Friday, October 7, 2011

"A Web Whiteboard"

For those of us who tutor via Skype, it's vitally important that we have access to an online whiteboard. A physical whiteboard isn't nearly as convenient: it would have to sit behind me in the webcam view, and I'd have to shift out of my chair every time I wanted to use it. The student might also want to see the notes on the board, and would have to ask me to move. While I definitely need the exercise, I don't think all that standing and sitting and standing is productive in a class context.

Just today, on my Twitter feed, I saw someone link to a new, super-stripped-down type of online whiteboard, called very simply "A Web Whiteboard." No installation necessary-- not that this is unique to A Web Whiteboard, but it does make the app more convenient. I tried the app out for a few minutes... and came away a bit disappointed. While AWW has the advantage of being cross-platform (you can use it just as easily on your smart phone or iPad as you can on your computer), it's missing features that are vital to tutoring, such as the ability to write text or to create clean geometric shapes when visualizing math problems. As far as I can tell, and I may be wrong about this, the whiteboard is geared entirely toward freehand work.

A much better whiteboard for tutors is, in my opinion, Dabbleboard. Dabbleboard is almost as easy to use as AWW is, but it comes with far more features. You can write text on Dabbleboard, for example, and can adjust the size of the text. The text palette includes simple mathematical symbols (pi, square root, some exponents, etc.). You can draw freehand or use a shape-recognizing "orthogonal" tool to create geometric shapes.* The board's animation quality is also much better than AWW's. Dabbleboard includes a video chat function (is this a recent addition?), which makes Skyping a bit redundant, but since I'd normally have to "meet" my students via Skype before referring to the whiteboard during a session, it's better for me simply to remain with Skype.

All in all, if you're an online tutor, I can't recommend AWW in its current state. Once AWW adds more features, I may change my tune. But for now, of the various online whiteboards I've tried, Dabbleboard is the best fit for me.

*Unfortunately, Dabbleboard interprets your attempts to draw trapezoids as attempts to draw rectangles. To make a trapezoid, you have to draw each line segment separately-- a difference of only a few seconds, so it's no more than a minor annoyance.



Senko said...


author of AWW here. Thanks for the review and for pointing out things that are missing - such feedback is really helpful in deciding what features I should focus on next.

Kind regards,

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for stopping by. I have high hopes that AWW will become a great product. I like the stripped-down nature of the board as well as the cross-platform versatility, but the board does need some more basic features before it can really catch on with users. Good luck as you tweak the software!


Anonymous said...

A good review. I hadn't heard of Dabbleboard -- will give it a try.


Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, JMac, and please come back and tell me if you know of any online whiteboards that might be better than Dabbleboard.

Anonymous said...

AWW was just posted for fun, I don't use it in any courses.

From this site (, Dabbleboard seems to be the current whiteboard to beat.

For my courses, we do concurrent collaborations using Google Docs (everyone gets a link and works in real time -- mostly for writing an presentations). We use Dropbox for asynchronous communications, and our main course materials are hosted on Moodle,

The 'share screen' feature in Skype has also been useful on a number of occasions. It'd be possible to share a screen in a Math program quite easily, I'd imagine.

Don't be shy about sending off a Twitter request or Google search -- lots of useful info out there. I don't happen to have the same need for a whiteboard that you do.

I know some people in edtech that could also provide more examples, as needed (my main reason for getting into Twitter).

You have my contact info, drop me a note if you need more details.


Anonymous said...

That said, this one looks quite interesting, as well (embeddable into your website):