Lora Heiny, the First Lady of Tablet PCs, sent us over a link on a Microsoft case study in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), the largest school district in Kentucky. JCPS had been dissatisfied with the overall use of technology in the classrooms despite having a significant investment in Macs in the classrooms. After an assessment study, they decided to update the overall plan and gave the teachers Tablet PCs.
JCPS decided to deploy portable computers and digital projectors to teachers in some of its elementary and middle schools for the 2005–2006 school year. Before teachers were given their new technology tools, they completed 18 hours of training. Teachers at 12 elementary schools then received Apple iBook computers, and teachers at 20 middle schools received HP Compaq TC4200 Tablet PCs running the Windows® XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 operating system with the Windows Journal note-taking accessory.
… The Tablet PCs were so well received, in fact, that JCPS ordered more and switched its elementary-school teachers from iBook computers to Tablet PCs.
… “After seeing what teachers can do with Tablet PCs, our principals want them now, too,” says Petersen. “They recognize how easy the Tablet PCs make it to integrate handwritten annotations and electronic documents, give customized presentations, and keep organized.”
I found this interesting because so often we hear about Macs getting used in education and this case study shows how a Tablet PC can actually be easier to use, cheaper, and easier to support than a network of Macs. The ability to use digital ink was a key component of why this solution worked so well. The other key component – training! Even the wonderful, easy to use Tablet PC can be daunting to someone who doesn’t know how best to use the technology. Face it, many teachers were never taught themselves how to incorporate technology into education. Even 18 hours of training on how to integrate the Tablet PC into their workflow apparently made a big difference. Too often I come across people who have a Tablet PC and never use it the the best of its capabilities because they don’t know how. I give them 30 minutes of tutorial and suddenly they’re converted. Makes me think that someone needs to come up with a really good tutorial on using digital ink. Something interactive that new users can walk through, like the training you see when you start a Windows Mobile device for the first time. It could make Tablet PCs better understood and more popular I think.