DIY Whiteboards and Document Cameras for a Remote Classroom

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Man writing on whiteboard
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Many of us use whiteboards when we’re teaching, but the move to a remote classroom has required us to find new solutions to working in familiar ways. In this teaching tip we’ll look at a few of different ways you can keep hand-writing diagrams or solutions the way you would usually in a classroom. Choose the approach or approaches that best match your teaching style.

Best Practices

We recommend if you’re looking to DIY a whiteboard or document camera that you:

  • Consider the distance between your whiteboard and the camera facing it – greater distance means poorer image quality;
  • Consider the lighting in the space – improve lighting with some lamps;
  • Consider the size and darkness of your writing – a pencil may not be as visible as a sharpie, and a thicker whiteboard marker would be better. (We recommend these refillable ones).

Use chart paper or a whiteboard

Use your smartphone or your laptop and Zoom to record yourself (or teach live) in front of a whiteboard or chart paper. Make sure to use a thick, dark marker, so that diagrams are visible.

Woman teaching a course through a laptop, with a student listening in.

DIY a simple Lightbox

Use a cardboard box as a modified tripod. Remove two parallel sides. Cut a hole in the top for your phone’s camera, and use some available lights to add brightness to your drawing or demonstration. Upload the video to Microsoft Stream or YouTube, directly from your phone.

A cardboard box standing, with a phone laying on the top, the camera viewing downward through a hole to a paper and pencil.
Image originally posted to LinkedIn by Saiied Aminossadati. Retrieved June 16th, 2020.

DIY a Document Camera

If you don’t have a tripod, improvise turning your phone into a document camera by attaching it to something (safely) that will hold and extend it overhead. Take a look at how one person improvised this way.

“Boardcasting Using an Improvised Smartphone Document Camera” by Dave Giberson, 2020. Retrieved June 16th, 2020.

Invest in a simple tripod

Consider investing in an inexpensive tripod or holder for your smartphone or tablet (including a Surface Pro). This can be a simple way to record your diagrams or writing, and a bit more secure for your device.

Use your Android SmartPhone as a Document Camera

This video tutorial shows how to use your Android phone as a document camera.

Budget 0. How to use your Phone’s Camera as a Webcam in Zoom [Video file]. Retrieved August 2020 from

Jess Wilkinson

Jesslyn is the Educational Technology Officer at Conestoga. An Ontario Certified Teacher, and holding a B.A. and B.Ed., Jesslyn researches and promotes new technologies for faculty to enhance pedagogical practices. She brings to the role her experience as a Google and Microsoft certified technology trainer and as a classroom teacher in South Korea, Mongolia, and Ontario, focusing on special education and assistive learning technologies. She is available for workshops, consultations, and support with using technology in higher education contexts.

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