Ink or Digital Ink

Overhead shot of tripod with extnesion holding an iPhone with the video camera app open, paper and pen below it, iPad pro and pencil beside it

In an all-digital all-the-time age, analog input may sound a bit backwards. But sometimes, the easiest way comes down to just getting pen to paper. Here are two [relatively] easy ways a stay-at-home educator can incorporate penning ideas into their online course during these work-in-place times.


First, the easiest and probably most elegant is the iPad Pro [or any tablet that supports a stylus]. Apps like the built in Apple Notes app, or even Microsoft OneNote, work with digital ink. If you need something a little more colorful and design-centric Paper by WeTransfer [the app formerly known as Paper by 53] can make for a good digital whiteboard. A benefit to all these apps is that digital ink helps smooth out your handwriting; so if you ever found your penmanship a little iffy these apps might help.

To get your iPad started you’ll need to set up screen recording from your Control Center; the easiest way to find it is to Search for it within Settings;

Once that is enabled, you’ll see a 3-2-1 countdown and the top bar of your iPad turning red indicating that your screen is being recorded.


iOS long press of Record Screen screen shot
iOS Screen Record w/audio
  • Be sure you have all your NOTIFICATIONS turned off, or Do Not Disturb turned on.
  • Be sure you have plenty of storage on your iPad; it is video and it can fill up smaller capacities fast.
  • Screen Recording on iOS does support audio recording simultaneously. To turn on the microphone, press and hold the record button to enable the option: Making it a lecture one-stop-shop.

DIY Doc Cam?

A more affordable approach is turning your smartphone [which usually has a killer camera already] into a makeshift document camera. Now, this can get pretty elaborate. If you are a maker there are several videos out there on how to create doc-cam stands out of PVC pipe or wood. However, if woodworking isn’t your strong suit or if a makerspace isn’t in your garage, a tripod and extension might be an easier and faster option.

If you already have a tripod at your home, adding an extension to it will make an adjustable arm to reach it over your paper or white board. The one I’m using here is a monopod (selfie stick) that has a quarter-20 (tripod screw hole) on its bottom that allows for the attachment to any tripod screw or plate.


  • The small tripod didn’t quite have as wide of a stance needed for my phone. So to keep from falling over, a small bungee cord cinched it down to my table top just fine.
  • Get a little more height from your tripod if you can. It will help with shadows and lifting it out of your own sight as you are writing on your whiteboard or paper.
  • Make sure you have enough light. Just like a document camera, if you have light from both sides, not just from above, it helps with shadows and improves legibility.
  • Because you are recording video, audio is recorded as well. #OneStopLectureShop

  • Added bonus: With this setup in combination with Readdle’s Scanner Pro, you have a makeshift bookscanner as well that can convert documents into PDFs.