Education Technology: Graphic Tablet and Interactive Whiteboards – a non-iPad, non-iMac, non-tablet PC based quest inspired by the Khan Academy.
(If you are here because of Sal Khan – Khan Academy screen recording recipe and you want to do it on a PC, its Camtasia, Wacam Bamboo or Genius Graphic Tablet and Smooth Draw or if you have issues with Smooth Draw, Uniboard. There, just saved you a few minutes of reading the full post)
Ever since I saw Salman Khan at Khan Academy at work I wanted to do the doodling education bit that is so quickly changing the world of education, training and learning.
The only problem was my wallet and my ability to buy a tablet. Salman had been generous enough to share his recipe for recording (Camtasia, Wacom Bamboo, SmoothDraw3) which saved the rest of us at least a few years of research and frustration. Camtasia too came with a trial edition, but the Bamboo tablet was an issue priced at 700 Dirhams in Dubai it was beyond what I could fork out. And if the 700 dirham Bamboo pen tablet was an issue the 800 dollar iPad was definitely out of question.
In March 2011, we finally uploaded our first video based course using a combination of Camtasia, Powerpoint and Excel. Before we knew it, our inventory had grown to 12 hours of video instruction and 4 courses on computational finance and risk. Then came the feedback which suggested that while the Excel sheets were bearable the Microsoft power point editions did not cut it. You had to doodle to keep the audience engaged.
For the next two months I lusted after an iPad or a Tablet PC trying to figure out a way to hack it from a friend or family member long enough for me to record at least a few sessions. My luck changed in July when Jehan won an iPad2 at the social media conference and I managed to pinch the iphone from my younger artsy sister. A fair bit of experimentation followed with both – my second encounter of the fourth kind with apple technology.
Unfortunately after a few weeks of research it was clear that while the iPad was an unbeatable tablet in terms of performance and experience, the white boarding and screen recording functionality was not at par with what we could do with Camtasia on Windows.
Given what I needed to do, the iPad would not cut it. And if the iPad couldn’t do it, neither could the half dozen other tablets (Dell Duo touch) and netvertibles (Lenovo S10-3t) and cheap touchpads (Toshiba U505). There were whiteboards and doodle boards but they didn’t do screen recording. The ones that did screen recording (showme) didn’t do page flipping. The ones that did page flipping, panning and zooming, didn’t work as well. And even if they all did manage to come together my fat fingers couldn’t simply draw a thin line on the touch surface. I needed a stylus or a pen.
In the mean time and in parallel with the above search Amir (my long lost cousin from across the border) found a much cheaper and bigger alternate for the Wacom Bamboo tablet. This was the Genius Graphic Tablet (i608) for 400 hundred Dirhams and change. The first attempt at making the Genius tablet work with my laptop was a horrific disaster. Nothing worked. Given the amount of gadgets we tend to install and play with our expectations about plug and play while current were out of line with the Genius Tablet. After the frustrating search above revealed that the iPad would not help me walk Salman Khan’s road, I came back to the graphic tablet one more time and on this attempt started by installing the drivers first before trying out the hardware. Surprise, surprise the missing driver made a difference.
But Sal was not done with me yet. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t make SmoothDraw work with Genius. Nor could I use the default application that came with it. Being a geek while I can find my way through an IDE put me in front of a Corel Draw or Painter and I am as lost and confused as my young children. What do I do next?
One option was to simply do everything on the Promethean board at a client site in Abu Dhabi. And while I had access, getting Camtasia to work on the client machines was going to be an issue.
Luckily enough Google stepped in. Interactive Whiteboard for Graphic Tablet PC is the key word you need. Which led me to Uniboard – one of the best white boarding applications for PC’s (not iPad nor iMac) that you can find. It does page flipping, backgrounds, colors and screen recording all in one. While the screen recording functionality is in beta and a bit dodgy, you can sidestep that by using Camtasia. More importantly as long as you are happy with the Uniboard add (I am happy), the application is free. And for your personal use the pc license without advertising is only 49 US$ dollars.
And though my skills with a pen, paper and tablet leave much to be desired (I must have flunked art in school), I was atleast able to put my first lesson online. Nothing compared to the great Khan from San Francisco, but sufficient enough to complete my six month quest for publishing a meaningful doodling lesson.
Thank you Salman, Camtasia and Uniboard.
Here is the sample 15 minute first shot.
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