A Natural Handwriting Experience
In a recent article,2 Dr. Benjamin Lieberman notes that as infants, we know instinctively to reach out with our bodies to explore the new and exciting world around us. Our first fumbling attempts allow us to learn the advantages and limitations of our “built-in” tools—our hands and fingers. Soon, however, we learn that to have a more effective hold on our world, we need other tools that provide greater precision than our fingers, such as pens for drawing and writing.
Approaches to Digital Interaction
This also applies to the digital world, and although we have learned to communicate through fingertip typing on our smartphones, this is not the ideal means of communication—especially for educational purposes. There are three different ways to interact with a mobile device using a modern touch screen:
- Fingertip. Touching the screen with a fingertip is convenient and intuitive, but imprecise.
- Passive stylus. While low in cost, passive styli have blunt tips, which means they are not very precise, limiting their usefulness for tasks such as note taking and graphing.
- Active stylus. Capacitive styli are pressure-sensitive, allowing users to draw fine lines and affording more accuracy. Younger students can use active styli to reinforce handwriting lessons while older students can write out complex formulas, draw fine edges, and incorporate shading.
Considerations for a Natural Experience
Unlike early styli that forced users’ hands into unnatural positions, active styli or digitized pens allow students to draw, write, highlight, annotate, and rest their hands on the screen for an easier, more natural writing experience. Key benefits of digitized pens include:
- Creativity. Pens foster more room for an interactive, creative, and engaging learning experience, facilitating non-linear thinking at all age levels.
- Usability. Younger students can hold the pen in a natural way, reinforcing handwriting lessons.
- Flexibility. Students can choose the best tool for the task at hand, whether it’s a pen, their fingers, or the keyboard. The pen is a creativity tool. The keyboard is a productivity tool. Sometimes you need one, and sometimes you need both.
- Efficiency. Pens allow students in higher math and science classes to write out complex formulas and make diagrams more easily and quickly.
Digital Interaction in the Classroom
Students of all ages benefit from digital pens and touch screens, across curriculums.
- Language arts. Beginner readers can trace letters while hearing them read aloud. More students of all grade levels can take notes, highlight, and annotate reading assignments and worksheets, and create story and concept maps.
- Math and science. Students can annotate or mark things up with the pen, complete equations, create graphs and diagrams, record observations in class or in the field, illustrate concepts, create models, and follow hot-links to deeper content.
- Learning. 2 in 1 devices with sensitive touch screens and digitized pens support creativity and imagination. Students can capture video and audio while taking notes, share class work, collaborate, and engage in peer review.
- Teaching. Teachers can interact with students across activities and multitask among applications for lab work, research projects, and more. They can annotate files, mark up assignments on the fly, or sketch out illustrations to clarify concepts for their students.
- Access. Students and teachers can access a wide range of free, compatible software applications, and digital content for education.