2007: Year of the Tablet?

As the title article from the EDS’ Next Big Thing Blog suggests tablet computers in higher education may be the new direction to take in campus computing. Laptops can be “impractical and unwieldy” in some situations, such as when the open laptop screen blocks a student’s view of the professor, or when 25 pairs of typing hands can distract everyone from a presentation:

Laptops take up most of a student’s desktop. Once the laptop is open, the screen partially blocks the student’s view of the lecturer. Limited typing ability also hinders laptop use. PocketPC and Palm devices are in many ways more suited to classroom use, but are somewhat limited by their small screen size and the frustrating amount of scrolling required to access Web pages.

For faculty, a tablet can replace the black/whiteboard when connected to the projector, so that faculty would never have to turn his or her back to the class, not to mention that the writing can be captured, saved, and distributed to the class. And if you prefer to handwrite comments on papers rather than using the comment/reviewing features in Word on electronic submissions, you “can directly annotate by hand over the document, save and return the document to the student without having to print or type in comments on the document.”

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Categories: technology

2 replies

  1. I definitely believe in the value of the instructor having access to a tablet, as I mentioned in my comment last week. If I had the correct set-up, I would use one everyday.

    The only real value I see in the students having tablets in class is for note-taking. But there are many other ways in which students may be required to interact with a computer in class, and most require typing. My students, for instance, take on-line quizzes and enter commands into a statistical software package.

    I guess the best mix would be a tablet product that could lie flat on the desk for writing and could swivel back up and allow for typing. The tablet that I have makes this process very awkward. But there may be some products out there that are better.

    Of course, we have never moved to require laptops of all of the students, but I think requiring tablets would be even more expensive for them, and I think it would meet with more resistance than a laptop requirement.

    One last comment about the “flat on the desk” thing. If one is only concerned with how the students are blocked off from the instructor by the screen of a laptop or desktop, there is another solution besides something that lies flat on the desk. If you check out the following link, you will see examples of glass-top computer desks in which the computer screen is set down inside the desk. WE DEFINITELY NEED A FEW CLASSROOMS LIKE THIS!

    glass-top computer desks

    This would allow extensive use of the computer in the classroom but maintain better interaction between instructor and students. It would also limit cheating during on-line assessments.

    Can we have a few rooms like this? PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE?

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  2. That’s cool–especially for adult students with progressive lenses!! Ooops, thinking of myself again. I would like to plan for a few classrooms where we try out some new configurations, whether just for faculty or for faculty and students both. We will be gathering input in these next few months about podiums in general, but the entire classroom has to be taken into consideration for those that are equipped with computers. This will be fun until someone is asked to pay for it.

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