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Handwritten mathematical content on devices’ screens

29 May 2020 Posted in: Uncategorized By: Richard Chantler

It goes without saying that people cannot write or draw graphs using a mouse.   

The top-of-the-range option for presenting handwritten maths is a lightboard, as used in Kahn Academy, such as  and 

More realistic options include various graphic tablets, such as the Veikk A30 tablet (approx. £40).  If staff already own ipads the new version of Mac OS (Catalina) now has a new function called Sidecar which basically turns these into graphics tablets. 

Theoretically, once the hardware has been chosen, there are a number of good tools for an online ‘whiteboard.’  Even without the Whiteboard functionality in MS Teams, an appropriate device should make it easy to draw on a shared screen using, for example, OneNote or even Word.  There are also online options like Miro collaborative software.  Practically however, there are issues with latency, familiarity and UX which can really add to the challenges of remote teaching.   

Resources from the University of Oxford, Durham and UCL suggest that lower tech solutions are being embraced for by-passing issues of latency and cost. 

The maths department at Oxford and the learning technology team at Durham recommend writing maths by hand and using some kind of visualiser.  At its most expensive, this would require a Visualizer e.g. Steve Rowett at UCL uses an IPEZO VZ-R camera, which costs about £200.  A cheaper option in the same blog post suggests staff use their own smartphones and a couple of visualiser apps e.g. IPEVO iDocCam ($9.99 for a year subscription, $19.99 for permanent use) and IPEVO visualiser app (free download). An alternative approach would be to use Airserver on the computer (academic licence £10) and the CameraVision app on a smartphone (£1) as suggested by Dominik Luceš from the Saïd Business School.   

Many blogs on this show ingenious ways of fixing phones/ipads above the paper being used for writing.  These range from rubber band contraptions to store-bought clamps to personal light-boxes.  Personally, in this situation I think I’d be tempted to build my own lightbox using a cardboard box, tissue or transparent baking paper and a desk lamp (disclaimer – I have not actually tried this at home yet). 

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