By Robin Popow, Instructional Associate
Notes from Days 2 & 3
Pen + Touch Computing: From Research to Resource
Andy Van Dam, Professor of Technology, Education, & Computer Science at Brown University kicked off day 2 with a look back at the origin of pen and touch technology. Considered by many as the inventor of hypertext and father of digital graphics, Van Dam has spent the last four decades working on systems for creating and reading electronic books with interactive illustrations for use in education and research. He has contributed a great deal of industry leading research and taught many of the current leading researchers.
Van Dam expressed general dissatisfaction and frustration towards Apple and Microsoft, suggesting they have been developing products without paying attention to leading research that suggests people benefit from using pen + touch technology (as opposed to the current pen OR touch). Current products such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Fujitsu’s Stylistic Hybrid tablets offer the ability to use a pen OR touch but none offer the ability to use pen AND touch at the same time. Van Dam suggests pen + touch is what is needed to attain a truly natural user interface (NUI). Van Dam referred to the original two-handed technology and the origins of this research in a 1963 project called Sketchpad where Ivan Sutherland at MIT’s Lincoln Labs developed, “A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System”, described as one of the most influential computer programs ever written.
Van Dam showcased Hands-on Math as another example of affordances offered by pen + touch technology (I loved the crumple gesture). It was interesting to see how much negativity there was towards Apple and Microsoft from University researchers in attendance. It was suggested that while the iPad brought a great deal of popularity to tablet devices, it’s touch-only technology is somewhat shortsighted in the context of leading research. And although Ken Hinckley of Microsoft seems to be paying attention to the research (as noted from his Day 1 keynote) Van Dam and others at the conference acknowledged the progress Microsoft has made but were critical in pointing out that Microsoft has not yet developed consumer versions of pen + touch products 50 years after their original conception. It will be interesting to see what happens in coming years.
Large Artwork Display on the Surface (LADS)
Van Dam also showcased a cool program developed at Brown University called LADS (Large Artwork Display on the Surface), a platform built for museums for viewing large, digitized artworks in a novel fashion. It uses Microsoft’s DeepZoom technology to dynamically load portions of images at different resolutions. This allows a user, in the case of the Garibaldi project (see video below), to see an entire 370 foot long panorama at once or the brushstrokes on the ocean in one square inch of the piece. Additional information can be accessed via hot spots in the image. LADS is open source and available as a free download for institutions that wish to use it. I couldn’t help but think how a program like this could be used by students as a group project to build interactive timelines, etc.
InkSurvey is a free, web-based software designed to facilitate real-time formative assessment by collecting graphical, white board style responses from students. During our session I used my iPhone to submit my hand-written responses to questions asked by Frank Kowalski (the person next to me used her Kindle tablet), featured in this comical video. A major affordance of this software is that instructor can provide direct feedback to graphical student responses. This software appeared simple to use and quite effective, and works across most mobile platforms (Android 4+). Click here to begin using it now…
Dale Pokorski showcased Virginia Tech’s use of Coarseload, a company that provides source-neutral aggregated digital textbooks at up to 70% savings by integrating open source as well as (or in place of) proprietary content. In the spirit of active reading, students are able to highlight, annotate, share notes with other students. For additional functionality Virginia Tech students export materials to Microsoft OneNote.
On Day 2, middle school teachers Eric Marcos and Stacey Roshan provided more tips in support of video in a flipped classroom. Select takeaways for me included screencaptuing apps such as Doceri for iPad, with a pen that effectively eliminates palm drag, Educreations (one of my favourites) and ScreenChomp. (ScreenChomp is about the simplest screen capturing tool you’ll find). Also, Eric made his tablet seemingly indestructible with a M-edge neoprene case (see image at right).
More on Tablets
In my Day 1 post I noted the popularity of the tablet PC hardware with interaction/sharing software such as ClassroomPresenter, DYknow and Microsoft OneNote. On Day 2 I had chance to use more of these tablets and must admit that they do provide functionality beyond that of touch-based tablets, laptops and desktop computers. A major take away from this conference beyond the affordance-rich tablet PCs has been the potential of cost effective technologies that can be used to innovate based on affordances rather than just integrate technology as a flashy tool. While some delegates rattled off bold statements like “every student in America should be using OneNote on a 11.6″ Fujitsu tablet PC” some institutions have dropped their brand-specific tablet programs altogether in favour of a bring your own device (BYOD) option. Some have found that free software such as ClassroomPresenter provide enough usability to support their learner-centred initiatives.
(BTW, during the conference I also learned that $20 Android tablets with VGA camera are being produced in India – 4 million on order).
VCC offers such a wide variety of programming that it is impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to educational technology while maintaining pedagogically sound teaching and learning strategies. While I sometimes find myself envious of the relative ease to which K-12 and Academic institutions chose and implement blanket technology solutions I quickly think of the depth and richness of learning we can offer our students as an applied learning institution and the potential to go even further!