Editor’s note: The Following post was written by Lecturer in Media Technology at UoD, Kit Lane. Kit has been trialling some of the latest technology available for use in eMarking and we’re very grateful to him for being both a part of the pilot scheme and for authoring this post.
A few weeks ago I was invited to join a pilot scheme using touchscreen laptops for eMarking. I’m never one to turn down a new gadget (as my wife would confirm) so obviously I said yes. In this post I’m going to give you my initial thoughts on using the laptop as well as my previous experience of eMarking. Next time I’ll be telling you about how the eMarking went using the laptop.
I’ve been using Turnitin for several years and I had explored GradeMark (the eMarking part of Turnitin) on an informal basis. However, last semester I used GradeMark for real to mark a level 4 assignment. I found the system fairly straightforward to use but overall it took longer to mark that particular assignment than it would normally have. This could be partly due to my lack of familiarity with the system but I think it was mostly a consequence of the format of the work I was marking. Rather than a traditional essay or report the assignment demanded a number of short responses (one or two sentences) to a variety of questions and tasks. Each of these required some form of comment, even if it was only the equivalent of a ‘tick’. Consequently I had to repeat one of the following processes many times.
- Move hand to mouse and move cursor to correct position on screen
- Click to initiate comment.
- Move hands to keyboard and type comment
- Move hand to mouse and select “QuickMark” comment
- Move hands to keyboard and type comment.
The time taken to move between mouse and keyboard and back again was significant.
This is where a touchscreen device might just be the answer. If I could use an electronic ‘pen’ then a lot of switching between input devices would be eliminated. At least, that is the theory.
The laptop that has been provided for the pilot is the HP EliteBook 2760p. There is a comprehensive review on this site. It is similar in size to a netbook, with a 12” screen, but is a bit thicker and heavier than a normal modern netbook of equivalent size. It is a well featured laptop and came with Microsoft Office installed and is running Windows XP Tablet edition. I also received a docking station with built-in DVD drive as well as a separate DVD drive.
Of course, the real trick up its sleeve is the touchscreen. You can use a finger or the provided ‘pen’ with the screen to carry out all the normal mousing tasks. When you need to enter text you can pop up a text entry window (or you can leave it open all the time). You can select letters from an onscreen keyboard or simply write on the screen and the software will convert your scribble into text. The amazing aspect of this is that the device can understand my frankly appalling handwriting. I was really expecting to have to modify my writing style but so far I haven’t really needed to.
With reliable handwriting recognition you don’t really need the physical keyboard. The screen can rotate and fold flat to turn the laptop into a tablet device which makes writing on the screen much more comfortable. The EliteBook has plenty of other goodies including a webcam, fingerprint reader and built in keyboard light.
The verdict so far is very positive. It’s a perfectly good laptop that is more than adequate for most day to day functions. The touchscreen works well and the handwriting recognition is very promising. I am looking forward to trying it out with some eMarking over the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know how I got on.