Tilman Wolf

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Technology in the Classroom

Tablet PC Instruction

A topic that is important to me as a teacher and that I have spent much time on is the use of and for course management. During my year as a Lilly Teaching Fellow, I had the opportunity to discuss with my peers our experiences as teachers and study how to advance our teaching. The use of technology was a frequently raised topic and my key revelation was that technology must not dominate the classroom. While course management tools are undoubtedly a great help (I have been using WebCT for several years), it is less clear how much technology should enter the classroom itself. I used to think that having carefully polished PowerPoint presentations in my course was the pinnacle of teaching preparation. Yet, it has become clear to me that it does not automatically lead to great teaching. A fully predetermined structure makes it more difficult to engage students in the lecture and to react flexibly to questions and the natural flow of the lecture. Since Fall 2005, I have switched to Classroom Presenter, which augments presentation slides with live annotations, drawings, and free-hand writing using a Tablet PC. With this change, I am able derive key concepts live and at a pace that is more suitable for student learning, but still benefit from having some prepared figures, formulae, and other content readily available. Portability and a wireless connection to the projection system allow me to pace the room and interact with students close-up. The initial responses to this lecture style has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am excited about being able to capture students' attention. Since Fall 2006, I have used Tablet PCs in discussion sessions (as part of the HP-sponsored Tablet PC project).


Images from the Classroom

Tablet PC based instruction Tablet PC based instruction