...better than what? OK, the full title should have been "Eleven Reasons Why a Tablet
PC + Digital Projector is Better Than a Whiteboard or Overhead Projector... and
Sometimes Smarter Than a Smartboard". I'm still frequently asked what a Tablet PC can do. Once I explain that they do everything a laptop does PLUS you can draw in
the screen, then the next obvious question becomes, "How does this help me in
class?" Below are 11 reasons to consider a tablet pc, based on the experiences of our HP grant recipients...
While many of the examples I blog about are 1-to-1 settings
where all the students and the teacher are interacting through their own tablet
pc, there are many examples of what can be done with ONE tablet in a classroom.
In fact, most of the original HP
Technology for Teaching grants (2004-2008) supported teams of teachers,
each with one tablet pc. I even heard the descriptor, "The
One Tablet Classroom" first from Dr. Ricky Cox at Murray State,
the site of another HP Technology for Teaching grant.
So why all the excitement about one tablet pc in a
Below is my list of 11 examples, gathered from the
innovations and comments from HP grant recipients. These are not ideas - these
are real examples from real classrooms where real differences in student
learning are being reported.
Why a Tablet PC +
Digital Projector is Better Than a Whiteboard or Overhead Projector
- I don't need to erase to keep going
- With a whiteboard, when it fills up, out comes the eraser. If you're a
student who is not a fast note taker, game over. Infinite digital space is
so much nicer, because you don't interrupt the train of thought.
- I can go BACKWARD and answer dangling
questions - This example came from a high school geometry teacher in Georgia
who uses the infinite pad of digital "paper" in MS Journal to present
from. She used to use an overhead projector with a somewhat infinite roll
of acetate. She explained that because her presentation annotations were
easily accessible, she had a student (for the first time ever) ask her to
go BACK 3 pages to where she was five minutes ago. Students don't stop
thinking after you erase your whiteboard!
- I can archive and share my
presentation after class - Many teachers report that they create a
"master file" of their lesson plans, and present from a copy so they can
annotate and save it for post-class distribution. This has an interesting
effect of changing student note-taking - they start to shift from
"transcribers" to "thinkers".
- I can easily incorporate rich media
into my classroom - Why limit our teaching to words scrawled on a
whiteboard? Back in the day, videos (or even farther back in the dark ages
with movies and film strips!) were run on a separate system requiring more
equipment, more hassle, and sometimes a "film monitor" (am I dating
myself?). Today, with a tablet pc and an internet connection, we can bring
video, audio, web-content, even live polling and videoconferencing with
guest speakers, into our classrooms to support presentations - and more
importantly - the discussions and questions that follow.
- I can more easily overlay annotations
on images - This is nearly impossible on a whiteboard, and only
possible-but-a-hassle on an overhead projector. Heaven forbid you should
want to ERASE an annotation to make another point. What a mess!
- I have a million colors at my
fingertips - not ON my fingertips. I don't miss the days of chalk
(three colors, if you can find them) and erasable pens (a packet of 6
colors, if you were really hip)
But there are more reasons to consider a Tablet PC. The
following examples are specific to why a
Tablet PC + Digital Projector is smarter than a SmartBoard:
- I can make the image HUGE so everyone
can see - In one classroom I visited, the projector was in the back of
the classroom and the image took up the entire cinderblock wall up front.
Needless to say, all the students could see just fine. In fact, they
seemed to be GLUED to the content.
- I can face my students - Teachers
know that learning is social, and eye contact can tell you a LOT (and help you manage your classrooms). Besides,
it's simply more friendly to have a face-to-face interaction with our
- I can present from the BACK of the
room so students focus more on the content - This turns out to be an
advantage for students, too. One student I spoke to, when asked what's
different in his "one tablet classroom", said, "I like to come up and work
the problems". I asked him why that was different than coming up to the
whiteboard, and he said, "No one is looking at me!" This turns out to be
extremely important for many students, and it was made possible because
his teacher had the tablet in the back of the classroom.
- I can take it home or on a field trip
- Who doesn't prepare lesson plans at home or at a local café? Plus,
if your projector isn't mounted to the ceiling, you can bring your
presentation system anywhere that learning is liable to be happening...
- I can create video podcasts before (or
during) class - A tablet pc and a Bluetooth microphone turn out to
make a terrific podcast platform when combined with screencast software
like Camtasia (see my Tablet
PC Tip #5). I am particularly intrigued by the increasing interest in
pre-recording presentations and assigning them as homework. This has two
benefits: You never have to give that talk again (it's saved for
posterity), and more importantly, you can use the time you save in class
for more class discussion
I know that this is not a static list - there are many more
great examples of tablet pc use. So if you've made the switch from overhead
projector, whiteboard, or even SmartBoard to a Tablet PC, please post a comment
and share your thoughts and experiences. I look forward to hearing from you...
Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Worldwide Education Programs
HP Global Social Investment
For information about the HP Global Social Investments, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants