Monthly ArchiveApril 2007
Due to an equipment malfunction just prior to my Tablet PC presentation at NoVA Code Camp, I can now show the world what’s inside the average EM digitizer stylus.
Misc Ed Tech Isaac on 20 Apr 2007
Your grandchildren may use a stylus on a tablet PC instead of a Bic on tablet paper, but they will continue to write.
That’s because even in an era when elementary school students are adept at mousing and teenagers are fiends at text-messaging, some experts say that writing with a pen is still the backbone for teaching people how to read and learn facts.
The difference will be in how the characters are made.
It’s interesting to look at how handwriting has evolved. Having learned mostly D’Nealian print, then not really ever learning cursive script, my handwriting is a strange mix of printed letters and things that just run together (are they called ligatures even when handwritten?). For my purposes in writing, it’s not really an issue since I can write fast enough most of the time and my students eventually can figure out how to read my handwriting (and they also learn how to figure out missing or hard to read words from context), but it has also meant that I am horrendously slow at reading cursive script.
The article goes on to say:
Even some college professors prefer the pen to the keyboard.
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, banned laptops from his classroom in part, he said, because writing in longhand forces students to pay more attention.
“The (laptop) note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes,” Cole wrote in an essay published by the Washington Post.
So, how would this professor feel about Tablet PCs? While I suspect that the professor is not entirely wrong about students being more concerned with writing stuff down than processing it (and frankly I see this with kids taking notes with pencil and paper in my classes all the time), the response seems very misguided to me.
One-to-One Institute and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) offer One-to-One Information Resources. The original site (“The Ubiquitous Computing Evaluation Consortium”) was developed by SRI International under a project funded by the National Science Foundation.
I figure it’s just a matter of time before one of my kids gives me this excuse…
The last thing we want to do is put a program in place that causes someone to lose significant amounts of work. The second to last thing is to give kids yet another excuse when they don’t turn in work.
So why not just put [automated network backup] on the students’ Tablets and give them the same level of protection that [faculty] always have? Well, one factor is cost, though this could be built into the program or managed in any of several different ways. A bigger issue, I think, is what we are teaching the students. Or, more precisely, what we are not teaching them.
I have not, however, heard anything of a data backup plan from the IT people at my school.
A reader sent me a note about this product, SmudgeGuard, originally designed for lefties, then extended to artists and now Tablet PC users. It looks like it covers the pinky and goes around the wrist, covering the outter edge of one’s hand. The idea is to prevent your hand from smudging your work when you’re writing or drawing with pencil, though the web site also talks about using it to keep from smudging your screen as you write.
I’m not that compulsively neat with my tablet so I’m not sure I’d get it just for that, but being an old overhead projector teacher, my first thought was all my coworkers who perpetually had the blue-green stain on the outter edge of their hand from not-quite-clean transparencies (while I thoroughly bleached my transparencies and never had that problem). I wonder if it would work for wet-erase pens like overhead pens.
Of course, if someone wants to send me one to do a formal review…
Microsoft has place some excellent templates that you can download into OneNote. I have created my own templates that very closely resemble my planning pages in my paper day planner (which I tossed long ago). If you are using a Tablet PC then I suggest making your notes in ink. Leave them in ink as it is searchable in OneNote and it just seems more intuitive than typing. If you have a notebook PC or a desktop, simply type in the template.The wonderous thing about this is that you can archive your entire year in June and start a new file at the beginning of the next year. Simply make sure you have a section called “Planning” and tabs for each month of the year. Add pages for each of the days in the month. I actually have templates for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I can curl up in my chair and write using the wonderful ink system. I even add voice notes using the built in voice recorder to add more detail. Finally, if I’m ill (I haven’t missed a day in 11 years) I can simply select a page and e-mail it to our school admin assistant to print out.
While my teaching isn’t organized around this kind of planning, I am sure the Tablet PC would be good for all sorts of written lesson plans. I have, however, used my tablet to write out directions for colleagues who were subbing for me—the ability to seamlessly combine bits of handwriting, clips of worksheets, Virtual TI screenshots, etc. is very handy.
Techdirt has had a trio of postings about MySpace relating to education and children in the past few weeks. I have a strong feeling that none of this is really new, but the new medium of MySpace makes things like this into bigger news than they should be. And do please note, as cited in the second article, that studies have shown that MySpace is relatively safe (article from EFF). All this fun stuff aside, I still have no intention of telling my students if I have a MySpace account (or an account on LiveJournal or Facebook or anything of that sort), much less any details of any such account I may or may not have.
Just in case there was any confusion about the matter, a court in Indiana has ruled that the First Amendment applies inside of MySpace just as it does everywhere else. Apparently there was actually some debate about this seemingly obvious question after a court gave a middle school student probation for posting an “expletive-laden” critique of her school’s policies on MySpace. In reversing that sentence, the appellate court noted its abhorrence of the student’s language, but agreed nonetheless that it was protected. It’s really hard to fathom the initial court’s reasoning. There’s nothing in the law to suggest that students have any less of a right to free speech than anyone else, and there’s no reason to think that postings on MySpace would make things any different. However, even though the law is settled on this issue, it’s likely that schools and will continue to go after students, only to be slapped down by higher courts
It’s no secret that MySpace has become a favorite target of politicians looking to demonize the latest threat to children. Since there have been a few instances of MySpace-borne sexual assault, it’s not hard to see why politicians latched on to the site. But, apart from a few cherry-picked examples, it’s not clear that MySpace actually poses any meaningful danger to children. The EFF points to a pair of recent studies that dispute the notion that MySpace represents dangerous territory for children. According to one of them, unwanted online solicitations are actually down since 1999, which would contradict the idea that the rise of sites like MySpace, has been a boon for those that would prey on children. The other study, which looked directly at MySpace found that the vast majority of users have never been the subject of unwelcome advances, and that those who have received them are quite capable of simply ignoring them. Of course, political witch hunts are rarely the result of anything rational, so it’s unlikely that these pesky facts will do much to deter politicians.
A high school principal in Pennsylvania has sued four students after they created parody MySpace profiles for him that listed interests such as smoking pot and watching pornography. … To his credit (or maybe his lawyer’s) he’s suing the students and not the site itself, which is the proper legal course.
Mark your calendars, budget, and plan now for the 28th annual National Educational Computing Conference. Join more than 18,000 teachers, technology coordinators, library media specialists, teacher educators, administrators, policy makers, industry representatives, and students from all over the world who’ll gather June 24–27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in the heart of Downtown Atlanta.
Ngan Phan, a computer science student at Cal Poly (www.calpoly.edu), is currently doing her Master’s thesis exploring the relationship between tablet-based presentation systems and the needs of students with different learning styles. Do you know any tablet-using college students who could participate in a short survey?
The anonymous survey takes about 15 minutes. Students need to have had SOME experience using a Tablet PC, but don’t need to own one or use one exclusively. The students should be college undergraduates.
Here’s the survey (unfortunately, my students are pre-college, so they don’t qualify). Jim has also said that he will post about the results when they become available.
I always enjoy reading posts that seem to indicate a level of cynicism on par with my own. I especially liked Always connected or always available? from The Vermont Slate because it hit on two things that have been on my mind on and off hte past few years: the notion that we’re heading toward thin-client as the model and the notion that internet connectivity is everywhere:
… my cantankerous musings today stem from thinking about the issues of thin-client computer, desktop virtualization, software as a service, the “death of the desktop” and a number of other buzzwords that are zipping around the tech media today like flies on road kill in mid-July.
I think the main thing that bothers me about these technologies, what makes me leery of them even when I can see real benefits to them, is that they all presume a constantly connected system. … And no connectivity means no data when that data is anywhere but on your computer. It will also mean no applications when those are provided by Google and hosted on Google’s servers.
Now maybe that is just because I live and work in the rural northeast, but I doubt it. I think the reality even in major cities is that connectivity really isn’t ubiquitous, it is just ubiquitous in most of the places where people actually sit down to compute. And I don’t think that (always sitting down to compute) is the future. The future rightly belongs to those who will compute wherever and in whatever position they want.
For all the talk of WWAN and 3G mobile, the notion of always-available broadband (if some of the slower technologies can rightly be called that) still seems to be limited to business road warriors who have an absolute need for that kind of connectivity by the high cost of service. I have not seen wireless broadband for anything even close to what I pay for DSL (or, for that matter, even close to double what I pay for DSL). If the prices were to come down to where DSL prices have ended up, I could easily see dropping a few hundred dollars on a WWAN card and having internet everywhere, but until the service costs come down, it just isn’t going to happen.