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Classroom Applications of Wireless Graphic Tablets

Saw an interesting post today on the echalk list from WA. I felt compelled to weigh in:
A teacher wrote:
“I’m about to buy some graphic tablets but wish to check what is the best buy and size wise – wacom seems to be the flavour of the month and A6 – help please?
Seemed to me that it was a good question but lacked some of the detail about what Lucy wanted to achieve with the tablet. I offered the following two posts as info:

1. Hi Mandy,

This is really topical as I have been asked to source some of these for a school I do some teacher training and other projects in. When sourcing the most common question I am asked to consider is, “What are all of the applications that they will be used for in a school?” Very reluctant to give the very obvious “I don’t know” answer, I usually resort to my usual source of bovine excrement and rattle off the following:

* The kids doing multimedia will be using flash and drawing characters prior to animation.
* The English teacher can use them for group work as each group can have a tablet and a passage of writing can be on the projector. Each group can have a task to highlight parts of the passage that are, for example, scene setting, character description, build up, climax, etc.
* The maths teacher will use them to pass to kids to show their working on a problem to the whole class on the projector as they solve a problem, etc.

Am I clutching at the proverbial straws here? What are graphics tablets being used for?

I am going to send a separate reply about the types of tablets and the pricing of them.



2. Hi Again Mandy,

I have done a bit of research around Hong Kong and there is a range of tablets in use in the market.

The Wacom is the best known and is the most popular generic drawing tablet here for commercial application. If you consider the very small 8cm x 8cm character tablets, then wacom is well out shadowed by a host of unpronounceable Chinese name tablets that are next to almost every computer in China for the script characters. These are about the same price as a cheap mouse. When I write about these I am speaking about the tablets that connect via USB to the computer.

The big growth in uptake of these technologies into education has happened due to the bigger players going wireless. This now means that you have a tablet that can be put on a kid’s desk and combined with a projector has them either contributing via writing or drawing on a board in full class view or controlling a piece of software, all from his or her desk. Many teachers are attracted to this idea but the applications are far from “cut and dry”. See my earlier email.

The main players in this market, as I can see, seem to be Wacom, Interwrite and Onfinity. The first two use Bluetooth and resistive/electromagnetic technology to detect the pen. Good technology but the range of BT could be a problem in bigger rooms. The most common size is around 6″ x 8″ writing area
A5 I think?? I am awaiting pricing on such units here in Hong Kong but they are around US$210 on Amazon for the Wacom and an incredible US$585 for the Interwrite which they call SchoolPad 400. It is essentially the same thing except for the pen positioning being detected via electric field for less issues with positioning.

The Onfinity tablet is a different creature in a number of ways. It is uses RF in the 2.4GHz band to send the signal to the computer. It also is A4 size allowing you to put a piece of paper on the tablet without having to cut it.
You can then use a pen which can be loaded with an ink cartridge or a blank to write on the page (and, thus, the computer screen.)

The pen position is determined by very accurate ultrasound technology.

It is possible to connect up to 128 tablets to the same computer so class activities are totally possible. Ideal resources in Sydney sell these in Oz for $599 + GST. You can read more from here:

Hope this is of some help. Keep the ideas for use of this technology coming.
I will compile into a list and submit to the list.



I am keen to see if there are any replies on the usage of the technology in the classroom.

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