Writing is fundamental to learning, and humans have been doing it since the first cave dwellers used the end of a stick to smudge drawings on the walls of their homes. Parents thinking of buying a tablet for their child may think touchscreen technology is heralding the end of writing for their kids. Not so, education and technology pros say. A new generation of “pens,” designed for use with tablets and touchscreens, is bringing one of the oldest human communication tools into classrooms that have already entered the digital age.
Unlike early styluses that forced users’ hands into unnatural positions, these pens allow users to draw, write, highlight, annotate and more on their digital touchscreens in a natural manner – making the pens ideal for use in classrooms where youngsters are learning the mechanics of writing in tandem with other subjects. With pens, students can rest their wrists on the tablet surface, just as they would if using a notepad and ink pen or pencil.
“Employing pen technology in the classroom engages students in learning and allows educators to maximize the versatility and benefits of the technology they’re already using,” says Paige Johnson, K-12 education strategist for Intel Corporation. “Pens free both students and teachers, fostering creativity in children and allowing teachers to move more freely around the classroom to collaborate with students during class.”
The advantage of a pen is simple and easy to see. If you’ve ever hit the wrong buttons on your mobile device’s virtual keyboard and ended up with gibberish (and who hasn’t), you’ve experienced the limitations of fingertips: they can’t make as fine a point as a pen can. Pens give young students the flexibility to alternate between the broader strokes of their fingertips and a more precise interface, depending on which is appropriate for the task at hand.
Pioneering educators at Cincinnati Country Day School are using pen technology to virtually eliminate paper from the classroom and homework. In 1996, the school was the first in the country to ensure every student had a computer. Today, all homework and assignments are done on hybrid PC/tablets, allowing students to write, annotate, highlight and draw with their digital pens. Integrating pen technology into the classroom has resulted in increased student engagement and collaboration at Cincinnati Country Day School.
Parents looking to maximize pen technology as part of students’ education can use it in numerous ways. As you shop for a device for your child, keep these benefits in mind:
* Pens foster more room for an interactive, creative and engaging learning experience for students, facilitating non-linear thinking at all age levels.
* Writing with a pen and paper is one of the first things young students learn. Digital pens reinforce handwriting lessons for younger students, allowing them to hold the pen in a natural way.
* Pens give students the flexibility to 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.
*Pens allow students in higher math and science classes to write out complex formulas and make diagrams more easily and quickly.
Another great resource for parents and teachers who are on the market for a new device is the K12 Blueprint, found online at www.k12blueprint.com. Sponsored by Intel Corporation, this website is a free resource for planning and implementing technology initiatives in districts. You’ll find useful information, including practical guidelines, funding advice, curriculum considerations and real-world success stories.
“For a while, it seemed as if styluses – and possibly even handwriting itself – would become obsolete as touchscreen capabilities opened up new horizons in computing,” Johnson says. “New pen technology is proving that won’t be the case. As parents shop for technology for their children, they should keep in mind that in the classroom, the pen can be just as mighty as the fingertip.”