Why the eInstruction Mobi tablet could be great… but it isn’t quite yet
Have just been woken up by the hungry foxes in my neck of the woods (this is no euphemism) and, until I get my hands on a Nokia N900, I thought I may update you on the results of my latest playing with the eInstruction Mobi tablet. Even if they have the very annoying habit of releasing versions for their software more quickly than it takes me to go across campus to our IT team and say “right, there is a final stable version..err..though it may be updated by the time you get back from lunch”, I think eInstruction (formerly Interwrite) has done quite a lot for electronic voting in the classroom. In my experience their software has been user-friendly (and almost worked everywhere) and their hardware has been use-friendly (and almost worked everywhere) 😉 Now, with TurningPoint and others stepping up their game quite significantly (a full comparison to follow), the margin for error is shrinking quite a lot, though…
So: eInstruction Mobi. Great little piece of kit. RF (radio frequency) dongle goes into computer USB port and bam, you have a wireless graphics tablet. Potential for being the best thing since sliced bread. But it isn’t quite that yet (not too far off, though).
(image of the instructor Mobi – has a little screen as an extra – from the eInstruction website)
- accuracy: it’s miles better than its predecessor (the Bluetooth Interwrite Pad); faster, too, and your handwriting no longer looks like that of a 2-year-old. You are now officially in Primary school 😉 Seriously now, you no longer have to stay behind a presenter computer to be able to annotate your slides/anything else you are projecting to the class. Nice!
- user-friendliness: it is :). The RF dongle clips on the back of the tablet, the battery life is not bad (I got about 4 hours heavy use last) and to charge it you can either stick it into a docking station (together with 3 more if you have them) or use a USB cable. It’s light and easy to hold. It also has shortcut buttons along its top edge to functions in the dedicated software, but they didn’t work on my machine. Shame.
- independent use: as with (almost) everything else, my first instinct is to use it for anything but its recommended use. The manufacturers have built the Mobi to be used with their proprietary software. However, I just wanted to draw with it, preferably on top of a PowerPoint in slideshow mode. But I couldn’t. WISPTIS.EXE (Windows Ink Services Platform Tablet Input Subsystem) was not going to let me use it and it just kept folding its arms and blowing raspberries at me. The version upgrade recommended on the eInstruction forum didn’t help, either. The last thing I want to try is to bring a Windows 7 machine in and test it then (more to follow today) UPDATE: GREAT NEWS! YEY! I’ve just tried the Mobi on my Windows 7 machine and it just worked!!!! No hassle, no nothing. PowerPoint annotation was possible with the Mobi! Result! Now, how do I get the same result on my XP machine? (sigh… never satisfied, am I?)
- intended use (by that I mean with the proprietary software): I used eInstruction Workspace which is occasionally mental (does anyone actually use the line-of-apples drawing functionality), but generally very cool. Not only can you annotate your computer screen (draw, highlight, insert shapes, lines, and text), but you can insert the annotated screen back into a PPT, open up MS Office files while you annotate something else, record whatever’s happening on the screen, bring in images, switch between mouse mode and annotation mode quite easily (if only those shortcuts on the tablet worked!) and lots more.
By far the coolest thing for me is the possibility of splitting the screen into up to 9 areas, handing out up to 9 Mobis to your students and getting them to work independently at the same time. One of the lecturers I work with has used this to get the students to draw a mindmap: he’s given them the 1st level of headings and assigned one to each group and then students took over. It was great fun, interesting to see the progression from I’ll-draw-something-rude-now to -I’ll-do-work-if-I-don’t-want-the-rest-of-the-group-to-lynch-me.
The secod coolest thing is the integration with eInstruction Response, the e-voting app. What this means is that you can have an ad-hoc or a pre-prepared voting session based on or following some groupwork which uses the tablets. Again, the same lecturer friend got his students to vote after working on the mindmap on the elements which they thought were the most important ones. With the instructor Mobi you get to see on the screen how the votes are shaping up unless it’s a survey question, in which case my screen was no use. In my experience the screen did not always sync with the e-voting software, so I guess a bit more testing would be good…
I think that’s enough for a quick first view. Let me know if it isn’t and I’ll also let you know how I get on with Windows 7 and Mobi. Before I’m off, here’s a tip and a short(ish) clip.
TIP: never try connecting the Mobi, the RF receiver for the e-voting handsets and the old Bluetooth tablets like I did when I wanted to show off all the technology. 4 Win XP machines and 1 Win 7 crashed miserably under the task. Mobi + e-voting seems to be ok, though (fingers crossed 😉