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The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard: Implementing Digital Ink In The Engineering, Humanities, Mathematics, And Science Classrooms

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Tablet and Portable PCs for Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1249.1 - 15.1249.6



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Paper Authors

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Julia Williams Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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M. Hossein Hariri Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Sudipa Mitra-Kirtley Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Shannon Sexton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Implementing Digital Ink in the Engineering, Humanities, Mathematics, and Science Classrooms Abstract The use of digital ink devices in the engineering, mathematics, and science classrooms offers a promise of improved student learning and faculty teaching. To this point, however, assessment of the impact of digital ink technologies (both hardware and software) has only begun. Our project focused on student note-taking strategies during course lectures. The use of tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision software provided faculty the opportunity to share prepared notes while students could annotate those notes during class. Our results regarding the impact on student note-taking strategies indicate that students must re-imagine their traditional classroom role, from scribe to reflective learner.

Measuring the Impact of Digital Ink on Students’ Note-taking Strategies Recent developments in educational technology have provided instructors with an effective tool to implement in their classrooms. Tablet PCs and pen slates provide a stylus that allows the user to input data (in the form of digital pen strokes) through a variety of applications, such as ink annotations in word processing software and handwriting in notebook software. While these innovations offer a promise of improved student learning and faculty teaching, researchers are only beginning to measure these impacts in any systematic way.

Since 2003, faculty members at our institution have been implementing digital ink through tablet PCs and slates in engineering, humanities, mathematics, and science courses. As these implementations have been developed, we have conducted assessments of the projects and reported these results to the faculty, as well as presented some of the findings at professional conferences and in conference proceedings. This paper is an attempt to synthesize the multi-year results and offer findings on the impact of digital ink implementations on student learning, particularly in an area that is significant in the college classroom context: students’ note-taking strategies.

Research into Student Note-taking Strategies No image better characterizes the college classroom than row upon row of students bent over notebooks transcribing both the professor’s lecture and the equations, diagrams, and notations that appear on the whiteboard at the front of the room. Such may be our conventional ideal of the college classroom, but from the perspective of pedagogy, no system may be less effective for student learning. As Kenneth Kiewra of the University of Nebraska Lincoln has noted, “notetaking during lectures is occasionally no more effective than not recording notes . . . because of the often incomplete notetaking styles of college students”1 A better procedure, Kiewra suggests, is to “supply learners with a set of notes prepared by the instructor, rather than have them [students] record and review personal lecture notes. Under such conditions, students would not have to divide their attention during acquisition between listening and notetaking and could subsequently review a far more complete set of notes than they would review typically.”1

Such an approach is used in many classrooms on our campus. Instructors prepare skeletal notes that students fill in as the class proceeds. Included in the notes are the equations, drawings,

Williams, J., & Hariri, M. H., & Mitra-Kirtley, S., & Sexton, S. (2010, June), The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard: Implementing Digital Ink In The Engineering, Humanities, Mathematics, And Science Classrooms Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16122

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015