Google Workspace for Education plans to discontinue Jamboard, the digital whiteboarding tool, in the fall of 2024. After December 31, 2024, “you’ll no longer be able to access the Jamboard app or your Jam files,” according to Google’s help center post. Existing Jams will automatically be converted to PDFs and saved in your Drive.
If you still want to use digital whiteboards in your teaching—and we recommend you do—there are other tools available. At the end of this post, we point to free, popular, and dynamic online whiteboards. But first, we’ll revisit how and why teaching with these tools help make class activities inviting and student-centered.
Why use digital whiteboard tools?
Students engage with each other and the content.
Students can annotate, write, draw, chat with each other, and more; they can generate concept maps, annotate focal points in course content, work together to design a project, or brainstorm initial ideas about a text. The iterative nature of these activities make it easy for students to engage with one another in low stakes environments, fostering a sense of community in the class because students need to work together to create something. (1) Having students work with each other, also called “active and inclusive pedagogy,” improves “academic performance when compared to didactic approaches,” (Dewsbury 2022).
The same is true for engaging with course content on a platform like this. Using whiteboarding tools for low stakes activities and assignments invites students to dive into the course content without feeling like they need to perfect their wording. This sort of engaging, causal platform can facilitate writing-to-learn in a way that doesn’t feel like writing an essay or Canvas discussion post, to students (2). Shannon Draucker, who teaches English at Siena College (Loudonville, NY) shared in a blog post that “[online whiteboards] have helped me to embrace a more playful online pedagogy, one that encourages students to experiment, improvise, mess up, collaborate, and share their feelings,” (Draucker, 2021).
Digital whiteboards engage all students.
Having students collaborate digitally supports Universal Design for Learning.
First, digital whiteboards allow students to participate in course activities in their seats, “enabling students with mobility issues to participate without having to struggle to move or disclose their needs to everyone,” (Draucker, 2021). Plus, this allows for any virtually-participating students to have full access to an in-person class.
Second, these forms of participation provide students with the option for anonymity while they explore initial thoughts, or emerging ideas. Like Draucker mentions in her aforementioned blog post, students “are able to engage with the texts at whatever levels they feel most comfortable, without worrying about surveillance or evaluation from me or their peers,” (Draucker, 2021).
And third, because the boards can be saved and revisited digitally, they provide students with easy access to class materials outside of class hours. These boards can serve as study aides, and captures of class material for students who were absent.
We encourage you to explore a variety of electronic whiteboards, and incorporate the tool that words for your course. As always, CNDLS staff are available to meet with you to discuss how to incorporate these tools into your class:
- Zoom Whiteboard: During your Zoom session, you can start a Zoom whiteboard for your meetings. Participants in the Zoom meeting can collaborate from their own devices. Contributions can be anonymous or you can ask students to sign or mark their notes as you see fit. To share a whiteboard during a Zoom meeting, you must have a Zoom account.
- Padlet: The benefit of Padlet is that while you as the creator have to sign up for a free account, you can share the link to your whiteboard and students can participate without creating an account. This streamlines using the app in class. Padlet offers various formats so you can mindmap freely, or use the “snap to grid” format to organize contributions. Participants can also click the “reply” icon to interact with the original poster. With the Padlet free plan, you can create three whiteboards.
- Miro: You can create a free basic Miro account that can be integrated with Google apps, Slack, and other applications.
- Canva: With the free Canva for Education plan, you can create interactive whiteboards that you can share and collaborate with students in real time. Students do not need to create an account to access/edit your whiteboard. There are many templates for you to choose from, depending on your teaching needs.
For more information on how to get started, visit the Digital Whiteboards page on our website.
1. We’ve written more about Building Community Using Digital Tools on our website.
2. For more on writing to learn, see: Elbow, P. (1994). Writing for learning—not just for demonstrating learning. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1-4. For more on low stakes writing to learn, our colleagues in the Writing Program have outlined strategies for incorporating low stakes writing opportunities in class.
CNDLS. (n.d.). Building Community Using Digital Tools.
BYU Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Concept Mapping. Brigham Young University.
Dewsbury, B.M., Swanson, H.J., Moseman-Valtierra, S., & Caulkins, J. (2022) Inclusive and active pedagogies reduce academic outcome gaps and improve long-term performance. PLOS ONE 17(6): e0268620.
Draucker, S. (2021). Google Jamboard and Playful Pedagogy in the Emergency Remote Classroom. Nineteenth Century Gender Studies, 17(1).
Elbow, P. (1994). Writing for learning—not just for demonstrating learning. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1-4.
Georgetown University Writing Program. (2019, January 17). Incorporating low stakes writing.