Lost in translation: flip chart paper

Set in the 23rd Century, Rene Auberjonois playing a Starfleet Colonel trying to convince his superiors of their technological advantage over the Klingons – by using a flip chart! Nice to know that they will still be extensively used in the future.

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.

What we have been seeing was many people translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.  As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

I did kind of wonder if people actually still used flip charts and then remembered I do when delivering training, they’re up there with post-it notes as a great tool in the learning and teaching toolkit, as well as for those working in the field of training and development.

Many packages have a whiteboard function that can be used. However having used these many times, they are not a digital equivalent of a flip chart. It can be hard, if not impossible to draw and write with a mouse or a trackpad.

writing on the whiteboard
Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Also with multiple people using the board at the same time, means it can become very confusing very quickly, this is something that doesn’t happen with a physical flip chart.

One option I have written about before is using an iPad with an Apple Pencil as a digital whiteboard within Teams.

An asynchronous option could be to use pen and paper and then using a camera or mobile phone take a photograph of what was written or drawn and upload to a discussion forum or other similar tool.

Then there are specific online tools such as Miro that can be used to replicate flip chart and post-it note activities.

These are of course technical solutions to the problem of translating the use of a flip chart into an online environment, however this is only part of the challenge.

Take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve from a learning perspective and what outcomes you want from your students, you can then start to think differently about how to approach the challenge. A virtual flip chart may not actually be the technical solution you require.

Students could collaborate using a shared Google Doc (or shared Office 365 Word Doc). This allows for that live collaboration, but also can be shared with others or uploaded to another site. An advantage of this kind of collaborative document is that it allows you to see who made what contributions if needed.

It might also be useful to design activities that work asynchronously, so aren’t dependent on a continuous live internet connection to work.

Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things. Of course knowing how to do those different things, is another challenge.

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