Dee Schmidgall

Brainstorming with Stormboard and Twiddla

Web-based whiteboards are great tools for real-time brainstorming and collaboration when you and your team members (or students) can’t meet face to face. The best one for you depends on the kind of work you need to do. Let’s take a look at two, the first of which has an offer for educators through mid-summer 2017.

Stormboard

Stormboard.com home page

I really like Stormboard. It’s a powerful brainstorming and collaboration tool that works in real-time on iOS and Android devices, Microsoft Surface Hub, and all modern web browsers.

Stormboard uses a shared-wall and sticky note approach (a Storm) to facilitate collaborative work. It’s great for capturing and organizing ideas and data. You and your collaborators add virtual sticky notes, photos and videos to the wall as you generate and capture ideas. It’s similar to putting up sticky notes or index cards on a classroom whiteboard.

Each item has a comment thread that allows you and your team to discuss and clarify ideas, and a dot-based voting system to prioritize ideas and identify those that merit further exploration. It’s a great tool for brainstorming and ideation, and I’ve also used it for a card-sorting exercise with remote team members located across the U.S.

The free Basic account limits users to 5 per Storm, and doesn’t include Basic Reporting, which consists of a PDF capture of your Storm. Basic also doesn’t include Idea Export, which allows you to export your ideas to a spreadsheet, or Idea Import, a feature that lets you import an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file.

However, you can get those features and unlimited users per Storm with the Education license—it’s free until July 31, 2017. If you’re an educator and even considering using a brainstorming or collaborative tool with your students, I urge you to check out Stormboard while the offer is available.

Twiddla

Twiddla home page

Twiddla is another whiteboard collaboration tool. I examined Twiddla in a previous post, but it merits another look.

Twiddla describes itself as a no-setup, web-based meeting playground. I’ve used it for collaborative ideation with remote members of a design team and found it helpful and easy to work with. Twiddla can serve as a whiteboard or a real-time text document, or use it to annotate web pages, documents, and images.

Twiddla whiteboard with cat meme image

You also get a basic drawing tool, eraser, and shapes tool. You can add text inline or as a sticky note, speech bubble, or rounded box.

Twiddla whiteboard with cat meme image and text added

You can even add math formulas:

Twiddla whiteboard, cat meme image, text boxes, and math formula

 

It’s easy to set up a meeting—you don’t even have to sign up for an account. Just click the link and you get a new meeting space. Send the meeting URL to your teammates and start collaborating. The free meetings don’t include audio, but my team used Skype as a work-around. You also can’t save your work for later unless you upgrade to a paid account

Even so, Twiddla is great for real-time collaboration, particularly if you or your students need a more traditional whiteboard experience. It deserves a look.

Stormboard and Twiddla are different approaches to web-based whiteboards and are suited to different needs. I recommend Twiddla if you need to illustrate a point or annotate a document or image, and Stormboard for an ideation and organization tool. And I especially urge you to check out Stormboard and get a free education license before the offer ends July 31 this year.

Note: Stormboard’s free Educator license offer has been extended from December 31, 2016 to July 31, 2017. This post was updated  01/05/17 to reflect that change.

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