Last week we had the first Tablet PC User Group meeting of 2006. The meeting was kindly hostted by Microsoft at their Wellington office. In attendence were about 20 hardy souls from all – some from as far away as Parlmerston North. I was very pleased with the turnout because it was a truly rotten evening outside. The group was also quite diverse and included people from the IT industry, education, health, the public sector and more. We were also very lucky to have not one but two international speakers.
Soon Jinn – Heulab
Our first speaker of the evening was Soon Jinn from Heulab. Soon Jinn is based in Singapore, where Heulab is headquartered.
Heulab has a really cool line of interactice software products designed to facilitate learning in the classroom. I see a lot of technology and frankly the “Fun With” series is one of the coolest uses of technology I have seen in quite some time.
In his presentation Soon Jinn highlighted that students are changing. They are becoming more technolgy saavy and teaching methods need to adapt too.
Tablet PCs are an enabler that – with the appropriate software – can enhance learning and improve outcomes for both the teacher and students.
However, when computers enter the classroom there is a risk that they will become a distraction rather than an enabler. To mitigate this risk Heulab engaged with teachers in the development of the Fun With Virtual Classroom software package that is the core of the classrroom of the future. The key features that teachers desired included:
· Communication and collaboration – but only when initiated and controlled by the teacher.
· Feedback from students
· Classroom management features including:
o Attendance taking
o Monitoring student activities
o Assisting students (using colaboration features)
In his demo Soon Jiin showed:
· Students signing in to the Fun With Virtual Classroom system – thereby taking the attendance.
· The control the teacher has over the classroom
· Students providing feedback to the teacher – e.g. to indicate that they don’t understand.
· The teacher running a quiz
· Students using Fun With Construction tools such as the virtual protractor and ruler to work through a problen.
· Virtual Text Books – in Singapore Heulab is working with publishers to produce books in digital format.
Impromtu Demo of Jumping Minds Ink Gestures
After the first presentation we had a few minutes to fill in before the pizza arrived. I jumped up and did a quick demo of Ink Gestures that showed the basics of the product and applying markup to the TUG Charter docment. I think it is fair to say that several people were blown away (er – by the software, not my demo…) I’ve promised to do a more detailed session in the future.
After a brief break and some much needed pizza we were treated to the second international speaker of the night. Brett Gross is Motion Computing’s newly appointed Country Manager for New Zealand and Australia. Brett gave an overview of Motion and their philosophy on the slate tablet PC.
Next he gave us a view of some of the market verticals that Motion sees as important and talked about how Motion slates are being used in those segements. I was interested to hear that there is some really cool stuff going on in the aviation sector.
Brett finished off by talking in some detail about the LE 1600 and the LS800 tablets and had several units and lots of accessories available for people to have a look at. Very cool.
Next session we look forward to hearing a bit more about what is coming in the Windows Vista for tablet users. We will also be treated to another internation speaker – Hugo Ortega of Tegatech Australia. Hugo is a fanatical tablet blogger, has the rights to disttribute the Tablet Kiosk range of Sahara slates in New Zealand and Australia. In addition Hugo has the rights to distribute the Tablet Kiosk UMPC (Origami) devices and may have some with him. How cool would that be!