Dr. Franzoni participated in a year-long faculty fellowship organized by Dr. Lisa Huettel to experiment with using tablet PCs in teaching. In Spring, 2007, she taught ME 141L, Mechanical Design, using tablet PCs with her students. She lectured every class period using a tablet PC and Ubiquitous Presenter. Approximately every other class period the students shared a tablet PC (2 or 3 students per group) to work on problems together. The students submitted their solutions and Dr. Franzoni discussed the solutions with the class.
She is enthusiastic about using the tablet PC as a replacement for the blackboard and chalk. She likes choosing colors and having a different screen than her students (i.e., so she can see hidden text or guidelines for drawing). She saves the file when she is finished lecturing for reference. For example, she could look back at the previous lecture to see where she left off just before class starts. In the past, she would sometimes have to look at a student’s notebook to see how far she had gotten in her handwritten notes.
Teaching with tablet PCs has allowed her to focus on student understanding, since they are working the problems rather than watching her work the problems. In reviewing their work, she can stop and ask where did this or that result come from and see if the rest of the class knows. She is now constantly facing the class or moving around the room interacting with the students. In the past, her back would have been to them at least part of the time, in order to write on the board. She prefers the face-to-face contact and would not go back to teaching to the blackboard.
One student said “the professor was able to be much more thorough when using the tablet PC. The screen was easier to see from anywhere in the classroom, and the use of colors emphasizes points that the professor makes”.