Man writing on clear glass lightboard with marker that produces glowing text.

Bart Pursel, TLT faculty programs coordinator, demonstrates writing on the Lightboard

The One Button Studio (OBS) has enabled faculty and students to record high-quality video by simply pressing a single button. Now, the same team that developed the OBS is incorporating another new technology into the video system to enable faculty to create more engaging course videos.

The OBS team has incorporated a simple yet elegantly effective technology known as a Lightboard. Originally invented by Michael Peshkin, a faculty member at Northwestern University, Lightboard has a surprisingly simple design, according to Justin Miller, project manager of the One Button Studio. “(Peshkin) wanted a way to show mathematical equations easily, but still continue to face the camera and engage in recordings for his students,” Miller said. “So, he put together a big aluminum frame and a video studio to do this. In the aluminum frame is a piece of tempered glass, which has lights in the top and bottom of glass to create refraction, and when you use a fluorescent whiteboard marker on that glass, it glows.”

This glowing text enables it to be seen clearly by viewers, and also enables the faculty member to be more engaging, since they can stand behind the clear glass Lightboard and write on it. However, there is an obvious issue to be addressed; the text would need to be flipped so the viewer will see it as normal and not backwards since the faculty member is standing behind it. The Lightboard team of Miller, Ben Brautigam, manager, Advanced Learning Projects with TLT, and Sherwyn Saul, programmer/analyst with TLT, came up with a simple solution.

“We’ve integrated an update into the One Button Studio software,” said Brautigam, manager, Advanced Learning Projects with TLT.  “When you are done recording, the OBS app actually inverts the video for you, and then puts it right on your flash drive.”

Given Lightboard is perfect for equations, Brautigam said the main interest in Lightboard has come from STEM faculty. But, he said that it can be useful for any subject that involves a lot of writing. “With Lightboard, there is a more engaged learning experience, because the viewing ability of the written word or the equation goes up significantly,” he said. “And the faculty are facing the camera and not turning their back to the viewer. So, it’s a better experience for not only the person creating the content, but also the people viewing the content.”

Miller noted that faculty members came to them after seeing the Lightboard that Dr. Peshkin had built. “So, even though we were thinking about it, we had seen it previously, and we wanted to do something similar or work with it, bringing this to Penn State was really faculty driven,” he said. “They came to us and said ‘we want this technology, can you do it?’ And, so we got to work, and built it for them.”

Brautigam and Miller noted that TLT’s focus is to build things that are both effective and easy to use, plus can be used across Penn State. They mentioned they went to a local furniture manufacturer to assemble Lightboards as needed due to demand.

Man writing on clear glass Lightboard in studio

Justin Miller tests the Lightboard in the Rider Building One Button Studio soon after installation.

“This will enable us to build many more of these quickly, and let other departments and other colleges purchase them,” Miller said.

While the Lightboard with OBS is still in the testing stage, there are a few actual use cases already by faculty, Brautigam said. “The main use has been statistics,” he said.  “And math, writing equations, and explaining theories, and things like that.”

“Our plan is to start with just one Lightboard, and allow ourselves some time to work with it, to make it better, to innovate around that technology,” Miller added. “We want to do that before it goes into more of a mass purchase stage for other departments and colleges. So, we will play with the integration of it into the OBE and see how that works, and see what the faculty demand is.”

Miller and Brautigam said they are hoping to have everything tested and begin purchasing Lightboards for other Penn State departments and colleges by the end of this summer. Faculty who are interested in Lightboard and would like to see a demo and get started using it are encouraged to send an email to onebutton@psu.edu.

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