March 1, 2008 Human factors researchers determined that tablet personal computers can be used to aid students in classrooms. They offer a single platform that can include a student’s notes, textbook, assignments, and what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. Students are likely to be better organized and learn more quickly.
Class notes, textbooks, and lectures are all in one place for some high school students -- in their tablet personal computers or tablet PC's. But is this technology helping their grades? We uncover one surprising drawback. Reading … writing … arithmetic. It's hard to keep up, page after page after page. But now, what you see on the blackboard can be transferred automatically to this … an electronic notebook.
With the tablet PC -- class lectures go from the screen at the front of the room to each student's computer where note taking is a breeze. And textbooks are digitized right into the tablets. "My notes before were all unorganized and never knew where anything was and then when I got my tablet I could put everything in one document," says Kyle Barr, a senior at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio. "The technology we want to use for the students is to change the way they are learning and to maximize the educational process for them," says Ken Collura, an engineer for Diocese of Columbus schools.
These high school students have been using the tablets 24/7 for the past three years … at school and at home. Research shows most students like the benefits. "Instead of carrying around a big old math book and a big English book in between periods, you just carry your tablet around," says senior Lindsay Brown. Human factors researchers immediately saw the learning advantages. The tablet PC's allow more interaction between the teachers and students. Teachers can embed live web pages and live video into lectures.
"The richness that you can bring in when you've got a connection to the internet that you bring into class," says Carolyn Sommerich, Ph.D., a researcher at Ohio State University. One concerning drawback -- the battery life on the tablet PC's isn't great. In an attempt to conserve power, kids are dimming their screens, putting strain on their eyes. "It's really a concern if kids aren't letting their parents know that hey my eyes have been bothering me a little bit or I'm getting a headache," says Dr. Sommerich.
As technology improves the battery problem should go away … leaving kids with a new high-tech approach to learning. Researchers are now teaching students about healthy computing -- things like getting up and taking a break and how to use good posture.
OTHER HIGH-TECH TUTORS
Electronic Whiteboard: Using optics and ultrasound, a new electronic whiteboard digitally captures every written word that is written on it. First, a user mounts a receiver to the corner of any whiteboard. When a dry-erase marker fitted into a special sleeve touches the board, the sleeve sends out infrared and ultrasound waves. These waves trigger the receiver to track the writing. A computer then re-creates every stroke, which can be sent to multiple terminals.
Online Automated English Tutor: MY Access! is a new Web-based computer program to help students improve their writing skills. The software uses artificial-intelligence techniques to analyze papers for content, sentence construction, thought processing, grammar, and spelling. It highlights trouble spots and gives the student an estimated grade, so students can make revisions and improve their grade.
Virtual Labs: Students learning science in the classroom can now give their textbooks a break, and learn basic science concepts online. The virtual lab, developed by engineers and students at the University of Virginia, guides students through 50 experiments, along with text and vivid animations that explain how things work -- like semiconductors and generators.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the video portion of this report.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.