Ideas, always ideas

As I mentioned earlier I am teaching a Python course this semester.  Since I could not spell Python three months ago I am learning it on the fly as I teach it.  Not an optimal system but it works.  As I am reading the textbook (‘Think Python’ by Allen Downey) I am writing lecture notes into a Word document.  The usual “things I want to talk about today” notes.  I then print the notes and use them as a guide during the class.  (I have a tendency to hop around if I do not have a guide.)   As I use the notes I write comments to myself on the hard copy.  Things like “end of day 1”, “move this topic here”, “expand on this” and so on.  This is all and fine except I then have to print the notes again with the revisions, and some of the comments I do not want typed, I just want the hand written because they may change or they are just arrows.  So I sits and thinks (always dangerous).  What I need is a large tablet, a stylus and software that lets me write on a Word document.  The large tablet because I am blinder than a bat and the stylus so the things I note down go where I want them.  (Writing with a finger just does not work, it is unnatural and the finger is too large.)  I think Inking with Word should do the trick for software.  This combination will allow me to use the tablet as my lecture notes “binder” and allow me to make the changes easily.  It will also store the annotation I make to the document.  Inking has some issues, one of which is it does not come by default with Office 2007 (the version the school uses) but I have managed to get it working with some trickery.  I actually have some old Fijutsu swivel top laptops to try this on.  They are heavy and slow but we own them which is a big plus, and they have a stylus.

I have always been resistant to ebooks because I cannot write in them.  I am a terrible book doodler.  I want to highlight, circle, draw arrows, and scribble in the margins.  I want the kids to be able to doodle in their books and for some reason the school does not like kids doodling in $100 text books.  I printed a hardcopy of the book for each kid.  Lots of paper.  The glitch with doodling in ebooks is the format the ebook is in.  “Think Python” is a pdf.  I do not know how to write on and save the writing on a pdf.  Converting pdfs to Word docs does not work, all sorts of strange things happen.  More thinking required here.

Alfred Thompson’s last blog had to do with using technology to teach with.  There are sometimes just so many glitches to overcome (pdf ebooks for example) that it is not worth the trouble but other times there are things out there that we should be able to do that would be so sweet if we could do them easily.  The tablet idea I want to try I think has possibilities for what I want, but I can buy a pretty good Windows Pro laptop for $400 while an equivalent tablet is $900.  A laptop with a touch screen is an option but that adds 20% to the price.  This puts a crimp in some of these teaching with technology ideas.   When you want to buy 20 or 30 of the things on a low income private school budget that difference is very important.  The iPad is a solution but switching from one platform to another and dealing with software conversions (something iPadish to Word) gets to be a pain.  One of the kids has a Surface RT.  I am going to have to borrow the thing from him.

Problem solving, always problem solving.  I love this job.


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