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TEACHING WITH TABLET PC'S Kenrick Mock University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, AK 99508 ABSTRACT Tablet PC's are traditional notebook computers with the ability to process digital ink by writing with a stylus. They have recently attracted attention as a potential tool for educational use. This paper describes the author’s experience using the Tablet PC to conduct a CS1 course and a software engineering (SWE) course. The SWE course consisted primarily of PowerPoint lectures whil
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  TEACHING WITH TABLET PC'S Kenrick Mock University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, AK ABSTRACT Tablet PC's are traditional notebook computers with the ability to processdigital ink by writing with a stylus. They have recently attracted attention as apotential tool for educational use. This paper describes the author’s experience usingthe Tablet PC to conduct a CS1 course and a software engineering (SWE) course. TheSWE course consisted primarily of PowerPoint lectures while the CS1 courseconsisted primarily of hand-written material. For both courses the Tablet PC was usedin the classroom as a digital whiteboard by connecting it to a data projector. Thelecture material was archived and accessed electronically for future reference by thestudents. To capture real-time gesturing and audio commentary, the CS1 course wasrecorded using screen capture technology. Outside of the classroom, the Tablet PC isalso a useful tool for grading, creating lecture material, and capturing meeting notes.Student feedback regarding use of the Tablet PC has been extremely positive. 1. INTRODUCTION AND PREVIOUS WORK The Tablet PC represents the computer industry's latest attempt at pen-basedcomputing. Since their release in 2002, Tablet PC's have slowly gained attention as auseful tool for educators. The machines are currently in their second to thirdgeneration and now contain enough computing power to put them on par withrelatively powerful desktop machines. An official Tablet PC, as designated byMicrosoft, is essentially an x86-based notebook with an active screen digitizer runningWindows XP Tablet Edition. This is a variant of Windows XP with add-ons tosupport pen-based input. Digital ink that is input by pen can be stored directly as ink or recognized as text. As a Windows XP machine, the Tablet PC has the benefit that itcan directly execute any program that runs on a standard Windows machine (e.g.PowerPoint, Word) without needing a translation step as required on many PDA’s.Models are available today in slate and convertible form. The slate is a formfactor that looks like a large PDA with a separate detachable keyboard. Theconvertible looks like a traditional laptop except the screen may also be swiveled 360degrees and turn to lie flat on the keyboard to become a slate.The Tablet PC is typically used in the classroom as a presentation device thattakes the place of the blackboard. Video is output to a screen using a data projector.With products such as Microsoft OneNote, PowerPoint, or Journal, an instructor hasthe ability to prepare lecture material in advance or write “on the fly” during class asone would write on a blackboard. The latter is particularly useful for material thatrequires interaction – e.g. illustrating how to solve equations or illustrate dynamicprocesses that may be difficult to prepare in advance through a medium such asPowerPoint. It is also easy to switch between other computer applications – e.g. a webbrowser, telnet, or an integrated developer environment.A number of universities have adopted pilot projects to study the efficacy of Tablet PC’s. For example, Notre Dame and Seton Hall University have put TabletPC’s into the hands of faculty to examine their impact as a teaching tool [2,8].  Bentley College distributed Tablet PC’s to students [3]. MIT students used TabletPC’s to creatively and collaboratively design robots for the International DesignContest [4]. Individual faculty at numerous institutions have also used Tablet PC’s todeliver their courses.Faculty at the University of Washington have developed the “ClassroomPresenter” system based upon Tablet PC’s. The system allows an instructor to lecturefrom a Tablet PC that communicates wirelessly with a server connected to a dataprojector. This allows the instructor to roam freely about the room and even into theaudience, like a TV talk show host, and allows students to write comments that arevisible to everyone in the class. Surveys indicated that students paid more attention,understood material better, and encouraged other faculty to also use Tablet PC’s [1].The Classroom Presenter system was extended by Simon, et. al., to put Tablet PC’sinto the hands of all students in the class so that they can submit ink-based material tothe instructor and the instructor may choose submissions to display on the projector.This allows greater collaboration and active learning within the classroom [7]. 2. EXPERIENCES USING THE TABLET PC2.1 Classroom Presentations – CS1 In the spring of 2004 we used a Tablet PC to deliver classroom presentationsfor a CS1 course. This was a first course in Java programming. Prior to delivery via aTablet PC, the course was conducted primarily by writing on the blackboard. Acomputer was used occasionally to demonstrate applications such as an IDE or adebugger. The instructor preferred hand-written delivery over a medium such asPowerPoint in order to slow down the classroom pace and highlight key points of codeor design as they were written on the board in real-time.The major use of the Tablet PC in this course was to replace the blackboardwith the tablet. The machine was connected to a data projector and MicrosoftOneNote was used in place of the blackboard. This alone presented numerousadvantages over the blackboard: ã   The lecture can be conducted entirely by drawing in digital ink withoutpreparing material in advance, as is necessary with PowerPoint. Alternately,material can be prepared in advanced and annotated during the lecture. ã   The instructor can easily re-display previously covered material that wouldnormally have been erased on a blackboard. ã   Convenient access to multiple pens in different colors, widths, and styles ã   Easy to switch to other applications (e.g. telnet, web browser, IDE) ã   Digital ink can be saved and viewed later through a web browser. ã   By standing off to the side, the instructor never occludes the screen and canmaintain eye contact with the audience while lecturing. ã   No messy chalk or nasty fumes from dry erase markers.A sample screenshot taken from the CS1 course is shown in figure 1. In thisfigure a snippet of code was prepared in advance and annotated during the class. Acommon technique employed by the instructor was to use attention marks to drawattention to a specific item. These were often necessary because the cursor in ink mode is a small dot that is not easily visible until something is drawn.   Figure 1. Lecture delivery using the Tablet PC to annotate code.Annotation is not limited to OneNote or Journal. We used the M2Screenannotator tool that allows anything on the Windows desktop to be annotated. Figure 2illustrates annotation of code that is overlaid on a window from the NetBeans IDE.The annotation tool acts as a virtual transparency for the desktop. The overlay istoggled on or off from the system tray.Figure 2. Annotation over a Windows application.Despite the advantages, there are also a number of disadvantages to Tablet PC-based delivery: ã   To project correctly, the tablet must be placed in landscape mode instead of themore comfortable portrait mode. ã   Real estate for drawing is smaller than what is normally available in aclassroom with a large blackboard. ã   Right-clicking is sometimes tricky using the pen. ã   Poor display angles for some models. ã   Need and expense for a data projector and the Tablet PC. 2.2 Viewing Archived Content Many instructors using Tablet PC's are saving their lectures to disk and makingthem available for online viewing. Students are then able to review the material at  their convenience. Microsoft OneNote provides the option to store a page of writtennotes as a .mht file for viewing in a web browser. Microsoft Journal files may beviewed on non-Tablet PC's using a free viewer. Both approaches save the ink that isdrawn in the application into a static document. While this is useful for some material,this approach does not create useful content for lectures that rely on more ephemeraldata. Most importantly, crucial audio and gesture information is lost [6]. Forexample, consider the static archived lecture material shown in figure 3:Figure 3. Static, archived lecture material.What does the circle mean? What is the significance of the underlinedmaterial? All of these marks are explained in the actual lecture, but such informationis lost in the saved document. As a result, the saved document is largelyunintelligible.To address this problem one solution is to capture the screen and audio into amovie file. We used TechSmith's Camtasia Studio to capture the screen and audio intoan AVI file. The AVI video file was then converted into Flash format and linked to thecourse web page. The Flash conversion compressed the video file considerably andalso made the video accessible to a wide variety of browsers. An additional advantageof this technique is that all computer applications are captured, includingdemonstrations such as web browsing or debugging with an IDE. Sample videorecordings from the course are available for viewing at sample screenshot of a recorded video is shown in figure 4.
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