10 reasons why you should use the visualiser in F2F teaching…

What is a visualiser?

A visualiser, sometimes known as a document reader, is a device that allows you to project the visual image of any physical object from your lectern to the theatre screens. This means that it can capture and project your hand and your handwriting live – which is why we prefer to use the term “visualiser” (which implies that something dynamic is being projected) rather than document-reader (which implies that something static is being projected). At Macquarie University – we have two different models of visualisers – pictured below.

Where is it hidden?

Go to the Rooms and Facilities Guide to check which lecture rooms have a Visualiser.

Why is it optimal for F2F teaching?

1. Face-to-face interactions

Unlike writing on the whiteboard, the visualiser allows you to face your students the entire time. Students look less at your back and look more at your engaging face! The transition to online delivery has proven the value of face-to-face interactions. You also get to see them face-to-face as they react to your teaching and take notes, giving you cues to tune your teaching as it happens.

2. Bespoke to your class

There are two approaches to teaching with a visualiser, going in with some pre-prepared writing which is added to during the class, or going in with a blank slate. In either scenario, you create the notion to students that you are not coming in with a pre-supposed set of content in a PowerPoint slide deck that you are going to force onto them. The fact that the slate is blank (or somewhat blank) directly communicates to the student that their contribution is important – not what you pre-supposed, typed, and prepared into a PowerPoint.

3. Equity & Empowerment

Teaching via a visualiser means that you predominantly focus on teaching using a pen and paper, and not using a computer. This not only solves the equity issue in the classroom, but it is also empowering for students. They realise that they too can achieve the learning outcomes without the use of technology. Sometimes, a mathematical proof or a fancy graph may end up being a disconnect when using technology, but is empowering when it is hand-drawn by you and the students using pens and rulers.

4. I-can-do-it-too Attitude

Unlike a PowerPoint and writing on the board, you are writing on an A4 sheet of paper – which is exactly what the student is writing on as well. So, not only is there equity amongst students, but both the teacher and the student are using the same medium and space of an A4 sheet – implicitly signalling to students how to structure, organise their ideas, synergise, engage, and learn!

5. Firing up the brain

Encouraging students to use their hands to write rather than type, and do-as-you-do, fires up so many more parts of the brain, compared to if students were to type onto a laptop throughout the tutorial. Using pens, other stationery, and paper stimulates so many more parts of the brain, and creates anchor points for memory creation and memory recall, compared to a scrolling screen. There is research that typing essentially fires up the brain in terms of each letter, as we type via fingers, whereas writing fires up the brain in terms of words, as we write via a hand.

6. Efficiency & Productivity

For mathematical content where writing on the board is time consuming, the visualiser is a powerful tool. You can pre-prepare some detailed working beforehand but cover them up using a sheet of paper and unfold / reveal each step as you go. This approach saves time in terms of having to write down all the steps on the board and instead allows the teacher to focus more on the issues that students struggle with. This way, you can structure your tutorial more efficiently.

7. Collaboration

While some steps can be pre-prepared, you can add other steps live in class by writing while discussing with your students and coming up with the end solution… together. The students become partners and co-creators of the learning material and feel empowered that their commentary makes it straight to the document.

8. Focus

By not showing everything in one go via a slide, likely to result in information overload, but rather presented step-by-step as you speak, it allows for the student to pay attention to the content that is important in that particular moment. Everyone is not only on the same page, they are on the same line. Literally.

9. Step-by-step

Visualising your thought process in a step-by-step manner with the help of different coloured pens, helps the student understand your approach to solving the problem more systematically and provides them with tools / ideas to implement that approach to other problem sets. You are not just teaching them “the what”, you are also teaching them “the how”.

10. Interaction

The step-by-step approach via a visualiser motivates student participation as it mentally engages students’ thinking process. It prompts them to think “What’s the next step?” Via the visualiser students can make a better connection with what they see in real time with what you as a tutor are saying. This prompting then allows you to incorporate “the why” into your tutorials, and not just “the what”.

10 + Groupwork & Instant Feedback

If you have a groupwork component in your tutorials, you can use the visualiser to share the students’ work within the classroom, in order to then discuss their approach / answers, allowing for direct and quick feedback. Each group simply has to take a blank sheet of paper, and write down their solution. After say ten minutes, the teacher can call a spokesperson from a group to the front, and they have a piece of paper as their supporting material to present. You can do this, even if there is no formal groupwork component!

10 ++ Going with the flow

The visualiser allows you to adapt to your classroom. A good teacher builds on the knowledge of their students. Each classroom and each student is different. How each student takes in and processes information is different. Each student has a different level of learning. The visualiser helps you as a teacher to amend your thoughts step-by-step to enable you to adapt to the student’s level of knowledge and comprehension – which a pre-prepared set of PowerPoint cannot really do.

10 +++ Sustainability

Unlike a whiteboard that gets constantly erased during a lesson, the A4 sheets of paper remain in tact. You can always come back to a previous sheet to re-cap during, or re-cap at the end of a lesson. Furthermore, after class, you can scan all your sheets into a single PDF within a few seconds and upload this onto iLearn for students to review and revise from later.

10 ++++ Fun

Yes, this is point number 14! We went past point number 10 a while ago! But, ultimately, everything above makes classes that utilise a visualiser fun!


This article was co-authored by Leeanne Mendonca De Mello from the Department of Applied Finance/ Department of Actuarial Studies & Business Analytics and Dr Prashan Karunaratne from the Department of Actuarial Studies & Business Analytics.

Leeanne is an experienced Sessional Academic and Teaching Assistant at the Macquarie Business School. She has been teaching across three departments: Actuarial Studies & Business Analytics, Applied Finance and Economics. Born in Goa, India, raised in Germany and calling Australia home since 2011, adapting to different cultures comes to her naturally. She has a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Before her academic role, she worked in auditing at PwC, KPMG (Frankfurt, Germany) and BDO (Sydney, Australia). She is a firm believer that student engagement is key to successful learning. Being able to relate to the students, creating a comfortable learning environment and above all being approachable and enthusiastic, have helped her achieve this with face to face and online delivery. Leeanne’s passion for teaching makes her confident that you can light up every student’s interest in a subject by simplifying complex concepts and instilling a can-do attitude.

Posted by Prashan Karunaratne

Prashan Karunaratne is an inspirational and innovative teacher of economics and business analytics. His enthusiasm for teaching and passion for improving student outcomes have inspired and engaged tens of thousands of students for more than a decade. He successfully utilises large lecture theatres and MOOCs as a crucible to develop a culture of active learning that nurtures students to develop a desire to engage. He inspires students to want to learn – by emphasising the ‘why’, and he equips students – by focusing on the ‘how’. The experiences and #EveryoneSayWow moments that Prashan creates in his classrooms and beyond, are those that students will remember in the years to come. He recently received a Citation for an Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning at the 2019 Australian Awards for University Teaching: "For excellence in engaging, equipping and empowering students and lecturers to achieve transformative and equitable outcomes in Economics and Excel – in classrooms, boardrooms and beyond."

One Comment

  1. […] and interacting effectively throughout the lesson. Leeanne transitioned from a whiteboard to a visualiser and utilised a stylus for live zoom sessions. These tools allowed students to connect her […]


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