10/15/2007 By: Miguel Guhlin
from Technology & Learning
A look at how to make the 'write' choice between a slate and a convertible computer.
Tablet computers are increasingly becoming the tool of choice for busy administrators and other educators who're constantly on the move. Lightweight, fully functional computing devices with operating systems that are designed for handwriting recognition, tablets can be easily carried in one hand, and written on like a clipboard with an accompanying stylus.
Tablet fans cite the ability to "write in the margins" of digital "textbook" content and the draw/sketch capability as major advantages over laptops. Disadvantages of tablets include the still-higher price tag, screen wear and tear, and the smaller display size, which can make text more difficult to read. However, despite the few drawbacks, the devices' numerous benefits and flexible uses make it worth considering seriously.
Here are five considerations:
1. Do you prefer a pen-like stylus to a keyboard?
The power of a tablet PC enables one to take notes as they happen and share them via the network with others. Diagrams can also be exported as images or shared with others for modification. Certain tablets allow you to use your fingers.
2. Do you spend time in meetings or situations where the click-n-clack of a keyboard would be disruptive?
Note taking using a tablet is less obtrusive than using a laptop computer, and it is easier to handle. An administrator can treat the tablet PC like a conventional paper notebook, knowing that the job of mining those notes for comments will be made all the easier. While you can slide a laptop over to one or two other people during meetings, you can share a tablet with others as if it were a sheet of papers.
3. Do you need light equipment?
If you are constantly on the run, you'll want a tablet that has as few moving parts as possible. And, of course, lighten your load. A slate tablet, in particular, can be as light as a paper notebook with all the convenience of a mobile computing device.
4. How big a screen do you need?
A tablet PC provides you with an inexhaustible supply of electronic paper that you can write on as large as you need to, confident that the handwriting recognition technology will convert it to regular text. And, if that's not enough, you can also connect a digital projector to your tablet to share your writing with a larger audience without fussing with font sizes or changing your computer screen resolution. The 12-or 14-inch screen is small enough to carry around, but enjoys a higher resolution.
5. Does your school or district already have a vendor relationship with clear support?
Often schools have existing relationships with vendors that have a tablet PC product. You may want to consider this since ordering mass quantities of tablets may lower their cost to an acceptable level.
A peek at products designed to take advantage of the tablet PC format.
Although you can run the same software on a tablet PC as a regular PC, the tablet comes with additional software that may enhance the education experience of students, teachers, and administrators. Applications include the following:
Ink Flash Cards. An application designed to assist memorization by using a flash card approach, enabling users to handwrite their own flash cards and display them back in a slide show.
Equation Writer. A recognition tool specializing in converting handwritten mathematical equations to a computer-generated image for pasting into other documents.
GoBinder Lite. An organization and note-taking application developed by Agilix Labs.
Hexic Deluxe. A tablet PC game.
Types of tablets
If you're in the market for the best tablet to suit your needs, you'll want to consider the following categories:
Slates. These tablets come without a keyboard, but you can attach one via wireless or USB.
Thin Slates. This modification of the slate does not come with a hard drive. It's mostly a network device that sends information via a wireless connection. The thin slate enjoys a long battery life because little energy is devoted to powering a processor. Thin slates have also been suggested as more useful than a traditional desktop or laptop computer for online test taking.
Convertibles. This form of tablet has a keyboard and resembles a laptop computer with a swivel point for the screen. To take advantage of the convertible tablet's note-taking aspect, you swivel the screen and literally fold it on top of the keyboard.
Click on graphic for larger view.
Miguel Guhlin is a blogger for techLEARNING.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.