Creating a Digital Whiteboard

I have discovered a truth on this journey to become paperless: it is easier to start paperless than to convert to paperless. Stuff that starts and stays digital is much easier to manage, and is much more useful, than stuff that starts its life on paper and must be later converted into digital.

Converting Paper to Paperless

I wrote a post back in June 2016 called “Office Lens: Paperless App of the Week” about the wonders of a Microsoft app called Office Lens. This magical little tool takes pictures of documents, whiteboards, and business cards and turns them into digital scans.

This . . .

Becomes this . . .

It is an indispensable app on my phone. I use it almost every day.

Starting and Staying Digital

Going back to my opening thought today – things are easier to manage and much more useful if they start and stay digital – means that I would love to not have to use Office Lens, ever. If all things started and stayed digital, we wouldn’t need to be scanning stuff.

Starting digital is the goal.

Of course, documents and spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations are all very easy to start and stay digital. Even when saved and shared as a PDF document, they are easy to search, file, retrieve, and read.

The Whiteboard Problem

Whiteboards are a different story. Digital whiteboards are expensive, can be difficult to setup, can be difficult to use, and are often offline from our own systems (I have clients with Smart Boards but I cannot access them using my own technology).

However, we accidentally discovered a new way to create a digital whiteboard. Here is how we discovered a relatively inexpensive digital whiteboard.

An Accidental Whiteboard

A few months ago we were looking for a great location to host our quarterly management offsite meeting. One of our clients graciously offered up their learning centre to us – a place away from our office in which we could spend a day working through goals and strategies for the quarter.

We arrive in the morning and settled in. The room was comfortable, with relaxed chairs, side tables, and a big projector screen at the front of the room. The place was just perfect, except for one missing component.

It actually didn’t have a whiteboard.

It was really more of a theatre than a classroom. It was meant to provide a setting for talks, learning videos, discussions, etc. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to write anything down. We searched for a flipchart and stand and then we even searched for sticky notes. All to no avail.

We were flummoxed.

Until Jacquie, our meeting facilitator, came up with a partial solution: “why don’t I take notes on my tablet while we talk – I have a digital pencil and OneNote that we can use.” We agreed that this was a good start. Then someone took the idea to the next level: “why don’t we project the tablet onto the screen so that we can see what Jacquie is writing?”

Bingo. The digital whiteboard was born.

The room had an Apple TV connected to the screen at the front of the room. We simply projected Jacquie’s tablet running OneNote onto the screen through the Apple TV unit. Now we could see everything that she was capturing in real time. Just like a whiteboard.

Rolling it Out

We have been outfitting our new office meeting rooms with screens – very handy for projecting documents, PowerPoints, etc. However, it is not so useful for capturing free-form notes. As such, most of our meeting rooms also have a whiteboard. This means that I have to keep using Office Lens to capture those notes.

The exception is that one of our meeting rooms is purely digital. It has a small conference table with multiple video connections so that we can attach our laptops and tablets to the screen.

Building on Jacquie’s impromptu digital whiteboard, I can now attach my iPad Pro to the screen directly and take free hand notes that are instantly available to everyone in digital format.

For a project, we will take notes directly into the project OneNote notebook. On other occasions, I will take notes into my personal notebooks and instantly email everyone a copy of the page when we are done.

Digital whiteboards can be complicated and expensive, but with a simple tablet, a screen, and Microsoft OneNote, you can create a whiteboard experience that achieves the goal that paperless strives for to start and stay digital.

Connections Blog

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