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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

The Latest: Is a Tablet PC for You
Carl Sannito

As a teacher, we sometimes become emotionally tied to our jobs. I’m no exception. I have worked for the last eight and a half years at one particular school. I’ve experienced quite a bit there in that time. However, a few weeks back I transferred to a new school. It was a hard decision to make, but the chance to work at a brand new school--and when I say brand new, I mean NEW, construction was completed in the fall--was not something that I wanted to pass up.

So I packed up all my memories and moved. But one problem was that I had to leave my laptop computer with my old school. I relied on the portability of the laptop. I liked working on projects, lessons and ideas from many locations. I decided this was an opportunity to do a little research and buy a new one.

As I began to look around at laptops, I discovered the Windows XP based Tablet PC. There are two types of tablets: one is a slate and one is a convertible. Both types include the ability to write on the screen as a means of inputting information. The slate type, however, doesn’t typically include a keyboard or CD/DVD drives. The slate version can connect to a keyboard for data entry and it weighs significantly less that the convertible model.

Think of the tablet pc as kind of a really big PDA. (If you want to see some examples, try this site: ). I wound up buying a tablet PC and after a few weeks of use I can highly recommend it for teachers, with a few stipulations. You are going to pay a premium price for the tablet PC itself, and on a teacher's salary it's not cheap. Also, most of the software that you will want to use on the tablet PC will have to be purchased separately. Knowing those things up front is important.

What makes the tablet PC so helpful to educators isn’t the hardware, but the software. One critical piece of software for the tablet is MS OneNote. OneNote is a type of notebook that you can “write” in, using a digital pen. The ability to write on your screen and capture notes is exciting to me. Then, to be able to move those notes around the screen as easy as you move an icon on your desktop is even better. I love the fact that you can convert your handwritten notes to text. You can search both handwritten and typed notes. You can organize your notes however it suits you best.

I use it to organize to do lists and keep track of student work. I take it to meetings to keep everything in one place. Besides that, I still have the portability of a laptop computer wherever I take the tablet.

OneNote can also be used without the tablet, you simply type your freeform notes into it. As a busy professional, it has helped me tremendously in my new job. But I can see classroom teachers as well as administrators gaining much from this.Are you interested in a free demo? Click here.

The tablet can also be used in tandem with PowerPoint XP (or 2003) so you can write inside your presentations. Essentially, by connecting the tablet to a projector, you can establish a type of portable “smart-board” so that what you write on the presentation screen (perhaps to add emphasis to a slide show) will be exactly what your students see.

There are fun applications too. Alias software has created SketchBook Pro, software that allows you to draw on your tablet with markers, paint brushes, pens and pencils. You can choose any color in the rainbow and save your work for later. Then you can print it out or e-mail it. Take a look at Sketchbook Pro.

Although I wish I had one of these when I was in college, I’m so glad that I have one as an educator. This is one piece of hardware worth checking out.

The tablet PC is manufactured by a variety of computer companies such as Gateway, Toshiba, HP, etc. (a complete list of manufacturers). They come in a variety of sizes and prices. Yes, you do pay a premium with this machine and the added features may not be worth it for everyone. But the tablet machines are coming down in price and they are really worth checking out for yourself.

For more information, check out these useful websites:

Discussions in Tablet PC General Discussion
The Tablet PC

Do you have a comment or suggestion? You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito@yahoo.com.


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