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Old 05-09-2005, 04:21 PM   #1
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Experiment how Tablet PC could replace school textbooks

Carnegie Mellon University is conducting an experiment at The Ellis School and one of CMU's own classes in which traditional textbooks are replaced with HP 1100 Tablet PCs (starting price: $1,599). The university received a $100k grant from HP to study how well students can learn with e-texts. So far responses have been good:

Quote:
"I can understand the material better because I have a visual image. It's a lot easier and faster to type. It's all on one file," said Chao, 14, of Squirrel Hill...Ellis students complain of long startup times for the PC and the danger of computer crashes, but the benefits, they say, outweigh the disadvantages.Before this experiment, Chao said her 6-year-old brother Bobby could not even lift her bookbag, which often contained four textbooks and three binders. The bookbag of her classmate Heather Acuff, 14, of McCandless, was so heavy that she used to roll it around on wheels...Besides its lightness, Gunawardena said, another popular feature is the search engine, which works like Google. Students type in some key words, and the search engine finds a particular passage faster than they could from the index of a hardback.
Google could also lead into temptation, right? What's your next excuse when you fail to deliver your paper on time? "Sorry Professor Saltzberg, but I couldn't study the text sources because Google was down yesterday."
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Old 05-09-2005, 06:15 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morpheus
Carnegie Mellon University is conducting an experiment at The Ellis School and one of CMU's own classes in which traditional textbooks are replaced with HP 1100 Tablet PCs (starting price: $1,599).
This reminds me of how Microsoft was trying to "encourage underpriviledged education" by giving hundreds of computers to villages in Africa, but their contract specifically denied any non-Microsoft products from running on those machines. Curious that you're trying to educate people, but only letting them learn one way of doing things... the Microsoft way.
"...the first crack rock is free, and its all you'll need."
Seriously though, there's a major problem with replacing "books" with tablets (and Star Trek got it right here with their PADD devices): Books are read up and down, left to right (left page, right page, flip, left page, right page, etc.) Most of the "ebook" material I've seen represented on tablet devices is always one long monolithic "webpage" format. That's very hard to read and compare page to page.

If it isn't side-by-side (and studies have shown this is the best way to read, comprehend and retain information), then it will get lost, and we'll end up breeding children with huge ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) problems, who are just "skimming" the material because they can go back later and Google it. Why remember something you can just recall on your cellphone in seconds?

This is a HUGE problem.

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Google could also lead into temptation, right? What's your next excuse when you fail to deliver your paper on time? "Sorry Professor Saltzberg, but I couldn't study the text sources because Google was down yesterday."
Plagarism is a huge, growing problem. There are developers out there writing software to find people who directly plagarize articles, stories, research. With the proliferation of blogs, its even harder to verify a first-level resource for research. How do you know something is "true" if 10 people all say the same thing (and 9 of them copied from one of the others)?
"Stealing the work of one is 'plagarism'. Stealing the work of many is 'research'"
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:00 PM   #3
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Geeze you know if I were going to GIVE computers away, I think it would be my right and obligation to my company to insure that the computer I GAVE away would be run on software that I Provided free of charge and none other, now that just makes good business sense, despite the popularity of Linux and OS X MS is good enough to give it away, give them a pat on the back not a stab in the toe.
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:18 AM   #4
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Maybe I can offer some insight on the issue of using computer tools in class.

I take evening classes to perfect my Spanish, and I have been running a little experiment for the past few months: I'm trying to spend an entire school year without using any paper at all - apart from test sheets, which my teachers can't accept electronically, and can't be printed in a test classroom without bothering those who take the test as well.

To try to achieve this, I bring a small laptop (a 9" Asus netbook) to class, as well as a portable A4 scanner, and lately, my Sony Reader.

I use either the laptop or the Sony Reader to display my textbooks, which I have scanned, and play the exercise tapes, which I have recorded in MP3 format. I use the laptop to take notes in simple Word or Excel files. Finally, I use the scanner to scan any paper the teacher gives - I have become quite good at scanning those papers and loading them into my notes on the fly without missing any of what the teacher says, but it takes some getting used to

My experience has yielded mixed results so far.

Pros:

- I have easily readable, easily editable, easily indexed notes;
- I can share my notes with other students;
- I always carry the same amount of stuff regardless of which particular classes I take that day, and which and textbooks I need to have with me, and I always have all my class material with me;
- I can say I saved some trees from turning into paper pulp.

Cons:

- Forget about using a tablet. A keyboard - and a good one at that - is a must for note-taking. Unless you're okay with taking notes on paper and just using the tablet for book viewing, but to me it sort of defeats the purpose of "e-learning".

- You'd better have a pretty good resolution and/or a large screen. I have found that lack of displaying real-estate is the biggest drawback when you need to view largish documents or textbooks, and when you want an overview of the notes you've been taking. To me, anything under 12" and 1280x1024 just doesn't cut the mustard. Sure, it's *usable* on a 9", 1024x600 screen, but it's just not nice, and certainly not as nimble to use as a pen and a notebook. I had high hopes for the Kno but it seems more vaporware than anything, so the next best solution I found is the laptop, supplemented by the Sony Reader. Definitely not ideal...

- Note-taking with a keyboard isn't for everyone. It definitely isn't the same as typing a document linearly; it's not the same workflow to record a live lesson, during which you need to get back to what you wrote 2 minutes earlier, then add things down below, all the while listening to the teacher and doing the assignments. It takes quite a bit of brain multitasking. I'm a pro typist by trade, yet I've become fully proficient at this particular exercise only recently. Add the scanner into the mix and it can make following a lesson quite a feat.

- Do I really save trees? After all, something has to power the plant that I recharge my electronic gadgets with, and the amount of cardboard and manuals that came with them when I bought them was quite staggering, and probably represented more paper than my Spanish textbooks and a blank notebook in the first place.

So in short, in my opinion, computers in class will only reveal their true potential if:

1) the curriculum material is formatted specifically for electronic displays, taking into account the page-flitting dynamics (or lack thereof), the linking abilities, the multimedia abilities, the smaller screen sizes and lower resolutions, and aren't simply printed books that have been converted to electronic versions.

2) teachers use the technology to give their classes, distribute electronically-formatted material to their students, and don't simply use the technology as a glorified blackboard and distribute unindexable scanned variants of their paper-only teaching material.

3) Students are given a thorough course in typing, or note-taking with a stylus perhaps (if this is even possible at all in real-life, but I suppose with a properly formatted curriculum, it could limit the amount of notes a student needs to take).

If those three conditions aren't met, I remain unconvinced that tablets in the classroom at anything other than a way to carry many textbooks without breaking the students' back, and not even very good textbooks at that. Not to mention, so far most such "computers for learning" initiatives have been nothing more than feel-good programs to convince governments that the future is here and they need to cough up more money, or to attract students.

I hope it'll work though: the technology is there; there's nothing futuristic about the devices needed to actually implement a proper "e-learning" environment anymore, it's more a matter of putting it all together intelligently. But that alone promises to be a multi-decade project, as the inertia in the world of education is quite formidable.
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:55 AM   #5
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I'd like to offer a counterpoint to a keyboard being required for note-taking --- I took notes on a Newton MessagePad and an NCR-3125 (running PenPoint) in college and the stylus worked fine, and moreover, allowed me to sketch in images and diagrams which wouldn't've been feasible w/ a keyboard (this was especially useful for art history and logic diagrams in various computer science courses).

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Old 12-21-2010, 08:56 AM   #6
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Fastolfe, the good news is there's no reason your conditions can't be met... it will take a shift at the primary school level to give children the skills they need to use digital media, as well as a shift at the textbook level to provide the material in appropriate packages.

The downside there is that those processes will take time for experimentation to find the most efficient ways of doing those things, then creation and dissemination of materials, teacher training to be able to teach it... and the tools are already here, begging to be used. The tools provide a temptation to do real-world experimentation, which could be disastrous for those students who are taught by a system that proves inefficient down the line.

Any way you slice it, it is going to take years, perhaps decades, to work out the most efficient way to use digital hardware in the classroom, prepare the materials and train teachers to apply it. In some cases, you shouldn't rush change, no matter how badly you might want to. But you still must embrace it and go forward.
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Old 12-21-2010, 09:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hacker View Post
Seriously though, there's a major problem with replacing "books" with tablets (and Star Trek got it right here with their PADD devices): Books are read up and down, left to right (left page, right page, flip, left page, right page, etc.) Most of the "ebook" material I've seen represented on tablet devices is always one long monolithic "webpage" format. That's very hard to read and compare page to page.

If it isn't side-by-side (and studies have shown this is the best way to read, comprehend and retain information), then it will get lost, and we'll end up breeding children with huge ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) problems, who are just "skimming" the material because they can go back later and Google it. Why remember something you can just recall on your cellphone in seconds?

This is a HUGE problem.
Don't teach people to read; nobody will ever bother learning anything if they can just go and look it up in a book. Keep people illiterate - they'll have much better memories that way.

This is a HUGE problem!


Last edited by HarryT; 12-21-2010 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 12-22-2010, 12:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WillAdams View Post
I'd like to offer a counterpoint to a keyboard being required for note-taking --- I took notes on a Newton MessagePad and an NCR-3125 (running PenPoint) in college and the stylus worked fine, and moreover, allowed me to sketch in images and diagrams which wouldn't've been feasible w/ a keyboard (this was especially useful for art history and logic diagrams in various computer science courses).

William
I've got a HP TX2 convertible tablet on win7. I loved taking notes on powerpoint slides for my teacher that provided them via vspace. My problem was that battery life on the TX2 was a bit shy of a class period at times. The newer TM2 gets about 5 hours, so that would be better.

I love the look of the HP slate for this kind of thing.

A power efficient SSD would help a lot, since they resume from hibernate and sleep so fast.
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Old 12-28-2010, 11:28 AM   #9
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A solid state drive is a huge improvement for any portable device, and Tablet PCs esp. benefit greatly from them.

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Old 12-28-2010, 12:34 PM   #10
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I'm not surprised in the least over any of this. As a former teacher for middle schoolers, I have seen the many changes over the years. Even as a teacher you have to find ways of making children understand that learning and retention is the best way to get by in life.

Also as far as using tablets or iPads or such, for the instructors we no longer have Chalk Boards in our schools but have gone to the Electronic Whiteboards. I remember back when I was in school the newest thing was the overhead projector . As long technology keeps improving then all must keep up or get left behind.
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Old 12-28-2010, 02:01 PM   #11
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How about a source for the quote? Not seeing anything there, and I'd rather read the original article/source before drawing too many conclusions.
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Old 12-29-2010, 10:23 AM   #12
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How about a source for the quote? Not seeing anything there, and I'd rather read the original article/source before drawing too many conclusions.
You do realise that this is a 5 year old thread?
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