Clearing Up Google Jamboard Confusion

Google Jamboard is a powerful app for student collaboration and brainstorming. It has multiple ways for students to express themselves while collaborating in real time. From sketching to infinite collaborative graph paper, there are endless possibilities. Jams save to Google Drive. And it’s just fun to use.

But there is a problem: there is a lot of confusion about how Jamboard works. When I post about Jamboard on YouTube or Twitter, I often receive questions from teachers confused about how it works. This post aims to clear up the confusion using four questions I have received from educators.

Author’s Note: This post is not a Google-sanctioned message. It is my take on Jamboard. Google has neither edited nor approved this content. Google was unaware I wrote it. With that out of the way, let’s address four common Jamboard questions.

Don’t I need a Jamboard device?

This is the origin of most of the confusion. Yes, there is a Jamboard device. It is awesome. Kassandra Drey’s Twitter feed is full of examples of teachers using the actual device to innovate in their classrooms. What if your school does not have one? I have good news for you:

If your school uses G Suite for Education, you can use the Jamboard app for the same price as Google Docs: $0.00. Even if your school does not own a Jamboard device.

Tom Mullaney

According to the G Suite Services Summary, Google Jamboard is a Core Service included in G Suite for Education. Get started by going to jamboard.google.com to use the Jamboard web version (also referred to as “the Jamboard web app”). Do your students use iPads or Play Store-enabled Chromebooks? They can use the even more robust Jamboard mobile app.

Now that you have been directed to the Jamboard web site, you may have a follow-up question:

Why can’t I see Jamboard at jamboard.google.com?

Do you see this error message when you navigate to jamboard.google.com?

Google error message that reads:

"We are sorry, but you do not have access to this service. Please contact your Organization Administrator for access.

Sign in with a different account"

That means your G Suite Administrator has not enabled Jamboard in the G Suite Admin console. Please let your G Suite Administrator know that Jamboard is a G Suite for Education Core Service and request it be enabled. In the meantime, access Jamboard by navigating to jamboard.google.com when signed into your personal Google account. Once Jamboard is enabled in your school’s domain, you may have another question:

How do I share Jams with students?

The confusion here also stems from the Jamboard device. It is easy to imagine sharing from a Jamboard device to student computers and vice-versa. Forget the device when sharing Jams. Google Jamboard Jams are Google Drive files. No more, no less. Share Jams like any Google Drive file by adding collaborators or using sharing links.

Animated GIF of a Google Jamboard Jam being shared in Google Drive
Can you share a Google Drive file? Then you can share a Google Jamboard Jam!

Jams can also be shared in Google Classroom using “Students can view,” “Make a copy for each student,” and “Students can edit.” That last option is great for facilitating small groups collaborating in the same Jam using Classroom’s point-and-click differentiation. For more on sharing Jams in Google Classroom, please watch this video.

When students access different frames of a Jam, it is no different than accessing Google Slides. A Slides presentation is to individual slides as a Jam is to individual frames. Anyone accessing a Jam with multiple frames will use frame thumbnails at the top to switch frames:

An animated GIF showing how different frames of a Google Jamboard Jam are accessed.
Google Slides displays slide thumbnails on the left. In Google Jamboard, click the top to access frame thumbnails.

There is one more question to sort through. Its origin is something we touched on earlier – the Jamboard web and mobile apps.

Why was Jamboard better last year?

Prior to Fall 2018, users could not edit Jams at jamboard.google.com. In Fall 2018, Google announced that Jams could now be edited on the web. Prior to that, only the mobile version of Jamboard (available on iPads and Play Store-enabled Chromebooks) could edit Jams.

The web version of Jamboard is robust. However, it does not have some of the functions of the mobile app. These functions are:

  • Autodraw
  • Handwriting recognition
  • Shape recognition
  • Insert content from Google Drive files
  • Insert web content
  • Insert emojis

If you are using Jamboard and feel like it has fewer tools, it means you are using the web version and used the mobile version in the past.

Thanks for reading. I hope this cleared up some confusion. Still, you may have questions. Please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney.

Does your school, organization, or conference need professional development to help teachers make the most of Google Jamboard? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash.

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