Using Tablet PCs as "Labtops"

By Sandy Chapman

HP Compaq Tablet PC with Rotating KeyboardThe Tablet PC is a mobile computer shaped like a notebook. The operator uses a digital pen, stylus, or fingertip, and a touch screen, instead of the standard mouse and keyboard. These extremely functional Tablet PC characteristics make for a wide variety of uses capable of enhancing the learning experience.

Business, engineering, computer science, math, and science course instructors, along with those from other disciplines, are employing Tablet PCs in many creative ways. For example, at Colorado State University, Dr. Stephen Thompson, Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Science Mathematics and Technology Education (CSMATE), has received a 2006 - 2007 Technology for Teaching grant from Hewlett Packard for the purpose of improving learning in the classroom through innovative technology.

In what he calls the "Labtop Project," Thompson's students use the Tablet PC as a virtual lab—hence the term Labtop—in first-year chemistry courses. The Labtops integrate many course components: lectures, labs, homework and field work, note taking, complex problem solving, library research, simulations and models. Add-on peripherals such as scanners and photo and video equipment further extend The Tablet PC functionality.

In the field of chemistry the Labtops can help students:

  • Visualize chemical structures and reactions
  • Graph information with specialized discipline-specific software
  • Observe and take notes on Small-Scale chemical reactions
  • View and analyze materials through a spectroscope
  • Study polarized light
  • Examine organic molecules and geological samples
  • Do plant material color analysis with embedded colorimeter
  • Solve quantitative problems using a virtual graphing calculator
  • Visualize 200 chemical reactions using template simulations
  • Magnify images like a microscope

For a 20-minute, downloadable Quick-time video explaining the Tablet PC's LabTop science-teaching and learning applications go to the Smallscale Chemistry page on Colorado State University's Center for Science Mathematics and Technology Education (CSMATE) Web site.