Tips and tricks for cutting edge educators

As a general rule, I don’t talk about devices in this blog unless there is real educational relevance. While the Digital Education Revolution is top of mind in most schools, the question about what is the most pedagogically powerful piece of technology is quite interesting.

Is it the Laptop? The answer is, not quite.  Over 20 years of research clearly show laptops can greatly improve student learning when implemented well (see www.aalf.org for all the research).  But is there anything better than a laptop? 

New research says there is.  And it’s quite a bit better.   Adding pen (stylus) input makes a huge positive difference to student learning.   Adding multi-touch improves things again.  In other words, the most pedagogically powerful technology tool is the new Tablet PCs we are seeing popping up in Australia. 

Professor Gordon Sanson, the Director of eEducation Centre at Monash University goes into a deep explanation of why(click here to watch the video).  Here’s a clip of Joe Tront from Virginia Tech presenting another view of why at the Tablet PC in Education Conference (click here).

Why is it so much better than a laptop? It’s not just because they’re a lot more fun.  One of the major reasons is because of all the additional ways you can interact with the device, that assist the brain in making connections, and which allow you can do a whole lot more.  The Expanding Learning Horizons Conference run by Computelec is probably the best 1-to-1 conference in Australia and is a showcase of powerful tablet based learning.  This is not news to the schools that attend this conference.

I’m typing this on a HP Smart Touch 2 Tablet PC, which is a dream, and probably why I’m excited enough to blog about technology devices .  Most of the major computer manufacturers make something in this range.  Plug Tablet PC into Bing to see what’s around. 

How is this different to a laptop? 

You can write on this device directly with a Pen.  You can sketch ideas, take notes by hand (which has been shown to greatly improve retention over typing notes).  You can flip the lid and turn it into a very mobile slate (with a high powered camera and full processing power).

The pen based interface has huge implications for things like note taking in OneNote, Art, or concept mapping

mathematics, physics, chemistry etc (where a keyboard or mouse won’t cut it),

.  

music

Handwriting

.. the list goes on.

But with these new tablets, you can also use the screen as a multitouch device, allowing you to interact with my hands in a very intuitive, tactile way.  This provides a powerful haptic experience similar to that shown in the Productivity Visioning clip I showed you in back in January.  It’s like having an interactive whiteboard on your screen. (just make sure it has the stylus input before you give one to every child – that’s the really important piece).

It’s always good to consider all three categories (Good, Better and Best) when buying a new device for learning.  But there is no doubt that the Windows 7 Table PC experience is far and away the best technology available for teaching and learning.

With that said, I’ll do my best to stay off the topic of physical devices.

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