Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Handwriting Digitization Options

Here is a process to work through when finding the best solution for instructors who need a way to record their handwriting in videos - for instance, to explain and show how to do a math problem. They are organized mostly by price. I say "mostly" because the iPad option isn't really the least expensive if you need to buy something, but it is if you already own one!

1. iPad If you already have an iPad, it presents the easiest option. The Explain Everything app offers a lot of functionality. A math professor created her entire online course by making basic PowerPoint slides on the computer, getting them on the iPad through, and using a stylus to write out the problems in her handwriting while recording audio. The video can go right on YouTube. Voila. It is not necessary to first create PowerPoint slides, but she wanted a little extra professionalism.

Woman writing on the Wacom Bamboo

2. Wacom Bamboo. If you have good hand/eye coordination, this could work for you. The problem with the Bamboo is that you write on the device but only see what you are writing on a computer. Many people dislike this. It is the least expensive option though. I used it in my last job and thought it was fine. I had to practice a lot for my handwriting to look good though. The Bamboo requires an additional program such as Screencast-o-matic to actually record the handwriting with audio. 

Livescribe Pen

3. Livescribe Pen. If you need something simpler, the Livescribe pen is a good option because it allows you to write on real paper with a pen and record a tutorial with audio. It is quite simple to use once it’s set up on your computer. However, you have to write everything (i.e., cannot add to a document or write on images) which can take a long time. A drawback is the limited options to share/host videos and the inability to edit. CETL has a limited number of Livescribe Pens for UWEC faculty.

Surface Pro
4. Windows 8 Tablet. Windows 8 tablets, such as the Dell Latitude 10 or Surface Pro are more functional than iPads for the work world because they function like computers. They can connect to network drives, run normal software, have internal storage, and run Office products such as Word and PowerPoint. If the option is an iPad or Windows 8 tablet in a work environment (maybe not for fun), I'd definitely go for Windows 8 because you can do so much more. Plus, you get to use a normal stylus, not the weird iPad ones.

Dell Latitude XT3

5. Convertible Tablet PC. If you have the money, tablet PCs are often the preferred option because they are truly a laptop with the capability to use a pen. They have the yasta to run whatever you need to run and still have a nice big laptop screen and keyboard (compared to the tablet). They can definitely be your one device. However, they are expensive - $1800 is an average price, last I heard.

6. SMART Podium. There are a few old SMART podiums around campus; for instance the math department shares one and two classrooms have them. I currently have one in my office that is looking for a home. They are basically computer monitors that you can write on. You connect them to any computer. They are crazy expensive though - the new ones in the classrooms are about $1800 and that's without a computer. But, it is possible to go into a classroom when it is not being used and record in there. I don't see that being real popular though.

Wacom pic from 
Livescribe pic from
Surface pic from
XT3 image from

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