Can students use any device to make freehand annotation/drawing?
- Freehand annotation/drawing works best on a touch screen device (such as a tablet or smartphone) or with a graphics tablet and stylus. It is easier to make gestures with your finger or a stylus, compared to a mouse or laptop trackpad. Where students are using a mouse/trackpad for freehand annotation/drawing, you can provide advice to help limit user frustration or adjust the activity (see tips below).
Tips for students when making digital freehand annotation/drawing
- If students are restricted to using a mouse/trackpad, you could advise students to aim for simplistic gestures (such as strikethrough, ticks, circles) or uppercase writing. These marks are easy to create when using a mouse/trackpad.
- Consider extending timings for digital annotation/drawing activities; it may take a little while for students to access and become familiar with new ways of working. In addition, it can be slow to use a mouse/trackpad to make freehand drawings/annotations, as these inputs restrict freeform gestures and are more suitable drawing straight lines /simple mark making.
- If you require extensive annotation or finer detail drawings, you could ask students to:
- try reducing the weight (thickness) of line
- increase the scale of the drawing, and simplify where possible
- annotate using text boxes instead of ‘digital hand-writing’
- draw on paper and take a photo. Most device cameras provide high-res pictures, or students could try using a scanning app such as Office Lens (for Windows or iOS); this app can sync photos to student university OneDrive accounts). Create a shared space where students can submit their photos, e.g. a Padlet wall, a shared folder in Teams, OneDrive or a specific upload point in Blackboard. You can display uploads on the class whiteboard or share your screen during a live webinar.
- Be aware that some apps will vectorise your gestures to make them appear smooth – this can be helpful to ‘neaten’ drawings but may obscure finer detail such as lowercase handwriting. It is best to trial a freehand annotation tool before setting student tasks, or using it to present during live student interaction or in a screencast recording.
What technologies are available for freehand annotation/drawing?
The following apps are available for use by all staff and students.
When using Office (docs, PowerPoint online, etc), there are a variety of basic inking tools available. Availability depends on the version of Office and type of device you are using. Office can be used individually, or for collaboration via 'share permissions' (whereby users make edits in the same space simultaneously).
As a substitute to a flip chart paper, instructors and students can 'draw' on a blank canvas during or outside of live interactive teaching. Whiteboards can be used individually, or for collaboration via 'share permissions' (whereby users make edits in the same space simultaneously).
- Whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate (cannot be saved - user needs to take a screenshot to retain a copy)
- Microsoft Whiteboard (can be saved) is a free tool which is part of your Office 365 subscription. MS Whiteboard allows you to create collaboration spaces which can be accessed via the Whiteboard app, or in a limited form via Office.com, on any smart device. Teams Meetings allow you to share a limited version of the MS Whiteboard, which is automatically saved and can be accessed by anyone who was a participant in the meeting. Please note, the app version of MS Whiteboard provides greater functionality for collaborative working.
- A blank slide (PowerPoint online) or a OneNote page can also serve as a digital whiteboard. See Digital co-authoring for information about creating shared authoring spaces.
The following tools are available to all staff and students through Apps Anywhere. They are for individual use (i.e. users cannot collaborate on the same document simultaneously, although files can be saved and sent to other users). Although available for use via browser, users will have a better experience if they download and run the app on a desktop/laptop. These tools provide enhanced drawing/image creation features beyond 'inking with Office'.