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The app I need right now

March 19, 2020

So I and every other teacher right now are scrambling to get ready to teach school online. Here’s a problem I’m grappling with that I would welcome your advice.

In my Geometry class, we do a lot of group problem solving on wall mounted whiteboards using problems from the Exeter curriculum. It is so helpful for me as a teacher to be able to walk around the room, see students work, ask them questions, give them feedback, and then return later to see how their work has progressed.

I’ve been wondering a lot about what this might look like online. We’re using zoom, and of course there are break rooms, and even a rudimentary “whiteboard” built in where students could finger paint their work. But the reality is, most kids will be doing math work with pencil and paper, and it seems like it will be very hard for me to see that work as it progresses.

My students have all gotten very used to submitting scans of their written math homework using scanbot each night, and this is a great tool for seeing what students have done, but it isn’t seamless enough to really be useful for students to share their math work as they are going.

Here’s what I want—I want an app that allows a student to take a photo of their work. When that student’s work is photographed, it’s added to our class, tagged by student, date and time. Then all of these photographs would be nicely presented to me some way so that I could quickly see a students work, or step through their submissions. It would be extra awesome if I could some how annotate or give feedback to a student’s photo.

This seems like it would be pretty efficient for a student who was working on math and had their phone next to them. They’d just open the app, take a photo, and the work would be there for all to see.

I know students could just hold their notebooks up to a webcam, or take a photo fo their work, air drop it to their laptop, and then screen share. There are also lots of ways to do this saving to Google drive and other such cloud storage tools. But all of these seem to clunky to really foster conversation about math while students are doing it.

Are there any tools out there I’m not aware of that could do this? Is there some other approach that might work?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2020 2:04 pm

    An alternative that has a little more control built in is to create a deck for each student and then your deck has one or more slides from each student’s deck inserted as a linked thing. You can then update slides in your deck to capture updates in their deck.

    • March 19, 2020 2:09 pm

      I like these ideas. If the kid has the slides app on their phone, it might be even easier.

  2. March 19, 2020 2:05 pm

    Not sure if this falls under your umbrella term as “rudimentary”, but there are a few online whiteboard platforms I know of. Below is a copy of an email I sent to several of the science teachers I work with:

    1. AWW (

    — no need to have a log in to start (but you can’t save a board unless you log in; you can, however, export it to a pdf file)
    — toolbars with writing tools, text, shapes, upload images, and other things to add to the content
    — share the link to a whiteboard to have multiple collaborators
    — FREE for basic tools and sharing

    — you can read here about it’s integration into Google Classroom here:

    2. Explain Everything (

    — as a whiteboard, you can draw, add text, upload files, and create basic shapes.
    — you can also record your whiteboard – and voice – as you draw. Once finished you can save the video to be shared online or as an MP4.
    — the board can be shared for collaboration
    — Free for up to 3 projects with a maximum video length of one minute (boo).

    3. Whiteboard Fox (

    — no login required
    — Features freehand drawing, straight lines, ability to embed photos and add text, and a replay feature which opens your whiteboard in a new browser tab and provides an instant replay video of your work from start to finish.
    — Ability to share board
    — No ability to save whiteboards online, but can export them as images
    — FREE

    • March 19, 2020 2:09 pm

      wow! Thanks. I’ve seen EE before, but the others are new to me. I’m going to play with these.

  3. Barb Austin permalink
    March 19, 2020 2:34 pm

    Classkick–it is AWESOME!!!All of my students have iPads so they an ink right on it. You can also use it online with any computer–it is clunkier to write formulas, though, using a keyboard. The thing I do not know is if it works synchronously from various locations. I have only used it in my class during class. I will know more tomorrow as I attempt it!

  4. Michael Goldenberg permalink
    March 19, 2020 4:10 pm

    I strongly recommend BitPaper. You should also take a look at Ziteboard. Both are free. And I know that BitPaper allows you (and the student(s)) to add various sorts of files to the board. I’m just starting to play with it after doing a bit of research as to what was out there and which was free and designed to be compatible with iOS and MacOS since that’s what our instructional staff uses, and also with Chromebooks, since that’s what we give our students. I was able to upload a screenshot I took from Desmos on my Macbook Air and have it show up on the whiteboard on both my iPad and laptop (which were in the same whiteboard space.)

    • March 19, 2020 10:32 pm

      I tried it out, and Bitpaper is amazing. But when I tried to open a bitpaper on my phone, it said the screen size was too small. So it seems the thing I really need, to get a photo of pencil and paper math work into a shared space where it can be seen by others isn’t somehting I can do with this.

      • Michael P Goldenberg permalink
        March 20, 2020 12:27 pm

        I was given an iPad by my district on Monday specifically so I can work with students online. I have my own iPhone, but I haven’t tried using it with any whiteboards and agree that it would be too small to be practical. A touch-screen laptop or a tablet seems like the way to go. The touchpad on my Macbook Air isn’t sensitive enough. But the iPad with a stylus is ideal.

  5. Evan Halstead permalink
    March 19, 2020 5:11 pm

    While it isn’t built for uploading photos, Equatio ( makes it very easy to typeset math in a collaborative environment. You can have students work either in a Google Doc or a “mathspace”, then they can enter math in a variety of ways (natural language, LaTeX, speech input, handwriting recognition, or by taking a photo). You can also create Desmos graphs, shapes, and freehand drawings. There is a free version and a paid version (the free version has limits on some of the more advanced functionality, like handwriting recognition).

    • March 19, 2020 10:33 pm

      Yeah, I love equatio, but I can’t see my kids solving an Exeter style problem from scratch using it, though their work would be much easier to read.

  6. Nate Crimmins permalink
    March 24, 2020 10:50 am

    Hey John! Hope you’re well, brother.

    Might Padlet do what you’re hoping for? It allows students to upload images, video, text, and more to a single bulletin board of sorts. They have an app for cell phones, too (not sure how snazzy it is though…). Pretty sure it lets you comment on posts as well. Here’re some links to check out:

    30 ideas on how to use it:


    Basic description:

    • March 24, 2020 9:01 pm

      Nate! It’s so great to hear from you I hope you are well. I’ve played with Padlet before—that’s an interesting idea. The next tool I’m going to explore is bitpaper, but I’ll put padlet on my list as well.

  7. Marta permalink
    April 9, 2020 6:17 pm

    I am actually doing it through goformative, i set up tasks and those who have tablets show their work there others upload pictures, i have them all together below that question and marking goes really quick. Btw. I just found your site and planning to use some of your vpython for physics teaching – awesome resources, thanks!

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