Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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My online tutoring technology (2): Why I chose Team Skrbl

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

I am no longer using Team Skrbl, which unfortunately is no longer functional. For a full update of what I’m currently using instead, check out the latest post on my online tutoring technology.

Out of the twelve interactive online whiteboards that I tested with a digital pen tablet, Team Skrbl works the best of all. Hands down.

Here’s why:
• It’s extremely pleasureable to draw with when you use a pen tablet.
• It’s intuitive to use.
• The huge and scrollable screen size gives you room to finish even complex problems in a single screen. No toggling back and forth between multiple screens.
• The buttons are easy to understand and use.
• I can use it immediately without waiting. There is no need to schedule a session or wait for anything to load.
• It has an eraser function. (This is key when learning math ;) )
• Whiteboards are automatically saved so students can review them whenever they want.
• Skrbl’s developer was interested in my feedback & suggestions.

Do you have another online whiteboard you love to use with a digital pen tablet? Are you an online whiteboard developer interested in adding tablet support to your product, or creating a new product that includes tablet support? I want to hear from you!

Related Posts:
My Online Tutoring Technology (1): Why I Chose the Wacom Bamboo Digital Pen Tablet

8 Comments on “My online tutoring technology (2): Why I chose Team Skrbl”

  • Christian Stapfer on December 2nd 3:02 pm

    Hi Rebecca,
    as an online math-tutor I felt it necessary to develop my own whiteboard in order to make full use of the superior handwriting one gets with a tablet pc, and also that I might be able to extend that whiteboard as need be: to include slide shows that I can generate with free tools of the TeX family, to paste images from the clipboard (which is impossible to do with all “server based” whiteboards that I have seen so far), to scan images directly into the whiteboard, and to add 3d models, for example.
    You can see a short demo of the basic functionality of my whiteboard in a video at this address http://homepage.swissonline.ch/mathcoach/Frame/English/NetDeskSharp.html
    Although my whiteboard may look less than impressive at first sight, it really has some features that I don’t think many (if any) other shared whiteboards have. Just recently I have been able to add another feature to my whiteboard that I am rather proud of: I can now insert vector graphics (in a special format, called XAML). As you probably know: vector graphics can be resized without any loss of image quality (i.e. no “pixelizing”), and the printout looks perfect, too.
    There is a downside, of course: my whiteboard is a Windows application that must be installed on the student’s computer. Since my whiteboard is only available for non-commercial use, it would not be useful to you. But I wonder: have you ever considered acquiring a tablet pc in order to get (almost) natural handwriting when tutoring? Writing on a tablet pc is not only easier (the writing surface and the screen are the same and, therefore, it feels much more natural than writing on a separate graphics tablet), the handwriting looks much better on screen (because the pen digitizer has higher resolution than the screen and the handwriting gets modulated by pressure information from the pen), and the printout looks perfect, too.
    Regards and my best wishes for your online-tutoring business,
    Christian

  • Rebecca Zook on December 5th 1:52 pm

    Christian, thank you so much for your comment. I am really, really impressed that you built your own whiteboard. I was also really inspired by your story on your website about your educational journey and how you came to be a math tutor. Math didn’t come easily to me either when I first encountered it in high school, and I think it actually helps me be a better tutor because I know what it’s like to be totally confused. I also totally agree with you about math tutoring being sometimes a little like cognitive-behavioral therapy. Just the other day I was working with an adult student and he said, “this is like math therapy!” and it made me smile. :)

    I would love to try your whiteboard (in a non commercial context as specified) but at the moment I only have a mac, not a PC. Later on I think I might hire someone to develop a whiteboard for me, and thanks to you I now know that I could have a downloadable program that might be more accurate instead of an online version. I have thought about using a tablet PC but it’s really important to me that my students, not just me, can do tutoring with handwritten input instead of typing. And I wanted to have that be affordable, instead of requiring them to get a whole new computer or dig around for a good used tablet PC. I also wanted to be using the same technology as my students so we have similar experiences with the handwriting input. But I would love to try a tablet PC too!

    You seem like a really interesting person. Maybe if I am ever in Zurich we could get coffee and talk shop! Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your great story and your awesome whiteboard!!!!

  • David Jameson on June 14th 4:00 pm

    Rebecca,

    You might also want to check out http://www.groupboard.com as we have online whiteboards specifically designed for math tutoring. Also, unlike skrbl our whiteboards work on all web browsers and they are real-time (when one users draws on the whiteboard the other user sees it immediately). We have quite a lot of schools, universities and tutors using Groupboard for online tutoring and distance learning. We have a free version which supports up to 5 users.

  • sheldon rose on May 4th 11:40 am

    looking for best shared whiteboard available to tutor on-line

  • Rebecca Zook on May 4th 1:12 pm

    Hi Sheldon! Right now I am using groupboard designer with my students who only have macs and talkandwrite with skype for my students who have PCs. I am not using Team Skrbl these days because it is no longer operational.

  • Alex F on May 10th 10:48 pm

    Hey Rebecca – try this: http://www.scribblar.com/

    Besides the usual range of stuff, it’s browser/AJAX based and has a built in interface to Wolfram Alpha (which you have to pay for) so you can pull up plots and all sorts of stuff in your session.

  • am reed on September 5th 4:51 am

    I am starting my own online tutoring business in 2013 and wondered if you could give some advice on the best pen tablets to use for teaching mathematics?

  • Rebecca Zook on September 5th 10:52 am

    Any of the Wacom brand tablets work just fine. I just use the least expensive model because what we are doing is pretty simple and we don’t need any of the complex functionality of the higher-end tablets designed for professional graphic designers!

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