Digital Slates

Digital slates

Digital slates

So, you want to move from OHP transparencies, where you portably project the process of working through a problem to a class on a transparency, to a more modern device that should allow you to do the same…and more.

Projecting and recording the process of obtaining a solution on a data projector should be simple, portable and cost effective. Yes? Sadly no. This is technology. Things are not always easy to master or easy on the back pocket.

The OHP allows the process to be demonstrated in small or big steps in front of the class. A PowerPoint presentation is great for presenting a prepared show, but it does not really allow the teacher to modify the presentation on the fly and decide what size steps they will take as he/she presents the sums up in front of the classroom. So what other options are there.

Option 1 – Interactive Whiteboard
Go ahead, blow your budget and install a interactive whiteboard, and give your class a large monitor on which you can write, show and record. But whiteboards are costly, they re-enforce student passivity and carrying a white board around to your different lecture venue is fairly tricky.

Option 2 – A tablet computer
Be trendy and purchase a tablet computer (preferably an iPad 2) and a stylus and wirelessly connect with the data projector. Then demonstrate your working process on screen and walk around the class and show solutions to specific problems that students are facing. But tablets are expensive, the stylus may not be as precise (and using your finger to write does not work). Hooking up to the data projector wirelessly is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Option 3 – Plug in your pen and pad
Before you ditch those transparencies, scan them and convert them to a PDF. Now project the scanned transparencies on the data projector, and then write on the transparencies with a digital drawing device. Want to show and image or video. Then hyperlink to the resource. Digital drawing devices are cheap, but they do require new skills and an extra layer of technology to be plugged into the laptop

Option 4 – Get a Smartpen
Or get out some paper and a special pen and press record. The pen has a small camera installed and your handwriting and audio is recorded and then can be downloaded to a PC. The working process can be projected on the data projector – but if you want the process to be visible in real time, you need to forgo the pens recording ability.

None of the solutions are perfect, they never are. Option 3 is the cheapest, option 4, the most portable and option 2, once you’ve installed the bits, may be the simplest.

Asking the right questions

What do you think?

What do you think?

I’ve been looking for a possible mobile application for in-service and pre-service teachers to connect to each other and to other social media tools. I thought that it would be really useful for teachers to start using blogs, photo sharing, social bookmarking etc a network with other professionals as part of their tertiary training. Last week my grand plan came to sticky end. I asked the question – “Is Twitter or Facebook the way to go” on Twitter and Facebook. Sadly the only feedback I received was….silence.

It felt a bit like my DJ days, wondering if anyone was listening to me on my Sunday evening slot on community radio. After waiting for 24 hours (and checking to see if people were reading (bit.ly assured me they were), I concluded that
1) Friends and followers couldn’t care
2) They did not feel that they were able to answer
3) I was asking the wrong question.

If you can’t access the Internet on your phone (or don’t see the need), then asking what application to choose from is a silly question. Yes, cell phones are more pervasive ICTS in KZN schools (even doing better than the telephone), but it’s not automatic that teachers make use of the features built into most modern phones. I suffer from this common problem. I try to run when all I should be doing is crawling.

Take me (for example). Until a month ago, my dinosaur (inherited from my sister in law) sat in my top drawer waiting to be charged. My R50 pay as you go account that I added two years ago has not been renewed. When SMSing, I take me 10 mins or longer (predictive text does not work on my phone). Getting mobile has challenged my technological skills. Clearly, it’s taken a long time to master this technology, and I’m using the word master very loosley.

Teachers might be in a similar position. But I fon’t know. Optimistically I’m going to assume that I received no answer to my question was because of Option 2 and 3. Yes, I was asking the wrong question. And not too many of my Friends and followers are pre-service or in-service teachers. So, let’s rephrase our enquiry. Instead of getting excited about the 50 million active cell phones in the country or the 34 million users. Let’s see if we can find out about their tech skills.

If you are a teacher or going to be a teacher, please answer this questionnaire regarding mobile phone usage. It’s short and pretty anonomous. And I’ll feel a little less like a sad DJ talking to himself on a Sunday evening.