Teaching, Learning & Technology
Sharing best practices from faculty around the world who are using technology to transform teaching and learning.

The Art (and Tech) of Digital Storytelling – Great Tips from the NMC

Why do so many innovations in education go unnoticed? Why is systemic education reform so rare? The simple answer: “It’s complicated”. But I think when innovators and reformers get better at telling their stories, our students will win. The New Media Consortium has some great tips…

Tablet PC's in the Field - The Vassar Experience Reaches the Barbados!


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In 2004, Vassar College received an HP
Technology for Teaching grant. The HP tablet pcs they received, along with GPS
hardware and GIS software, supported a
variety of field-based science courses
such as geology, archeology, and
environmental science. Students at Vassar even made a
terrific video
showing how their learning experience has been transformed
by using tablet pcs in the field. Now the practice is spreading to the
University of the West Indies...

I periodically get updates from "GIS/GPS
Evangelist" Meg Stewart, Academic Computing Consultant for Geospatial
Technologies at Vassar College. Meg is currently a Fulbright Scholar at the
University of the West Indies, Barbados, and she recently sent me an email
about her experiences sharing "Tablet PCs in the Field" with faculty and
students at the University of the West Indies. With her permission, I share her
email below.

Those of you who are interested in
enhancing student research and learning in the field will find her story to be
very interesting (and helpful!). For more information, check out Meg's blog, GIS @ Vassar.

Thanks for sharing, Meg!


Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Education Programs
HP Office of Global Social Innovation

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Office of Global Social Innovations, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants




Dear Jim,

I wanted to check in with you and let you know what I've been up to. I'm having
a great time at the University
of the West Indies
on my Fulbright. The work I'm doing, mostly geospatial
technology projects, is taking me to interesting places in the Caribbean--St
Vincent, Grenada, Union Island, Belize, and of course, Barbados.

I was asked recently to give a talk in the department (the Centre for Resource
Management and Environmental Studies
or CERMES) and I decided to talk about
using tablet PCs for field work. I hoped that the topic would appeal to the
mostly marine scientist researchers and faculty that make up CERMES. I think
that it did. Here are my slides on Slide Share.


I don't have a lot of words on the slides but I will fill in by telling you,
Jim, that I gave a short history of how I started using tablet PCs to begin
with. As a geoscientist, I went to the Geological Society of America meeting in
2003 to give a talk on a GIS-related project, went by the vendor booths, and
saw someone demonstrating the use of a tablet PCs. Light bulbs went off
thinking about using one of these tablets for computer mapping or GIS work. Not
three months later, back at Vassar College where I worked at the time, a
request for proposals came to my attention. It was from Hewlett-Packard looking
for great ideas from colleges and universities that wanted to incorporate
tablet PCs into courses. Members of the department of Earth Science and
Geography and I applied for one of these Technology for Teaching grants and got one in 2004. It was
great! We got to merge two of the department's passions - field work and GIS

I explained in my talk the various ways we use tablet PCs in courses and in
research. Very often research and teaching overlap. Things that I wanted to
make clear are that with a tablet PC you have a full-fledged laptop with all
the software, storage, and past data that you need. However, because it is
tablet PC and not merely a laptop, the computer is your notebook. With the
tablet's pen you can take notes, map, collect data, all on a single device.
They really liked the no transcription errors and faster data collection discussion.

I gave a few examples of how tablet PCs have been used in college-level
classes. As can be seen in the slides, I talked about using a GPS receiver
(that's the black hockey puck-looking thing attached at the USB port) that
functions seamlessly with GIS software. The software we use is ESRI's
. In the archaeology class, the professor uses Microsoft Word for
drawing grid squares of excavation test pits and note-taking. For the ecology
class they developed a plant identification manual viewed in a web browser and
they use the freeware Photogrid.
Photogrid is useful for analyzing the density of plant populations in an area.
And in geomorphology the students map the stream edge with GIS software, GPS
receivers and digitizing with the tablet's pen. Everything I showed in the talk
is software that is ready for pen-based computing.

I also showed videos during the slide presentation linked to my YouTube channel.
Where I have an image and the word "video," if you click on the image
the video will launch. I thought that showing a video would allow the audience
a chance to hear and see how one actually uses the tablet in the field or how
to actually use the specific software without having to demonstrate it live.

I ended the talk by saying that having access to a cart full of tablet PCs,
allowed faculty the flexibility to grab one on the way out into the field. Our
tablet PCs travel all over the world and they're used for the same purpose that
we originally proposed to HP...field work and data collection! On slide 16 is
Vassar Professor Brian McAdoo in Banda Aceh in 2005 mapping tsunami damage and
me in 2008 mapping monasteries in Tibet.

When I came to Barbados for the Fulbright, I carried two tablet PCs with me in
case I had a field work opportunity. Three weeks ago I did...in Belize! I went
with two professors and their students on a water resources and
climate change field course to Belize
, we collected water quality samples
and field observations and put those into the tablet PC that I had with me on a
boat motoring up the beautiful and undeveloped Monkey River. This research is
what I'm referring to in slides 17 to 22.

Finally, I talked about how much of what I learned as an instructional
technologist about the utility of tablet PCs in the field, for classes or
research or both, I learned from student feedback. Student's opinions and
observations of technology use must be factored into the development or
modification of any course design, maybe especially when technology is

This is a long story, I know, but probably the best thing that came out of my
talk is that now CERMES is seriously thinking about buying a couple of tablet
PCs specifically for use in the field. The trick for them will be to keep the
tablets dry! I think they can manage.

Take care,



DyKnow Video Contest - Watch and Rate by March 28!

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As you know, I'm a big fan of DyKnow classroom interaction software. For those of you who haven't seen what an interactive classroom with Tablet PCs can look like, you'll enjoy watching and rating the videos submitted to the DyKnow Video Contest...

The videos are quite interesting - and I'm proud to say that some of them are submitted by some of our recent HP grant recipients! Bravo to:

Linn-Benton Community College



Albion College


Seneca College


Three cheers, also, to Intel for sponsoring the contest!

To watch more of the videos, go to http://www.dyknow.com/videocontest/. If you want to help your favorites win, you have until March 28 to view and rate them.



Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Education Programs
HP Office of Global Social Innovation

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Office of Global Social Innovations, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants





Congratulations, Seneca College! Winner of WIPTE video contest

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I can think of no better way to launch my 2010 blog posts with a terrific showcase of how technology can impact student learning. This short video from Seneca College (Ontario, Canada) is absolutely marvelous - and they have an award to prove it...!

The Workshop on the Impact of Pen-based Technology on Education (WIPTE) just recently announced the results of their video contest. Seneca College submitted a short (less than 4 minutes) video describing how they used their 2008 HP Technology for Teaching grant to change math instruction. The voice over is from an unrehearsed student focus group, talking about their experience learning with tablet pcs and DyKnow software. I love the authenticity:


More information about their project is available at http://open.senecac.on.ca/HPtabletproject/

More (wonderful!) videos from the WIPTE video contest are available at http://www.wipte.org

Congratulations videographer Ewan Gibson for creating a video that so naturally captures the student perspective. Congratulations also to Carol Carruthers and her colleagues for taking the bold step to explore what's possible at the intersection of teaching, learning, and technology...


Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Education Programs
HP Office of Global Social Innovation

Twitter @jgvanides

For information about the HP Office of Global Social Innovations, visit www.hp.com/hpinfo/grants



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About the Author(s)
  • Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is the effective use of technology to create powerful learning experiences that help students around the world succeed. He has been instrumental in launching over 1200 primary, secondary, and higher education projects in 41 countries, including the HP Catalyst Initiative - a 15-country network of 60+ education organizations exploring innovations in STEM(+) learning and teaching. In addition to his work at HP, Jim teaches an online course for Montana State University on the Science of Sound, a masters-level, conceptual physics course for teachers in grades 5 through 8. Jim’s past work at HP has included engineering design, engineering management, and program management in R&D, Manufacturing, and Business Development. He holds a BS in Engineering and a MA in Education, both from Stanford University.
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