Best Whiteboard App for Lecturing on an Android Tablet
November 4, 2020 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Things I care about: writing/drawing sentences, symbols, equation, & diagrams; control over colors pen thickness; ability to erase, copy/paste, & move things around; pointing at things; exporting images of the content of the whiteboard; easy zooming and scrolling; saving the content of the whiteboard to open again later. Things I don't care about: interactivity, animations, autoshapes, handwriting-to-text, paintbrush-like tools.

I'm a university lecturer, and I've been teaching online lectures in mathematics and related subjects using my laptop. It's got a touch screen, and I've been using Microsoft Whiteboard shared over Zoom for a while now. I teach students how to write proofs, so I need to write both lots of text and lots of special symbols. It mostly works, but the set-up is too clunky for handwriting more than a couple words in a row, so I have to jump back and forth between typing text boxes and writing with a cheapo stylus. And when my machine is running Zoom, recording the meeting, and handling MS Whiteboard, it often slows down enough to get on my nerves. Also, the images it exports are often too small to be readable.

So now I've got a brand new Android tablet with a proper pressure-sensitive stylus, and I want to start using that for my lectures. I've seen plenty of "reviews" of "interactive" whiteboard apps online, but none that really seem to care about what I care about (and most of which just talk about everything as great). For starters, I don't give a crap about interactivity at all, since it's just me on the board. I do want fine enough control to actually handwrite full readable sentences without having to type on a keyboard.

I've been toying around with Jamboard whiteboard, but I'm not a fan of the small fixed-size drawing area and I have little to no control over the thickness of the pen.

Cheaper is better, of course. Free is great, but I can't have ads displaying while I'm teaching.
posted by ErWenn to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I use notability for this purpose on my iPad, but it exists for Android too. Easy to save and organize notes, can export as PDF so anyone else can read them, interfaces reasonably well with Dropbox at least in iOS land. Has a presentation mode so you can use a "laser pointer" looking-dot to point at stuff you've already written. Easy to switch colors, opacity, and thickness of the "ink".

Has some simple shape-drawing capability but I don't use that; I just write equations and occasionally draw simple diagrams.

I also use notability for doing my own research calculations these days, the only reason it's not better than paper (you can copy and paste!) is because I can't spread out multiple sheets on a tabletop. (I only have one ipad you see).
posted by nat at 10:48 AM on November 4, 2020

I don't think Notability is on Android right now, although I may be wrong. I have a Chromebook that I can run Android apps on so I'll be watching this closely. I have played around with Explain Everything a bit, and it may do what you want.
posted by rossination at 11:27 AM on November 4, 2020

Response by poster: Oh, I should add that it ideally should work in landscape mode. I've seen at least one app that only works portrait.
posted by ErWenn at 11:28 AM on November 4, 2020

Response by poster: I just downloaded something called Notability Assistant!, but I'm thinking that's not the same app. It didn't even start up; just continually demanded I sign up for some "Cloud Data" service, so I uninstalled it immediately.
posted by ErWenn at 11:30 AM on November 4, 2020

Response by poster: Playing around with Explain Everything. Looks pretty good, but for some reason, I can't figure out how to zoom and pan. I even read the help manual, but when the magnifying glass icon is selected, nothing I do seems to move or zoom at all. I don't know if I'm being an idiot here, or if the Android version is just broken, or if the free version just stealthily doesn't have that option, or what.
posted by ErWenn at 11:48 AM on November 4, 2020

I use the OneNote app for math lectures. Several pens, you can add in straight lines easily. Afterwards, I print to PDF and upload to our LMS. Plus, you can set it to graph paper mode.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do something similar in my lectures (not over zoom - we use blackboard collaborate), and I use inkodo (from the windows app store - not available on android, I think). inkodo has VERY nice pens for writing math. Notability was a bit nicer but I couldn't figure out how to share that screen...

I have a tablet + duet screen mirroring software. It works very well. It is like having another monitor on my windows laptop, but I can scribble on it with a stylus.

If you do that (computer with tablet as second screen - using inkodo or onenote), it might work very well for you. Duet was not free, this is the one - it says $13 for the android one. (not sure if that is in USD)

I cannot get this to work without a usb cable, and drivers were a hassle on a locked down work machine.
posted by Acari at 1:27 PM on November 4, 2020

I also want to add that the only reason I'm not using onenote (many more features than inkodo!) is that the pens in inkodo are just...smoother and nicer. You can pin your favourite colours and line thicknesses and highlighters (only one highlighter for some reason). I was always a two-marker guy on the whiteboard, but now I'm colour coding things and I find it's really helping students to see that THIS bit came from over HERE and now it looks like THIS.

Bamboo paper is another app with nice pens (but unrelated issues that make it not work for me).
posted by Acari at 1:31 PM on November 4, 2020

Response by poster: My computer already can't handle running Zoom, recording the meeting, and a whiteboard app. So I need an app that runs on my Android tablet. Inkodo doesn't seem to run on Android.
posted by ErWenn at 8:05 AM on November 5, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I tried Google Jamboard yesterday for a lecture and Microsoft One Note today.

Jamboard is currently my favorite, but each board has a very limited size. You can easily go to a second board, but that's not always what I want.

One Note was also pretty good, but it has three problems for me. First of all, since it's a note-taking app and not a presentation app, there doesn't appear to be any kind of "pointer" that I can use just to point at things. Jamboard has a "laser" that draws a line that disappears in a moment, so it's good for that sort of thing. Second, there's a relatively small cap on how big your board can be for exporting to pdf. I didn't find this out until after class, but that's a bit of a problem. Lastly, the zoom-out limit is way smaller than I want it to be. Sometimes you want to zoom out really far, so that you can move large bits of board around (for example, if you're trying to get it all to fit into a small enough area for exporting).

I played around with Explain Everything, but unless I can figure out how to Zoom in and out (I'm starting to think it's a bug), that's a non-starter.

I'll keep looking around for better apps or ways around the above issues, and I'll report back if I find one. Let me know if you have other suggestions.
posted by ErWenn at 11:40 AM on November 5, 2020

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