03 October 2008

Tablet computers in the classroom

A teacher referred to my experimentation with a tablet computer so I'd like to tell everyone about that. Five years ago I bought an ACER C110 Travelmate 11 inch notebook computer. You can twist the screen on this computer and lay it down on top of the keyboard and use it like a tablet computer. It was quite small and had an external DVD drive. I bought it here in Guangzhou and it cost 16,OOO Rmb. This was rather expensive but cheaper than the larger Toshiba computer that could do the same thing. When I bought this I was intrigued about the possiblities of using a tablet in the classroom and wanted to experiment.

I still have this computer and am writing you with it now. A corner of the computer broke off due to an accident. I was running across a busy Guangzhou street and the buckle on my computer bag, heavily laden with not only my computer but those immensily weighty Interchange Teacher Books, broke and my bag hit the street hard. The corner broke off my computer and now the WiFi no longer works. My computer looks terrible today and even my students beg me to get a new one but I've grown attached to it the way an old man gets attached to an old easy chair or a favorite pair of old slippers.

But I have to say that I am not satisfied with the computer as a tablet. It was not as easy to use as I hoped to move around the classroom and make notes on students. With the computer in one hand and the special pen in the other, I could not talk with students and then very quickly look up the student on my Excel sheet and make a notation.

What I wound up doing is making notations on slips of paper and at the end of class transferring these to my computer. One of the main things I note in this way is the IELTS speaking level of the students.

I sacrificed the DVD drive for this tablet computer. My next computer, which I'm shopping for now, will have a built in drive. I think this will be more useful for me than the tablet function.

I now have a Windows Mobile phone. This phone runs Excel and I've tried to keep my student list on this. I also can write on it like a tiny tablet computer but the whole process of finding the student's name amongst 40 other names and making the notation is more cumbersome than jotting it on a slip of paper and then entering all the info in a couple minutes after class.

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