April 2005 Archives

Use of Tablet PC's

Comments from Eastern Washington U, Vanderbuilt U, and U California on their uses of the new tablet PC's -

Our Teaching & Learning Center purchased Tablet PCs for several faculty
as a part of course-redesign projects, and several have found them to be
particularly useful. In several cases, instructors in English
Composition have seen benefits in responding to student writing, both
inside and outside of the classroom. One instructor reported a
substantial savings of time in how long he spends commenting on student
papers as a result of using the pen-based input combined with audio
comments in MS Word via a Tablet PC.

Another uses Macromedia's Captivate or Techsmith's Camtasia, motion
screen-capture applications, to record procedures for solving equations
and adds voice narration. These can be output in several formats and
posted to our Course Management System for student to access outside of

Both of these instructors make use of features unique to the Tablet PC
to display or capture handwritten input with the capabilities of digital
ink. You lose nothing compared to using a laptop, but the ink does add
features which may save time or facilitate other types of learning. I
would say that disciplines which involve a significant amount of
writing, like English, and those which involve writing out formulas,
equations or other special types of notation--would find Tablet PCs
useful. Neither case I described involves a device which is secured to a
podium. They are assigned to individual faculty as their primary
computer, which, in my opinion, enables these faculty to better
incorporate the Tablet into their teaching and professional work.
There's a modest learning curve and a more substantial practice shift
involved in migrating from a desktop or laptop to a Tablet PC if it is
to be more than a novelty. I would predict that a secured device would
be underutilized by faculty who are unacquainted with it and who could
not practice using it at their leisure before using it in front of a class.

I understand that there is also a company which has produced several
mathematics/equation-focused applications for the Tablet PC which will
solve equations written out in digital ink (xthink.com).


Patrick Lordan
Instructional Designer
Teaching & Learning Center
106 Patterson Hall
Eastern Washington University
Cheney, WA 99004

Patrick's comments match the one in-depth tablet PC pedagogical
experiment that's been done at Vanderbilt. I've pasted below a summary
of that project - if you would like the full report, please email me off
the list.


Peter Felten
Center for Teaching
Vanderbilt University


Project: Greg Walker (Engineering): Lecturing with Tablet PCs in

This project explored the impact of a tablet PC on both the instructor's
teaching behaviors and on student learning patterns in a large
Mechanical Engineering course. Using the white board effectively as a
presentation platform for problem-solving in a large lecture hall is
often unsatisfactory because the format is too small to be viewed
effectively by the entire class; moreover, the use of overhead
transparencies or PowerPoint slides are modes that are too static to
illustrate the dynamic nature of the problem-solving process.

Evidence for Impact on Student Skills
Through observations, student surveys and self-analysis, this project's
investigator found that the tablet PCs offer several advantages, such as
a natural inclusion of complex digital media alongside active concept
development--making thinking "visible" by maintaining a real-time
mixture of complex engineering concepts and expert annotations. In
addition, the instructor is mobile, can face the class, and does not
obstruct the view of the material, thus creating a more fluid and
coherent lecture. Survey results suggest that students are more likely
to pay attention during the lecture and recognize the more salient
points of the presentation in this modality than in others.

Publication and Dissemination Efforts
The leader has already co-authored papers based on this project which
have been accepted for presentation at a national conference, and for
publication in a national Engineering education journal:
"Case study of the Pedagogical Impact of Tablet PCs as a Presentation
Medium in Large-Scale Engineering Classrooms" - Proceedings of the 2005
American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference &

University of California Teaching, Learning and technology Center (TLtC) published 2
articles in its webzine about tablet pc's in the classroom:



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