The personal learning network for educators
I have always been an advocate of ‘learn anywhere’ principle and breaking down barriers for teachers. Tablet devices such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab have offered potentional to take teaching away from the desktop and freed learners to explore different context. However, as Bill Thompson of the BBC once stated the iPad is ‘consumption device’, used to view the Internet and multi-media. It’s potential as an everyday work device is limited.
This has led me to investigate a number of alternative devices that teachers can acutally work with day to day. One device I am trying at the moment is theLenovo Thinkpad X220t, a laptop with a swivel screen that can be convereted into a tablet device. I was hoping that this would be the best of both worlds.
The Lenovo Thinkpad is quite small, with a screen size of 12.5″, making it a very portable device. The keyboard is comfortable to use and the mouse is responsive. There are a myriad of buttons that offer quick interaction with the software and the functionality is very good. Working in conjunction with Microsoft Windows 7 it’s performance is very good and it has a battery life of around 7 hours.
Once the screen is rotated, it pivots on a central connection which seems very robust, it lies flat into tablet mode. Microsoft Windows also rotates to portrait mode. You can set the laptop to recognise which way it is rotating and have the software respond. However, this is much slower than we are used to with smartphones and dedicated tablets. The screen is very clear and the accuracy of either the pen or your finger is very good. There were no configuration or alignment issues; reading web pages and documents in portrait mode seemed quite natural.
You can see by the thought and functionality that has gone into this device why Lenovo is now the largest producer of computers in the world. They recently overtook HP and shipped 13.77 million units in the last quarter. There has been some ergonomics designed into the Lenovo Thinkpad, but it does not look as ‘good’ as an iPad. Is this a sacrifice that has to be made for functionality?
It’s small screen size could be an issue for those looking for a desktop replacement and even though it has quite a small form, all the functionality comes at a price. The Lenovo weighs 1.8kg and you can feel it. Compared to the iPad at 652g, the Lenovo feels heavy in the hand and you definitely need to rest it somewhere when using it in tablet mode. There are some design features to make the tablet easy to hold, but I felt my hand straining after only 10 minutes of use.
We are deploying the Lenovo Thinkpads to a number of staff members at the college and there will be a full evaluation later in the year. Until then I would think carefully if you are considering investing money in this device. What are your thoughts (please comment)?
I will continue to use the device and explore its effectiveness in different situations. In particular I am looking forward to testing the handwriting recognition software in observations and meetings. Initial testing has shown this to be really good, it even understood my hand writing!! I think the full benefit of this device cannot be realised until a full suite of software is installed to make use of the functionality. However, this being a PC it is not as easy as going to the App Store and downloading an App. Maybe this will change in the future when Microsoft Windows 8, specifically designed for touch interfaces, is rolled out.