Tablet PCs in college: a Hokie requirement


Tablet_training_aidNo, not a "hokey" requirement; it’s wonderful that schools are embracing Tablet PCs. Mandating them appears to be a different story however. Want to study at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering as a Hokie? Get your credit card and your digital pen ready because you’ll need a Tablet PC. While the school is trying to negotiate better pricing for the students, not all of the collegians are happy with the rule. One student indicated that the technology isn’t even used that much:

"The average engineer willuse that laptop for the two intro courses and that’s it. As in anymajor, they will take it to class and sit in the back and chat on AIM.That’s the most use it gets after those intro courses."

What a tragedy, as a Tablet PC strikes me as almost perfect for a visual discipline such as Engineering. Instead of an enabling device, the Tablet PC appears to the students as an unjustified expense for an underused laptop. C’mon profs! If your school is going to force a Tablet PC purchase, "get your ink on" and draft some designs with Microsoft OneNote or brainstorm your syllabus with Mind Manager!


Virginia Tech Tablet User

While DyKnow is sometimes used in sophomore level courses, only the professor needs a tablet to make it effective. On the student side, OneNote and MindManager might work well for sketching, notetaking, prototyping and the like, but the real issue is that in later courses, we are required to turn in finished work in professional grade formats.

Only in the introductory courses are the assignments so half-baked that a sketch is a acceptable submission. For tablets to be really useful in, for example, electrical engineering, there needs to be something along the lines of Crayon Physics: The Circuit Simulator that can recognize circuit symbols, allow you to assign them necessary values, and then simulate the results.

Without these sorts of intelligent input recognition capabilities, the tablet is just a burden required for the introductory courses. All the software used at higher levels were made for keyboard and mouse interaction. The university seems to think they can get Fujitsu to encourage more tablet software development through exclusive deals with the vendor, but there doesn’t seem to have been much yet. In my opinion, for progress to actually happen, the university needs to tap into the open source community and even pave the way itself, like VT and many other universities are doing right now with Sakai (at Tech it’s branded as Scholar).

Virginia Tech student

Yeah we’re all really shocked by the recent shootings at Virginia Tech. We don’t know if the immediate response by the administration was sufficient to contain the threat, and it’s unclear what exactly motivated the killer. Now all we can do is mourn for the victims…

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