Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming

Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming

Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming: Learn about how you can incoporate technology into the planning and brainstorming process using a variety of tools that work on Chromebooks, laptops, computers and iPads.

I love finding easy to use digital tools that allow students to collaborate in real time without requiring a login. You can read about some of my favorite tools for communication and collaboration by clicking HERE. These tools can enhance projects and learning experiences in a variety of ways but this post is going to focus on planning and brainstorming.

Planning and Brainstorming

Teaching students how to be thoughtful thinkers by planning and brainstorming is an important job of the classroom teacher. The writing process, STEM challenges, project based learning activities, science experiments and any sort of in depth problem solving situation require careful planning and brainstorming.

Having students work together during the planning and brainstorming process can foster the development of critical thinking through discussion, construction and clarification of ideas as well as evaluation of others' ideas.

The planning and brainstorming phase can be personalized for your learners. Some students, especially younger ones, are more successful getting their thoughts out by drawing pictures/sketches. Others like to use words and phrases. There are even students who do well recording their spoken thoughts and listen to their recording multiple times before moving onto their execution process.

Why Go Digital with Collaborative Planning and Brainstorming?

Honestly, any type of collaborative planning and brainstorming whether it is paper/utensil or paperless is an A+ in my book. However, digital does have its perks😉

➤Everyone has their canvas right in front of them. No fighting to see the paper or notebook.
➤Mistakes can easily be removed thanks to the power of the UNDO button
➤Everyone can have their own copy (take a screenshot and upload to a digital folder/portfolio)
➤You can plan and brainstorm with people outside of your classroom (Global collaboration!)

Guiding Our Students to Work Together in a Digital Environment 

Just like everything else we do in the classroom, we have to guide, teach and model how to effectively use collaborative digital tools to plan and brainstorm together. Many skills can be exercised such as taking turns, patience, focus, responsibility and respect.

TIP: Regardless of whatever digital tool you use, always start out by showing students where the Undo button is located so they know it is okay to make mistakes and are familiar with how to self-correct.

I always like to do a practice round with something very quick and basic. Even though the first round is supposed to be easy, I introduce that I have a BIG challenge for the class. I tell them that they will work together with a partner to draw a smiley face but will each use their own device. When students have their partner assignment, I ask for them to decide who will be #1 and who will be #2. All #1s sit on the left hand side of the room and will use the color RED to draw while #2s sit on the right hand side of the room and use the color BLUE to draw. The colors allow me to see who drew what on their board. They are not allowed to touch their device until I call their number. I start off by saying, "#2s, draw a circle to represent the outside of your smiley face. Make sure it is big enough to draw inside." Then we switch. I say "#1s, it is now your turn and #2s need to take their hands off of their device. #1s, draw the eyes on your smiley face". We go back and forth until everyone has successfully drawn a smiley face.

Web Whiteboard

Last year Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers demonstrated how to use Web Whiteboard with Google Hangouts in THIS blog post. The tool looked SO easy to use and I thought it would be a great digital whiteboard to use with elementary students for planning and brainstorming. There are many types of collaborative boards like this that I have mentioned at the bottom of this post but let's take a look at using Web Whiteboard for planning and brainstorming.

Web Whiteboard has a simple interface and no login is required! It can work on laptops, Chromebooks, computers and mobile devices. Even K-1 students could easily use this tool to plan and brainstorm together by shared drawings. Did you know that you can use stylus pens on laptop/Chromebook trackpads? Of course students could use collaboration boards to construct diagrams and label images like these examples below:

Guiding our students to work together in a digital environment. Example of an activity using Web Whiteboard.

Guiding our students to work together in a digital environment. Example of an activity using Web Whiteboard.

They can also use them to walk through their planning and brainstorming process:

Guiding our students to work together in a digital environment. Example of an activity using Web Whiteboard.

This specific collaboration board allows students to draw, add images, utilize "sticky" notes and add text. It is important to note that the boards expire after 21 days if you don't have a subscription account. 


Setup is quick and easy. Go to webwhiteboard.com and click Create free whiteboard.

Students can hop on by visiting the url that is given to that particular board.

Sharing with Students

If working with younger students, I would suggest partnering them up and making a board for each set of partners. There are many ways you could share the boards you create with students. Of course students could always create their own board and have their partner type in the url of the board that has been created. However, you the teacher will want access to all of the links in order to monitor each group's progress so creating a homebase that hosts all of your links is my recommendation. 

I think the quickest and easiest way to compile boards and share them with students is to paste the links in a single Google Doc. You could make the doc look something like this:
Click HERE for this template
Important: When you paste the link in the box, be sure to press Enter/Return so the hyperlink will populate. Otherwise the link is not clickable. 

If you are worried about students clicking on the wrong link, you could always hyperlink images like in this example:
Set your Google Doc so anyone with the link can view. This way students can't delete any text/images by accident. Share the URL of the single Google Doc that contain your links however you share links with your students (Google Classroom, LMS, school server, website, QR code, etc.) 

Give it a try! It always amazes me to see the ideas students come up with, especially when they work together.

Other Similar Collaborative Boards:

Whiteboard Fox
Stoodle (Check out THIS post about Stoodle I wrote last year for Whooo's Reading)
Flockdraw (Requires Flash)
BoardThing (I wrote about BoardThing HERE and HERE)

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