Tablet PCs: A Powerful Teaching Tool Renee M. Cicchino Teaching, Learning and Technology Center Seton Hall University, United States firstname.lastname@example.org Danielle S. Mirliss Teaching, Learning and Technology Center Seton Hall University, United States email@example.com Abstract: Tablet PCs are quickly emerging as a powerful eLearning tool in higher education. The unique functionality of the Tablet PC allows users to create lecture materials using “digital ink” that can then be distributed to students for later review. Digital ink also allows PowerPoint presentations to become dynamic by allowing faculty members to construct and deconstruct information. Various pilots, including the one conducted by Seton Hall University, are investigating the true potential of this new technology for teaching and learning. Introduction to the Tablet PC The Tablet PC is the next innovative device to hit the educational technology sector. Its design and handwriting functionality (handwriting conversion and digital ink capabilities) challenges the way faculty and students integrate computers into their teaching and learning. For example, when laptops are used in the classroom their screens often create barriers between the students and faculty member as well as take up most of a student’s desk. Even though Pocket PC or Palm devices may be suitable for classroom use, their typing limitations and small screen size gives the Tablet PC an obvious advantage. (Asay, 2002) Two main tablet designs have emerged. The “slate” model takes advantage of the portability that the tablet PC offers by eliminating a conventional keyboard and internal CD/DVD drives. The second model is often referred to as a “clamshell” or convertible design. This model mimics a standard laptop but allows the user to swivel the monitor and collapse it into a design similar to the “slate” model. Windows XP for the Tablet PC makes the functionality of these machines unique, especially for eLearning. Unlike a standard laptop, a stylus can be used to create “digital ink” in a number of Microsoft applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Windows Journal, and OneNote. Using the digital ink feature also allows users to take notes in a way that is similar to a paper-based notebook. Tablet PCs in Higher Education The Tablet PC allows faculty members to create digital materials for their classes with great ease. Through the use of the digital ink feature and a variety of software packages, faculty can address multiple learning styles. For example Microsoft Producer, a free software package available through the Microsoft web site, allows faculty members to prepare a presentation in PowerPoint, including digital ink enhancements, that is synched with audio and distributed via the web as an .RM file. Another solution to distributing class materials is to create a presentation in Windows Journal or OneNote, which allows the instructor to insert pictures, audio clips and video clips but that also allows the student to search the text and flag important topics for future reference. The one drawback of using OneNote is that it requires the end user to also have a copy of the program, unlike Windows Journal that allows for export as a .mhtml. One of the strongest benefits to using the Tablet PC in face-face instruction is the ability to use the device as an “interactive whiteboard”. Windows Journal is an excellent program for this task and requires a short learning curve, which is one reason that faculty members are quickly adopting this program. Coupled with the ability to use digital ink for writing, drawing, and annotating, this proves to be a simple but powerful presentation tool. In fact, a faculty member could allow students to take control of the tablet to create a collaborative learning experience. Ted Clark, Vice President of the new notebook business for HP states that "The application will not only help students retain a greater amount of information from the classroom experience, but help maintain the distribution chain of learning materials between teachers and students in a simple, effective, way”. (Asay, 2002) In addition to Windows Journal, the Tablet PC transforms PowerPoint presentations by making them more dynamic. Faculty members can create a very simple presentation for class, incorporating a few key images and questions. During class, this very simple presentation is built upon by applying digital ink to the slides. This real-time creation of slide content allows the faculty member to construct and deconstruct information right in front of the students. It also allows them to brainstorm, collaborate, and storyboard with students, eliciting their input and sharing this information on the slides. All of this can be saved and distributed to the students after class. Since the presentation is dynamic and builds upon class discussion, it reinforces the class session but does not replace it, calming fears that if such information is made electronically available then students will no longer attend the class. The digital ink feature now available in Word 2003 enables faculty members to grade papers and projects, adding a personal touch to distance learning assignments. “Tablet makers envision that in using a Tablet PC, a professor would accept assignments digitally, and then use the Tablet in ‘slate’ mode to sit comfortably and grade and comment on the papers in ink”. (Asay, 2002) In a distance education course, where text is the main form of communication, students can now receive personalized notes and feedback from professors but are not required to own Word 2003 to view the digital ink. Universities Currently Using Tablet PCs Tablet PCs have slowly found their way into the higher education setting through a variety of pilot projects. Universities currently using Tablet PCs include the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Bentley College, University of Texas at Austin and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seton Hall University is also piloting Tablet PCs to its faculty members and the results of its initial pilot will be discussed in the next section of this paper. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is reported to be the first University in Canada to fully embrace the Tablet PC, which are currently used in every course at UOIT’s School of Science. Faculty members at UOIT find Tablet PCs especially useful for presenting math and technical notations during in-class presentations. The use of the Tablet to create lectures also helps students to better understand their professors’ handwriting. Dr. Staley states that “My writing is more legible on the tablet than the blackboard because it feels more natural”. (Schofield, 2003) Students can concentrate on the lecture instead of trying to write down everything that the professor says because the class notes are saved and made available to the class. “’To my mind, this is the next generation of computing,’ says Dr. Bill Muirhead, UOIT's Associate Provost, Learning Technologies”. (Schofield, 2003) In the Summer of 2002, the University of Texas at Austin was selected by Microsoft to participate in the “Rapid Adoption Program” for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. This program enabled the School of Architecture to assess the use of Tablet PCs by both faculty and students. This particular academic unit was chosen because the faculty felt that the pen and slate style of the Tablet PC would promote creativity because they are similar to the “natural tools” used in this field of study. “Key activities in the design process require a more informal, collaborative, and natural approach than what one can do with a mouse and keyboard. As one designer put it, using a mouse to design is like ‘drawing with a bar of soap’”. ( ITRC, 2002) Results of the pilot suggest that the Tablets facilitated a “higher level of creative interaction and mobility”. ( ITRC, 2002) The pen and slate design allowed the Tablet to be used almost anywhere and made it possible for users to capture nascent design ideas as they spontaneously emerge. The pilot participants believe that the Tablet PC technology will further enhance their creativity if it integrates more design and concept specific software. A second recipient of the 2002 “Rapid Adoption Program”, Bentley College’s initial Tablet PC pilot results indicate positive uses of the Tablet PC in both academic and corporate environments. The next phase of the pilot study which extended from September 2003 through July 2004 continued to explore the utility of the Tablet by allowing participants to use them for a longer period of time, approximately three to six months. Additional research projects are being conducted by the staff of Bentley’s Center for Marketing Technology (CMT) and Academic Technology Center. These projects include the use of the Tablet PC to collect data in the Chemistry lab by undergraduate marketing students to compare the nutritional value of donuts and coffee samples from Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme as part of a market analysis. In addition, undergraduate students used the Tablet PCs to survey prospective students at Bentley’s Fall Open House and reported their findings. Finally, graduate marketing students in one course have stopped using their standard laptops and only used Tablet PCs. MIT used Tablet PCs during the International Design Competition (IDC) which provides engineering students from seven top universities to engage “in an intense two-week competition focused on robot design, construction, and competition”. (Miscorsoft, 2003) During this event, the ability of the Tablet PC to enhance project based learning was assessed. In the past, teams used traditional pen and paper techniques or whiteboards to collaborate which would require the participants to then transfer these designs to a digital source using expensive computer programs. This required that all team members needed to be present during the collaboration process and time that could have been used for redesign was instead dedicated to electronically transferring the sketches. For the pilot, conducted in 2002, each student team was supplied with a Tablet PC with the Microsoft® Windows® XP Tablet PC Edition operating system. The Tablets allowed students to move around in various environments to create advanced robot designs. “The Tablet PC acts like a pen and paper, so students can quickly sketch out their ideas. Even sketching complex shapes or writing math equations is easy—something that is an otherwise time-consuming process using a laptop and presentation software or a CAD [computer-aided design] system.’”, explains John Williams, Director of Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory, MIT (Microsoft Corporation, 2003) During the competition the student teams became even more efficient at using the Tablet PC. Students could easily change their designs anywhere, anytime during all phases of the contest project. Students shared their designs by projecting the design onto a wall for all to view. A revision tracking program allowed each student to make changes to the design and receive feedback while keeping version control. Design versions were emailed using the wireless capability of the Tablet allowing students to continue to collaborate without the need to all be in one place at the same time. Seton Hall University Offers Ubiquitous Computing In 1995-97, Seton Hall University began piloting a ubiquitous computing program to first year students in business and biology. In 1998-99 the successful pilot was rolled out to the entire university. Currently, all undergraduate students, full-time faculty, and administrators at Seton Hall are given an IBM ThinkPad with a standard software image consisting of the Microsoft Office suite in addition to several independent packages offered through Novell. Seton Hall has adopted Blackboard as its course management system. All classrooms, offices, and common areas including the campus green are wireless to facilitate learning anytime, anywhere. Every two years computers are refreshed; students, faculty, and administrators are given new laptops. Computer support is provided through the Help Desk and PC Support services department. Technicians are certified through IBM and are A++ certified to fix the laptops in house. In addition to technical support, there are seven Instructional Designers to assist faculty in the seven colleges in integrating technology into the curricula as well as a Computer Training Center which provides ‘point and click’ sessions on the supported software packages to the university community. Tablet PC Pilot Program The Tablet PC project is a result of recommendations made by the Emerging Technologies action team of the Seton Hall University’s Teaching, Learning and Technology Roundtable (TLTR). Seton Hall formed the roundtable after participating in the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Summer Institute in 1995. The Emerging Technologies action team, headed by Dr. Bert Wachsmuth (Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department), is charged with staying informed of national trends in technology integration in higher education. The committee then communicates its findings to the University community and submits a year-end report with general recommendations, along with a summary of action team recommendations. In early 2003, the Emerging Technologies action team recommended that the University should begin to test Tablet PC technology in SHU’s ubiquitous computing environment. After securing 15 tablet PCs (Toshiba and Acer), chosen for their similarity to the standard issued laptop, interested faculty and administrators were asked to submit proposals providing a detailed explanation of the potential benefits and use of the Tablet PC. More than 58 proposals were submitted for review by the Emerging Technologies action team. The tablets were awarded and distributed to the recipients in August 2003, prior to an extensive training session. In their proposals, many participants expressed that they felt constrained by the limited character input capabilities of the traditional laptop. For example, a Biblical studies faculty member stated that it is impossible to display Greek and Hebrew text in the classroom without using a blackboard. He recognized that the tablet will enable him to record, display and share graphical information dynamically during a class presentation then revise and correct the lecture text to electronically distribute to the class. Faculty in sciences such as Physics and Biology, as well as faculty in Mathematics and Computer Science, shared similar visions of how the tablet can enhance their teaching and student learning. The ability to write formulas and symbols has had a significant impact on those teaching mathematics, science and non-Roman languages. While there are software packages to create characters not supported by standard keyboards such as Microsoft’s Math Type, the ease of handwriting and spontaneous diagrams make the Tablet a necessity. Participants created lecture notes, including those with graphs and equations, using Windows Journal and posted them in the Blackboard course management system for student access. Most participants are pleased with the handwriting recognition feature and commented on its accuracy. Other pilot participants anticipated a shift toward a paperless work environment. For example, Dr. Pamela Foley, Professor of Professional Psychology, expressed an interest in using the ink feature to write comments on student papers in MS Word 2003 giving the students hand written feedback. The impact of the Tablet PC on teaching and learning as identified in the faculty post pilot survey to faculty was found to be a very positive addition to the educational environment. A post pilot survey was also administered to students who attended a course in which the faculty member used the Tabletwhich asked them the following question “Overall which of the following best describes your feeling regarding the use of tablet computing by your professor in this course in terms of teaching and learning effectiveness?” (Weitz, et al., 2004) Valid n Percent Percent very positive 47 47.5% 48.0% positive 33 33.3% 33.7% neutral/no added value 10 10.1% 10.2% negative 3 3.0% 3.1% very negative 0 0.0% 0.0% don’t know/no opinion 5 5.1% 5.1% Missing 1 1.0% Pedagogical Uses Pedagogical uses of the Tablet PC have been identified as the following, noting the strong emphasis on the ability to create lecture notes and dynamic presentations which expands class discussion: • Handwriting comments using digital ink add personal touches to documents • Slide annotation is fluid and dynamic • Excellent when used in small groups for informal discussions and brainstorming, fostering a more free-flowing environment • Ability to create interactive presentations that include student comments and observations which can be saved and distributed to the class • No longer need a laser pointer to draw attention to a slide • Personalize the learning experience; Windows Journal or the Ink comment feature in Word can be used to give handwritten feedback to students on assignments • Students felt more engaged when their comments and ideas were written Continuation of Pilot Participants of the Tablet PC Pilot were surveyed on frequency of use and impact on teaching and learning in a variety of areas including expected and actual use of the tablet in and out of class. Out of a possible 5 points the average rated impact on teaching and learning using the Tablet PC in class was a 4.43 while the notebook received a 4.35 rating. Use of the Tablet PC out of the classroom was given a 4.47 rating while the notebook was given a 4.35. The tablet showed an increased use and value over the University issued notebook computer. With that, it was suggested that the pilot program be extended to a larger pool of faculty. In the summer of 2004, faculty who where due for laptop refresh were given the option of either keeping their current IBM r31, refreshing to an IBM r51 or choose the Toshiba Portege M200. 66 out of approximately 250 faculty chose to refresh to the Toshiba Tablet PCs. Tablet recipients were placed in a Blackboard organization for collegial discussion and support. They will be polled on their usage and impact on teaching and learning throughout the academic year and it will be determined at that time if that pilot will be extended University wide. Conclusion In a general survey of participants conducted in October 2003, participants reported that their average use of the tablets ranged from “frequently” to “almost always”, both in and out of the classroom. Those participants associated with the fields of mathematics, science, and nursing found them to be an “invaluable tool”. With the introduction of MS Office 2003, with its enhanced digital inking capabilities, and the increased range of faculty disciplines we hope to uncover additional teaching and learning benefits that the Tablet PC has to offer. Based on the impact of our expended pilot, we will extend Tablet PC usage beyond the faculty to include a student as well. References Asay, P, (2002). Tablet PCs: The Killer App for Higher Education. Syllabus Magazine, April 2002. Retrieved August 1, 2004, from http://www.syllabus.com/mag.asp?month=4&year=2002 Cicchino, R.M. and Mirliss, D.S. (2003). Tablet PC Project at Seton Hall University. Presented at the Syllabus Conference, Fall 2003, Boston, MA . ITRC, (2002). Microsoft Tablet PC Rapid Adoption Project at UT Austin, Electronic file, Retrieved July 31, 2003, Last Updated November 19, 2002, http://www.utexas.edu/computer/tabletpc-rap2002/ Mendelsohn, J. (2003). Will Tablet PCs Replace Laptops on College Campuses? Electronic file, Retrieved August 4, 2004, Last Updated February 10, 2003. http://www.bentley.edu/news- events/pr_view.cfm?id=910 Microsoft Corporation (2003,) Massachusetts Institute of Technology Changes the Face of Education Using Tablet PCs, Electronic file, Retrieved July 29, 2003, Last Updated November 7, 2002, http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/CaseStudy.asp?CaseStudyID=13513 Seton Hall University, 2003, SHUTAP SHU Tablet PC Project, Electronic file, Retrieved August 19, 2003, Last Updated July 15, 2003, http://www.cs.shu.edu/tabletpc/ Schofield, J. (2003). UOIT Leads the Way with Tablet Computers. Electronic file, Retrieved August 3, 2004, Last Updated December 15, 2003, http://www.uoit.ca/schoolofscience/News&Events/Tablet.htm Weitz, R.R., Wachsmuth, B, and Mirliss, D.S. (2004). Tablet PC Goes to College: A Pilot Project. Unpublished manuscript.
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