At the December 6 Lunch ‘n Learn, Serge Goldstein, the Director of OIT’s Academic Services, presented “Teaching with a Tablet PC.” Tablets, explained Goldstein, are simply Windows laptops (there are no Mac versions currently) that use a special “pen” rather than a mouse. The screens, which fill the length and width of the tablet, also act as a built in scanner.
The tablets run a special operating system (Windows XP Tablet PC) that recognizes the pen and is able to run all Windows XP applications including Microsoft Office. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system will have built in support for tablets. Some special applications take full advantage of having a pen as their input device.
Goldstein explained that there are two types of tablets. “Slates” have no built in keyboard and therefore are lighter. Additional docking stations provide a keyboard. “Convertibles” have an attached keyboard that can resemble a laptop but with pen capability. Swiveling the screen around transforms the convertible into a slate-like device. Convertibles are somewhat bulkier and heavier (though still lighter than most laptops) but obviously also more general purpose.
The tablet’s pen works just like a mouse. All existing applications will recognize the pen. A special button on the pen emulates the right button on a mouse. There are three classes of applications on the tablet.
“Pen-aware” applications take full advantage of the pen. Examples include Microsoft’s Windows Journal and One-Note, applications that support cursive writing, taking notes, and character recognition. One-Note implements a paper notebook-like capability that will permit you to have a separate tabbed section for different classes or projects.
“Pen-enabled” applications provide some capability or accommodation for the pen. In Powerpoint, for example, you can open a window to add annotations or a drawing area to any slide.
Most applications are “pen-ignorant” in that the mouse is treated simply as a mouse. Nonetheless, you can take advantage of the pen through the use of Journal. Simply capture an Internet Explorer screen into Journal and then annotate away.
If you have to type while your tablet is in slate mode, you can open the “tablet pc input panel” application. Here, you can type one key at a time or simply enter in your writing. Unlike early tablets like the Apple Newton, no training for the handwriting conversion is required. The tablet does a remarkable job of understanding and converting most handwriting.
There are many advantages to using tablets in the classroom. For example, faculty can use them to combine overhead projection and computing capability. The Journal application can be used to create a whiteboard for drawing on a blank screen or on simulated graph paper. The screen can then be saved and then distributed to students. Faculty could write additional comments on Powerpoint slides or on any web page.
Students could use tablets to take notes class in a manner that is far less disruptive than typing. While reading online, students could also add their own annotations.
Posted by Lorene Lavora