it is the easiest solution right now.

But nothing beats the white or chalkboard. The possibility to teach while using my whole body for supporting the things I said is most comfortable for me. Furthermore, there is no device or desk between me and the students. As a consequence, it is easier to focus their attention.

Since most questions do occur every year again and again, I produce short videos at home using my hq-webcam. It is much easier for me because I can focus on one particular goal (producing a video, or explaining something to one student in one particular class). I am not the multitasking type.

To sum it up: If you like the feeling of a pen on a paper you might want to search for "document camera"

You may want to look at those two videos: Tablet for Tutoring Wacom Pad in Teaching

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    +1 for document cameras. Resolution much better thatn webcam. Mine is A1, costs <350$. Advantage over blackboard: you can backtrack. – A.G. Feb 22 '15 at 20:01
  • +1 for the document camera. Resolution is great, you can use many colors, backtrack, use post-it's, point with your pen, open a book, take pictures and be left with pages you can scan if need be. (you can also use it as a quick-n-dirty scanner at the library). With a bit of experience you can show your handwriting together with other windows on your computer (a pdf, spreadsheet, etc.). Some are very portable (I use Hovercam). My students love it. – A.G. Jan 2 '16 at 22:21

I would put up a webcam recording the whole lecture. This way, the students can see the whole whiteboard and your hand movements, and you get to use an instrument suitable for writing.

I don't like the idea of using a tablet for this for two reasons: the size is limited (you can only write in a 20 cm wide range, as opposed to two metres of board), and the handwriting looks, for most people, terrible.

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  • The handwriting is mostly a matter of (1) practice, and (2) having a decent tablet, possibly with an active digitizer (iPad = bad, Wacom/nTrig = good). – Federico Poloni Feb 22 '15 at 9:45
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    I can't put up a webcam recording of the whole lecture: I don't have the equipment do get a good enough recording, and my institution's recording facilities won't do it. – Alasdair McAndrew Feb 22 '15 at 12:30
  • @AlasdairMcAndrew my professor just uses his laptop. It is not the best, but enough to keep a record. – Davidmh Feb 22 '15 at 12:36
  • @AlasdairMcAndrew Any recent phone (e.g. S5/S6, iPhone 6, etc.) records at 720p or 1080p, which is enough. No need to call AV. – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 1 '16 at 18:53

Wacom makes a few good USB graphic tablets in the 100$ price range. I have used a Bamboo Craft model myself, and I am kinda satisfied. You can plug them into a computer and sketch notes using applications such as Windows Journal or Sankore (the latter is open source).

The main drawback is that they have no screen, so you'll have to practice writing while looking at the computer screen rather than at your fingers. But one quickly gets over it; you will get a decent handwriting on them with a little practice.

What matters most is that these graphic tablets have a quality active digitizer. This means many pressure levels and better writing accuracy than the touchscreen you get in most consumer grade tablet pcs. To match that quality, you'd have to go with a device explicitly meant for pen input (nTrig or Wacom digitizer --- I think your former tablet had one, while the new Yoga doesn't, so you probably noticed the difference yourself already).

As Davidmh notes, another drawback is the limited screen real estate --- the cheaper models have a small writing area. But it doesn't matter much in the end because one can be precise enough even with a small writing area as long as the digitizer quality is good.

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  • That's just the help I was hoping to see! I think I'll just buy a Wacom tablet and see how I go. – Alasdair McAndrew Feb 22 '15 at 12:27

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