The Light is Write: Experiences In Building and Using a Low-Cost Lightboard

Concurrent Session 9

Brief Abstract

A traditional Lightboard costs between 5000-10,000 dollars; with a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach and basic tools, we were able to build our version for approximately $600, a savings of up to 94%. Join this session to learn how to build this powerful learning tool for pennies on the dollar.


Eric Mistry is the Instructional Technologist and Digital Media Specialist at the College of St. Scholastica. A graduate of Grinnell College (BA: History/Technology Studies) and The George Washington University (MA: Educational Technology Leadership), he has dedicated himself to integrating the best pedagogy with innovative technologies. His specialty is developing low-cost but high-impact alternatives to expensive technologies. He currently focuses on digital media, virtual/augmented reality, video production, and digital portfolio design.

Additional Authors

Natalie B. Milman, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Educational Technology and Director of the Educational Technology Leadership Program in the Department of Educational Leadership at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She earned her doctorate in Instructional Technology from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education with a graduate specialization designed to prepare technology leaders. She has taught at the elementary school level as a second grade, a science specialist, mentor, and technology teacher in Los Angeles County, California. Her primary research interest is 21st century pedagogies. Her current research interests include one-to-one laptop and tablets initiatives, student engagement and learning through online education, strategies and models for the effective integration of technology into the curriculum at all academic levels, and the use of digital portfolios for professional development. She has published numerous articles and presented at many conferences and has co-authored three books. She is the co-editor of the Current Practices Section of the journal, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, and is on the AERA Technology committee.

Extended Abstract

Producing instructional video usually means making trade offs. We are usually forced to choose two of the following three choices: minimal time investment, good production value, and usability. With the Lightboard, we get all three. The Lightboard is a powerful tool for creating engaging video content with relatively little investment in time or effort compared to traditional instructional video production. It is a transparent illuminated whiteboard on which the instructor writes using fluorescent ink while lecturing. This content is videotaped, briefly edited, and the resulting product is uploaded to YouTube and shared with students. The traditional Lightboard build costs anywhere between 5000-10,000 dollars. Using a simple DIY approach and basic tools, we were able to build our version for approximately $600, a savings of up to 94%.

My research has involved testing the individual components that make up a Lightboard and determining where a low-cost substitute can produce an acceptable alternative. Additionally, I have explored software workflows and standard set-ups to allow anyone to produce viable footage with minimal training. In the course of this endeavor, I have produced building instructions for the low-cost model, as well as training materials that can be used to help users quickly and easily edit their videos.

Our pilot faculty have benefitted from having an easy tool to produce videos, and have produced videos in mathematics, computer science, education, and economics, with more departments signing up weekly. The faculty enjoy using the Lightboard and find its ease of use to be a unique advantage against other technologies; they merely have to write on whiteboard-like surface and deliver their lecture. An additional advantage of the Lightboard is its speed in content delivery. The turnaround time for a set of edited Lightboard videos in 4K quality has been averaging under two days; with hands-on editing time averaging under five minutes per video. Viewership numbers are relatively excellent, and the initial student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Students enjoy being able to see both the content and their instructor.

This session will include three main sections: an introduction to the Lightboard technology with brief finished video samples and pictures of the actual unit, a discussion of the cost-saving adaptations and why they worked, and finally a set of questions and answers that most institutions want addressed regarding the implementation of a Lightboard. There will be additional time for the audience’s questions and answers, as individual schools and implementers may have special circumstances that need to be addressed. Attendees will also be directed to a set of free resources that I have developed to help build inexpensive Lightboards and train users.


Faculty Sponsor:

Natalie Milman, GWU

Associate Professor of Educational Technology,

Director of the Educational Technology Leadership Program