Teaching with Technology

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    Writing on tablet
    question posted October 27, 2011 by Gulraze Wakil, last edited April 9, 2012 
    3392 Views, 15 Comments
    Writing on tablet

    Hi all. First thanks is due to Richard Lillie for setting up this blog. I found it in no time.

    I recently started teaching large accounting classes and students at the back can't see what I write on the board clearly. I don't do that many power point slides. I am considering buying a tablet computer to write on and have that displayed on the projector.

    Any advice or experiences would be useful. Also, does anyone have comments comparing a plain tablet [e.g. ipad] to a full laptop tablet?


    Thanks, Gulraze Wakil

    Assistant Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. 




    • Richard E Lillie

      Good morning Gulraze,

      Thanks for the compliment.  You asked a great question about being able to write on the computer screen and have the writing displayed to viewers during a classroom presentation.  Below are some suggestions for you to consider.

      1. Create a diagram in advance of class.  Mark up the diagram in advance.  Display the marked up diagram during a presentation.  This is similar to creating a PowerPoint style presentation, but using your own diagrams and/or drarwings rather than author prepared slides.  If you are willing to do your own drawings, I recommend a great "cloud" hosted drawing software program called Creately.  The service offers a free version and a fee service.  The fee service is very inexpensive and worth the price.  I've used Creately for a couple of years.  It's great!  Tech support is outstanding.
      2. Select a laptop computer that includes an "inking" feature that allows you to write on the computer screen.  Use the two URL links below to explore "convertible laptop computer" options.  This should get you started with respect to selecting a laptop that allows you to write on the screen.
      If you are looking to compare "tablet" computers, be a bit careful.  iPad is called a tablet.  While called a "tablet," it is more of a media device (e.g., web surfing and using applications) than a full-blown computer.  Below is an interesting website that compares Lenovo's "tablet" to seven other "tablets."  This will give you comparisons that should help you compare contrast one "tablet" to another.

      I have used a Lenovo Tablet X61 tablet computer for the past couple of years.  It has all of the features of a full computer plus the inking technology that makes it possible to write on the screen.  I discovered an inexpensive software program that makes my X61 even more versatile.  The program is called PDF Annotator.  The program allows me to write on Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) documents and save the hand written comments and annotations.  Combining the X61 tablet computer + inking + PDF Annotator has changed the way I grade papers and provide feedback to students.

      You may wish to talk with the tech support people at your university.  Tech Support in my college has installed software on computers in the accounting classrooms that allows the instructor to write on a computer screen that projects onto a big room screen visable to all students.  The software allows you to "save" an annotated screen as either a .jpg or .pdf file.  The saved file can then be shared with students through Blackboard, web page, or email attachment.

      Let me know if these ideas and resources prove useful to you.

      Rick Lillie (CalState San Bernardino)

      • Gulraze Wakil

         Thanks for the link Rick. They helped a lot. Lenovo was supposed to release a tablet ideapad that worked on windows 7. I chatted with someone at Lenovo today and it seems like that won't come to the US soon. They have a tablet which has a digitizer that runs on Android.

        Still deciding whether to go with the slate tablet or with a real tablet PC.



    • Richard E Lillie

      Hi Gulraze,

      I'm happy that the links gave you information about tablet computers.  Of all laptop and tablet computers, I like Lenova the best.  The ThinkPad series, especially the "X" series (e.g., ThinkPad X61) are terrific machines.  I've used a ThinkPad X61 tablet computer for about three years.  It runs Windows XP but works just great.  I'm thinking about purchasing a new one.  I rather like the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet PC.

      Most of the "pad" tablet computers are primarily entertainment machines.  Even with a digitizer pen their usefulness is limited.  I have an iPad2 but do not find it useful for classroom use.  It's Wifi capability is OK, but not always great.

      As I wrote before, one of the things I use my tablet PC for is grading papers.  With PDF Annotator, the grading process is simple and easy to do and is completely digital.

      Good luck making your decision.  Let me know what you decide to do.

      Rick Lillie (CSU San Bernardino)

    • Amelia A. Baldwin

      Hello Gulraze!

      I have been using a tablet PC for several years in class. It is especially helpful if you 1) have small whiteboards in your classrooms and work long problems, b) want the ability to go back to something you worked previously, c) want to ever print (to paper or PDF) what you did in class, or d) want to be able to sit while you work exercises in class. Of course, those are every different objectives but a tablet PC can help you with any of those and more.

      Some years ago, when I complained about the small boards in my classroom for cost accounting and my small stature (meaning I can't use the whole board anyhow), our IT director (in house for the college of business in those days) handed me an old tablet PC that was just sitting on a shelf unused. Lucky me! I had never seen such a thing. I tried it in my cost accounting class on alternate days for a month. Then, I had a discussion with the students about the two alternatives (writing on the board as usual and using the tablet). The students unanimously supported the use of the tablet.

      It's been many years now and I still use a tablet in class on days I'm going over problems or demonstrating them. Recently, I have also used a tablet to record demonstrations of examples for my hybrid and online classes.

      I simply use MS Office's OneNote application (which looks just like a paper notebook on screen) which is a standard part of MS Office that most people have never used and the PC's stylus to work all the in class exercises just as if I were working them on paper and the students could look over my shoulder, basically. I start a new "page" for each problem so that I can go back if a question arises about a past problem after we've moved on to a new one. I sometimes paste in the given information for an example before I go to the classroom so it'll be at the top as well.

      I have also used many of the standard PC functions/software in class as well to do things like show students how to find something in Blackboard or where items are on the university website or to google a term in class, etc.

      I have used four brands of tablet PCs over the years (Toshiba, Gateway, Dell and Lenovo). My current one is a Lenovo X201. This one is rather lightweight, which I prefer. I tend to prop the tablet up at an angle so I can see what I'm doing without too much glare from the lights. If you are tall, this might not be necessary. I have used it sitting (at a table) and standing (at a cart or podium) in front of the classroom).

      I have not used an iPad in class but I know folks who do something similar in an iPad. Just remember an iPad cannot do everything a PC can do so it may or may not be a good choice for you for this class-time purpose.

      Good luck! Feel free to email me if you have more questions.

      Amelia Baldwin


    • Richard E Lillie

      Good morning Amelia,

      I enjoyed your comments about using your Tablet PC in class.  Like you, I have tried several tablet PC brands and favor Lenovo's tablet PC.  I've been using my Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC for about three years.  I am looking to upgrade to a newer model.  Click the URL link below to view current "X" series models.


      I haven't decided on a specific model.  My X61 runs Windows XP.  It will be nice to upgrade to a Windows 7 operating system.

      Based on your experience with your Lenovo X201, what do you think of the current "X200+" series?  I would appreciate your comments.


      Rick Lillie (Cal State San Bernardino)

    • Amelia A. Baldwin


      I've been happy with my Lenoco X201. Of course, the way procurement works at universities, I've never been able to try out a tablet of any brand before it's been purchased (or handed down to me back in the day).

      I liked the old Toshiba (first one I ever used) and I love the Lenovo. The Lenova is small and light (unlike the heavy Dell and Gateway models that preceeded it) and it has worked consistently. I've had this one since early 2011 and have used it pretty constantly in creating lectures and demonstration videos for two different courses (online and hybrid), and used it in live classes regularly for working problems on screen,  as well as other general use.



      Amelia Baldwin
      University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

    • Ajay Adhikari


      This is a very interesting conversation and a problem like Gulraze that I am also confronted with.  As Rick mentioned in two classrooms, we have special software and equipment installed where one can write with a stylus on their powerpoint slides and it displays simultaneously on the screen.  This is very useful because I have the question on my powerpoint slide on the top and I leave space at the bottom where I can solve it.  I can also save the work that I do and transmit it to my students.  I have converted a majority of my slides for my classes in this format.

      However, the problem I am facing is that this technology is only available in the two classrooms.  Next semester, I am teaching in another classroom which does not have this technology.  I am trying to look at a tablet solution which would allow me to do pretty much the same thing, run a powerpoint presentation and write on the slides as I am going through the slides.  Any suggestions would greatly help.


      Ajay Adhikari

      American University

      • Gulraze Wakil

         I may not answer your question but her is my experience with slate tablets over the past few weeks:

        I tried the new Lenovo slate think pad. I did not like Android to use windows applications, even though it can.

        I then tried the ASUS slate tablet which is dual core i5 and windows based [$1200]. It has about the same writing ability as the Lenovo but full windows and a 12" screen. It was near end of term and I was not up to speed with the stylus so I did not use it in class. The writing was not bad and it did work on almost anything.

        I am likely going to go with the conventional tablet PC because the ASUS slate tablet does not have an attached keyboard. What do I do when I want to use a keyboard for my prep/work or in class? Still, the slate tablet looks cool and is slimmer than the tablet PC. I bought from best buy and they took the returns, no problem.

        I would recommend getting the most powerful PC possible because we have such little class time.




      • Richard E Lillie

        Good morning Ajay,

        My college uses software similar to what you describe.  The software is offered by (  The software is loaded on the instructor's computer in our lab classrooms.  With this, the instructor can write on the screen at the instructor's computer station.  Screens can be saved and shared with students in a variety of formats.

        The SMART board technology works to a point.  Our tech staff tells me that they have to update it often and correct problems caused by instructors who somehow manage to change settings without realizing they are doing so.

        I've taken a different approach to doing what you want to do.  Have you heard of a hosted service called VOICETHREAD?  It is an inexpensive way to creating dynamic instructional materials that can be used both within the classroom as part of your presentation and outside of the classroom as streaming tutorial materials.  Think of VOICETHREAD as "PowerPoint on steroids."

        There are alternative to VOICETHREAD that require you to have a server to upload materials to.  Camtasia is one program.  There are less expensive screen capture software tools.

        If convenient, let's do a Skype video conference.  It will be easier to talk about alternative ways to do what you want to do.  Send me a message through AAA Commons.  We can try to find a mutually convenient time for a conference call.

        I read Gulraze's comments about computers.  I agree with his comments about so-called tablet and slate computers.  The best "tablet" that I've found is the Lenovo ThinkPad X-series.  I'm still using the "X 61" because it works great.  I'm thinking about upgrading to the new "X200" series tablet computer.

        Let's talk soon.

        Rick Lillie, CSU, San Bernardino

    • Joseph Trainor

      I just want to chime in and agree with Rick regarding Lenovo Tablet PCs.  I've been "inking" for about 7 years and I think that Lenovo Tablet PCs are just about the best on the market.  I have an X41 that I refuse to get rid of and I'm currently using an X200.  As a matter of fact I just graded some assignments using PDF Annotator, which is a must have application if you plan on inking.  I have several other tablet PCs (Fujitsu Lifebook, Toshiba, and a Gateway) and none are as durable or high quality like Lenovo. 

      I haven't used the tablet to project on the screen in class, because I prefer writting on the whiteboard, but could see that happening very easily with a tablet PC but not a tablet.  I have an iPad, but can't imagine using that device in class.


      Joe Trainor

      Assistant Professor, St. John's University


    • Richard E Lillie

      Hi Joe,

      I'm glad that you know about and use PDF Annotator by Grahl in Germany.  I use PDF Annotator with my ThinkPad X61 to grade papers and provide feedback to students.  I also use MioNet, a personal network that makes it possible to easily move files from my desktop computer to my X61 laptop computer.

      My university uses Blackboard for the LMS.  We run the new version 9.1 which no longer includes the "Digital Drop Box" feature.  I keep things simple, I use the "internal messaging" feature and have students submit assignments to me this way.  For most assignments, I ask students to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to create solutions.  Google Docs and Spreadsheets allows them to down solutions in .pdf format.  I use MioNet to transfer the .pdf document to my X61 laptop.  I open the files in PDF Annotator and grade them.  The inking feature of the X61 + PDF Annotator allow me to write on a student's paper.  This is a digital way of providing personalized feedback.

      On my desktop computer, I setup a grading rubic format in an Excel spreadsheet.  I enter responses on the spreadsheet and let the spreadsheet calculate assignment points.  I print the excel format in .pdf format and save it through MioNet to the hard drive on my X61 laptop.  Using PDF Annotator, I insert the grading rubric as the first page into a student's assignment .pdf file.  Once saved, the student gets a graded paper with the cover page being the grading rubric.  Subsequent pages reflect comments and grading markings.

      Depending on the type of assignment, I often use Eyejot to record a short video commentary about a student's paper.  I attach the graded .pdf document to the Eyejot video email message and send it to the student.  The student opens the graded paper and then views the video message.  This way, I talk with the student about the paper.

      All of this is done asynchronously.  The outcome is personalized feedback and attention similar to what a student would receive if he(she) came to office hours to talk about a graded paper.

      After reviewing the graded paper and viewing the video commentary, if a student wants to talk "live" about the paper, I ask the student to call me on Skype.  Skype allows us to talk live in a 1:1 video conference call.  Works great!

      While all of this may seem like a lot of steps to the grading process, it really is not.  With a little practice, the whole process takes about the same time as a traditional grading process.  Students get personal attention and there's no need for a student to come in for traditional office hours.

    • Robert E Jensen

      Styluses for the iPad

      "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
      Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
      Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
      Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

      Moving Finger versus Stylus
      "The iPad Isn't Ready for Working by Hand," by Jon Mitchell, ReadWriteWeb, April 7, 2012 ---

      Last week's release of Paper for iPad was a huge boon to the cottage industry of third-party iPad styluses. It was hardly the first app for drawing or writing directly on the screen of an iOS device, but it struck a chord. It was just the right blend of skeuomorphic real-world design and familiar iOS gestures. I had never even considered a stylus before, but this seemed like my chance.

      I travel the Internet in fairly Apple-obsessed early-adopter circles, so I went with the stylus I'd seen recommended most often: the Cosmonaut by Studio Neat. Studio Neat made the Glif camera mount, one of the most celebrated iPhone peripherals around, so it seemed like a safe bet.

      The Cosmonaut arrived in short order in spartan, Space Race packaging. It's fairly wide to hold like a pen. It's black, grippy and dense, the exact same length as an iPhone. The business end exhibits the capacitive properties the touch screen requires: a soft touch that gives way gradually to pressure, just like a fingertip, but more precise.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade ---


    • Robert E Jensen

      "5 Reasons Why I Ditched My iPad for a Google Nexus 7," by Taylor Hatmaker, ReadWriteWeb, August 1, 2012 ---

      Apple does not have a corner on the market for innovations in textbook authoring
      "2 New Platforms Offer Alternative to Apple’s Textbook-Authoring Software," by Nick DeSantis, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 17. 2012 ---
      Click Here

      January 19 Comment by Alex at the end of the article at

      There is indeed a lot to like except one major objection: Apple has once again opted not to support open standards and instead chosen to implement interactive iBooks via a proprietary format that could only be consumed on Apple-only devices.

      Clearly, Apple is most interested in locking the education market into a closed system where iBooks textbooks can only be produced, sold, distributed and consumed by Apple-only technology.

      Also, the iBooks Author app capability to export interactive multimedia-rich books as plain-text or PDF is a lame face-saving gimmic.

      Shame on Apple for not fully supporting open standards like HTML5 and ePub3, and for undermining the open Web and Web browsers in favor of a closed proprietary system.

      January 20, 2012 reply from Richard Campbell

      One concern I have with Apple's iBooks Author program is in respect to the EULA 

      I would prefer that Apple would charge for this authoring program and allow the standard file format (epub) be sold wherever the author wanted. Under the current conditions, Apple gets 30% of anything created with this program.

      On a brighter note, it means that individual entrepreneurs who create their own works will be at a competive advantage vis-a-vis the major publishers.



      Jensen Comment
      These days, many people will still prefer the iPad for a number of reasons, including their favorite apps.

      Many of the comments following this article are very favorable.

      I still think Apple's decision to be a monopoly manufacturer of the iPad and not live by open standards is a bummer even though there is a work around for the open standard. Apple just did not seem to learn from its massive loss of PC market share to Windows. Now it may eventually lose market share to Android or Suirfac or whatever. Consumers really do tend to hate monopoly dictators.

      "3 Reasons You'll Buy Google's Nexus 7 Tablet," by Eliot Weisberg, ReadWriteWeb, June 28, 2012 ---

      "Google Nexus 7 Makes Amazon Kindle Fire Irrelevant," by Dan Rowinski, ReadWriteWeb, June 28, 2012 ---

      "Will Google’s New Nexus Q Kill Google TV?" by Mark Hachman, ReadWriteWeb, June 28, 2012 ---

      Bob Jensen's technology bookmarks ---

      Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade ---

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Google Launches $1,299 Chromebook Pixel With 2560×1700 3:2 12.85″ Touchscreen, Core i5 CPU, 1TB Of Google Drive Storage & Optional LTE,," by Frederic Lardinois, TechCrunch, February 21, 2013 --- Click Here

      Google's PR Page --- Click Here
      Full Specs ---

      Two, read that 2, USB Ports!!!!!!
      iPad owners can weep over this.

      Chromebook Pixel Video ---

      "A Quick Tour of Windows 8:  An overview of the user experience design of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system," MIT's Technology Review, February 8, 2013 --- Click Here