Faculty to Explore Tablet PCs; Digital Pen Can Write on Computer Screen

Andover’s teachers might soon be able to jettison their pens and pads in favor of modern technology. The Technology Department introduced the Tablet PC, a wireless notebook-sized computer that allows a user to write comments on its screen with a digital pen, to faculty members during a pilot workshop last Friday. An Abbot Grant proposed by the Technology Department made the program possible, allotting funds for five Tablet PC’s and the workshop. The grant initially asked for 10 Tablet PC’s, but the grant only provided $15,500. Each Lenovo Tablet PC cost $2,500, in addition to $2,000 for the instructional workshop. Valerie Roman, Director of Technology, said, “We bought Lenovo tablets since they are currently the highest-rated and are successfully being used by some of our peer schools.” At Friday’s workshop, Thomas Mistele of the Tablet PC Academy helped five faculty members explore the Tablet PC. Instructor in Mathematics Bill Scott, Instructor in History and Social Science Chris Shaw, Instructor in History and Social Science Tracy Ainsworth, Instructor in English Catherine Tousignant and Associate Dean of Students Carlos Hoyt attended the workshop. The faculty members first shared their ideas and hopes for the technology before exploring ways the Tablet PC could be utilized to suit their needs. Hoyt, who teaches the PACE Seminar, said that the Tablet PC would aid his teaching style. He said he likes using a whiteboard to communicate because he finds it to be very expressive and connective. Hoyt said, “[The Tablet PC] really is amazing. It’s extremely interactive.” Although the Tablet PC’s are new tools for most faculty members, Instructors in English Elwin Sykes and David Fox have already been using the technology in their classes for some time. Fox said, “Once I begin grading a set of papers, I move through them more efficiently… I also really like having copies of both my students’ papers and my comments. This helps me see how their work improves across assignments and gives me ample material to use when I write Instructor Reports and letters of recommendation.” The Tablet PC’s can also be plugged into monitors. Fox said, “Then, we can post someone’s essay on the screen and write comments on it.” The computers also aid Andover’s aims for sustainability, since teachers do not have to print out paper copies in order to write comments on essays. Sykes has been using the Tablet PC to further his “Paperless Class” project. However, the high cost of the Tablet PC is a major shortcoming, making it unlikely for large-scale implementation. Also, the Tablet PC will need to be tested for compatibility with many of Andover’s current tools such as Blackboard before entering into widespread use. Although the Tablet PC’s are still in their trial phase, they are a part of Andover’s long-term goal to “provide teachers with another tool to facilitate integration of technology into their teaching,” said Roman.