Flip or Whiteboard: What’s your choice?

By Junko Takagi, Professor of Management, Junko prefers to talk about ‘learning’ as opposed to ‘teaching’ and tries to find ways to enable the learning process using action and reflection as complementary dynamics.

The new set-up in the Learning lab with the electronic boards is a wonderful asset for getting students to work through ideas, integrate concepts and develop new perspectives in groups. I have found that students are excited by the intuitively tactile nature of the boards – you can rub out things with your elbows, move the page up with your fingers, use a multitude of colours that you can change with a tap on the screen. They also appreciate the electronic convenience of sending their work to their laptops and smartphones. The group-member user experience is quite positive.

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The instructor experience on the other hand has been mixed for me personally. I am used to using the large white boards to integrate contributions in class discussions. The white boards are more visible to the students regardless of the pen colour you use, while visibility depends on the colour for the electronic boards. I also like to use the white boards to section off parts of the lab space depending on the group activity we are doing – like Japanese paper screens. What I enjoy about the Learning lab space is that it is transformational – that you can transform it not just in terms of the layout of the tables and chairs, but also in terms of space: open and airy for exchanges, intimate and enclosed for deep thinking in small groups, or circular white-board boundaries for enhanced concentration – all with the possibility of writing and drawing on the boards at the same time.

The whiteboards are large so I can put quite a lot of information on one side, and if necessary, I bring along a second board to elaborate on the initial contributions. While this is possible with the electronic boards, they are much smaller, and very difficult to displace due to their weight and the fact that they have to be plugged in somewhere. If you forget and you pull one out from the wall, your screen disappears. Also, I tend to move around as I am jotting down ideas from the students and interacting with them, and inevitably, I will trip over the particularly long legs that support the heavy screens. For the time being, I still have pretty good reflexes so I have yet to fall flat on my face. So what I have been doing is to use the whiteboards for myself and to let the students play with the electronic boards.

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However, this past Saturday, I could not find a single white board marker to use for the workshop I was running. The whiteboards were there, tucked away in the corners, gleaming and spotless. Is this a subtle message for whiteboard fans to move on? I think that the Learning lab is big enough for both whiteboards and electronic boards, and it would be a pity to forgo either one or the other. Next week, I will be taking my own stash of whiteboard markers.