I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the new Teaching with Technology Faculty Learning Community (FLC). The nine members of the group bring different perspectives to the application of technology in teaching. Even from reading the various entries in this blog, it is clear that technology has an important role in education at SMU!
Among the technology I use is a tablet PC. First of all, it’s important to note that a tablet PC is not the same thing as an iPad or an Android tablet. A tablet PC looks just like a regular laptop, but the screen can be folded down over the keyboard and written on with a stylus. When connected to a classroom projector, the tablet PC can be used as a whiteboard/blackboard with the ability to switch to PowerPoint slides or any other application. Built-in software allows you to scribble notes and figures on a blank page in various colors, patterns, and stroke widths. You can also move parts of your scribbles to another part of the screen, and enlarge or reduce them at will. When switching over to show PowerPoint slides, you can easily make annotations directly on the slides. In addition, you can write freely over Excel and Word 2010 documents, and PDF documents using certain commercial software. While the features I describe above are certainly useful, using a tablet PC has some other benefits. For example, one can “screencast” a classroom presentation using free or commercial software. In screencasting, the software records the visual output of the tablet PC while at the same time recording audio through the built-in or external microphone. Once the recording is complete, you can save the recording in any number of formats. I now use this technology to record all of my lectures, and then I post the recordings to Blackboard (link to a short lecture excerpt). How is this technology useful? For example, if I have student-athletes who miss lectures, they now have an easy way to see and hear exactly what I presented in class. And as long as an internet connection is available, they can access the recordings while they’re on the road. Students who couldn’t quite understand something during the lecture can now review the lecture, pausing and rewinding as necessary. A possible concern is that students will no longer come to class if they can simply view the recordings later. However, in my experience I have observed very little drop-off in attendance.
A number of other educational applications are possible with a tablet PC, and I will discuss these in future posts. Obviously, numerous other teaching technologies exist. The members of the technology FLC have experimented with flipped classrooms, classroom response systems (clickers), podcasting, website organizers, blogging, and more. We believe technology has a definite role in education. Be open-minded about using technology in your teaching!