Writing Mathematics in real time when teaching and learning online

It is quite straightforward to use pre-prepared material, such as slides, in online teaching sessions. Within Teams and Panopto there are options for sharing files and sharing your screen.

There are also good options for writing maths in real time during online teaching sessions. This webpage sets out some suggestions, in no particular order, so that you can choose something that suits you and the technology available to you.

You can join a Teams meeting by yourself at any time, to test out options in private. To do this, go to Calendar (on the left-hand bar of the Teams view), and choose “Meet now” (top right of screen). You do not need to add participants to start the meeting.

However you share maths in real time during a teaching session, it is good practice to send a follow-up with a pdf of the notes, so that everyone has all the notes afterwards, even if they had technical problems during the session. It is worth saying in advance that you will do this, so people can decide whether or not they want to make their notes. For tips on turning a collection of images (such as photos of handwriting on paper) into a pdf, please see [advice to follow].

Sharing a desktop/laptop screen/whiteboard within Teams

Within a scheduled Teams meeting, if you are designated as a presenter (which any internal member is by default, but should ideally be changed when the meeting is set up) it is possible to share a particular program, or to share your screen. This can be useful if you have slides, for example. 

Teams also has a built-in whiteboard that you can share. Everyone participating in the meeting can use the whiteboard. If you have a device with a stylus, this can be a good option. If you are using a mouse on a computer, then you might find the whiteboard is not adequate for writing significant amounts of maths. But for example a tutor using a stylus with their device could write on a whiteboard, and a student using a mouse could highlight a part they don’t understand, or add small annotations.

If you would prefer a more elaborate and feature-rich whiteboard to be shared, then you might consider using OneNote as a whiteboard within Teams.

Sharing a tablet screen within Teams

There are Teams apps available for iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android and Microsoft devices.

Using smartphone/tablet as a visualiser

You can use your Android or iOS (iPhone/iPad) devices as a visualiser to live present mathematical writing.

Sharing with a dedicated document camera/visualiser

If you have a document camera (also called a visualiser), then you should be able to use this within Teams. Plug in the camera and do whatever you need to do to set it up (which might be nothing, if it is a plug-and-play USB camera).

When you are in a Teams call, you see a video preview of yourself. If you have an additional camera set up, hover your mouse over the video preview, and you will see a little “switch camera” icon. Click on this, and you will switch your video to showing the output of your document camera. You can use the “switch camera” button repeatedly to toggle between your webcam and your document camera.

There is one detail to be aware of. When you use Teams (and other similar software), the video preview you see of yourself is mirrored, so that you see what you would see if you were looking in a mirror, but the video shown to other participants is not mirrored, so that they see you as though they were looking at you in real life. This applies when you use your document camera too: what you see in your preview is reversed left to right, but the other participants will see correct writing. But you can read what you have written on your paper, and the video preview is still useful for confirming that you are writing on paper that is in shot, and so on.

Taking static photos and uploading them, or just holding up a piece of paper

If none of the above works, and you can’t write “on camera”, you could write on paper, take a photo and share it. Within a Teams meeting, you can upload images to the chat bar, which can be a useful way to share a photo. Anything in the meeting chat can be downloaded by others. You can also just hold up what you have written to the webcam such that others can see it directly - often what people are familiar with when doing student interviews.