Monday, May 16, 2011

Great quote

In a blog post about whether social networking technologies have a positive impact on educational practices, danah boyd wrote:

"Finally, please adult world, I beg you… stop fearing and/or fetishizing technology. Neither approach does us any good. Technology is not the devil, nor is it the panacea you’ve been waiting for. It’s a tool. Just like a pencil. Figure out what it’s good for and leverage that to your advantage. Realize that there are interface problems and figure out how to work around them to meet your goals. Tools do not define pedagogy, but pedagogy can leverage tools. The first step is understanding what the technology is about, when and where it is useful, and how it can and will be manipulated by users for their own desires."

Couldn't have said it better myself! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tablet or Slate?

A few weeks ago when I was in a meeting with faculty, I used the term "tablet" to refer to the Wacom Bamboo Pen and I realized from the resulting questions that both the terms "tablet" and "pen" were a bit confusing.  Then I realized I used the terms "slate" and "tablet" interchangeably when they may mean different things to different people. 

Although the Wacom Bamboo Pen is the name of the device, it actually comes with both a pen and a tablet.  In the meeting I mentioned, we had just been talking about the Livescribe pen, which is simply a pen (notebook paper sold separately), so in that case "pen" makes more sense.  I don't know why Wacom called it the Bamboo Pen and not the Bamboo Tablet or Tablet and Pen. 

Tablet Definition 1: External writing device.  The device shown to the right is what "tablet" means in the case of the Wacom Bamboo pen and tablet. It is used with a computer via USB - without a computer, it is useless.  The pen can be used to write with drawing tools (such as those in Word for Windows) and can also be used as a mouse.  The Wacom Bamboo Pen is only $69 but Wacom also makes high end graphics tablets that are basically computer monitors you can write on directly. 

Tablet Definition 2: A computer with a screen you can write on with a stylus.  When people say "tablet," they may also be talking about a tablet PC, like the Fujitsu to the left.  You can write on the screen.  These are pretty expensive - this Fujitsu is $999. 

Tablet Definition 3: Touch screen device in between a smart phone and a computer.  Examples would be the iPad, HP Slate, Motorola Xoom, Dell Streak, Samsung Tab, etc.  They can be as inexpensive as $199 for the Samsung Tab; the Xoom is in the $500 range. 

Slate = Tablet

You may have noticed that the HP is called a Slate, but it is a tablet. I did some Googling and found that the two terms are often used interchangeably and pretty much mean the same thing: something you can write on.  Tablet seems to be used more often than slate.  The confusing part though is that tablets can vary so much.  The take away lesson here is to use examples and visuals as much as possible to ensure clarity.

Does this make sense?  Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions on how to explain this.  


Fujitsu image from:
HP image from:
iPad image from:
Wacom image from:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wacom Bamboo Pen

The Wacom Bamboo Pen is a little external writing tablet and pen that you connect to your computer via USB and then you are able to write in your own handwriting and view/save in various applications such as Word, PowerPoint, drawing programs, etc. You can also use it as a mouse to navigate.

I'd like to emphasize the fact that it is only $69.  What a bargain! 

It was very easy to install on my Mac.  The same install disc works for Mac or PC.  After the install, a tutorial automatically started and walked me through some basic tasks. 

After installation, I was surprised that there was no program that came with it to draw in.  Turns out, I had opted to not install "Bamboo Dock" because it sounded like that wasn't something I was interested in (now I have no idea why).  Bamboo Dock is the container for their draw program "Doodler" and a few other fun apps to use with the Bamboo pen.  One is a program that turns your handwriting into text.  The accuracy was ok.

I found it very easy to use the tablet.  My handwriting wasn't quite as nice as it would be with a pen on paper, but it was close.  I had no problem writing on the tablet and seeing it on the computer screen.  

The only problem I had was that there are no pen tools in Word 2011 for Mac.  I had watched this video and thought that the pen tools would automatically become available or some way to draw would be apparent. I asked a co-worker and all we could figure out was the scribble tool, but you have to reselect it every time you raise the pen.  So, in order to dot an i or cross a t, you have to select the pen tool again and do it, then select it again to write a new word.  That's not practical.

I found other options: free draw/paint programs (I tried One Motion Sketch & Paint) and online whiteboards like Scriblink that allow you to use a mouse or whatever to draw. I was looking for something easy for faculty though - Word would be ideal since it is readily available and pretty much everyone is familiar with it.

Turns out, the video is showing Word 2010 for Windows. I installed the Bamboo on my PC and voila - it was amazing.  When I opened up Word, the pen tools were automatically there.  Yay!

So, what is the relevance of this tool?  Educators can use it while lecturing in a face-to-face class as they would a regular chalk/whiteboard or they can record a screencast of themselves talking through a calculation, problem, etc - something that needs to be presented visually with some verbal elaboration.  It could be recorded with Camtasia, Jing, Screencast-o-matic -- any program that captures a screencast. 

I think the combination of the Bamboo pen and a screencast program is a better option than the Livescribe pen for a few reasons:

  1. I dislike seeing what is coming in the tutorial and think that being able to look ahead can be overwhelming to learners (see my post on the Livescribe pen).
  2. Livescribe is very proprietary.  The pencasts export as .pencast and can only be viewed by others who have installed Livescribe desktop unless they are uploaded to Livescribe Online.  
  3. There is no way to edit or caption Livescribe pencasts.  When the tablet/screencast option I'm suggesting in this post, you are limited to the editing/captioning options of the screencast program you choose.  If it is Camtasia (which I love!), you have extensive editing capabilities and an excellent, easy to use captioning area.  Jing does not allow for editing and I believe you have to pay a nominal fee to edit in Screencast-o-matic. 

Image from