January 18 Day 316: Beginner’s Mind

This quarter I am teaching the second course in the two quarter sequence of undergraduate abstract algebra. I use inquiry based learning and that means I need everyone to be able to present and share their work with others.

I wish everyone could have an iPad (or any other touch screen tablet). But it is not realistic to ask students to purchase one if they do not already have access. We make heavy use of shared whiteboards and writing with a mouse is less than ideal.

Since they did not have to purchase a textbook, I thought asking them to invest in a digital writing tablet (like the Wacom Intuos for $80) was not unreasonable. The Wacom tablet was recommended by a colleague, so I in turn recommended it to my students. Then I decided to purchase one too, to learn what their experience would be like.

It arrived this weekend and I have been playing with it in anticipation of using it in class tomorrow.

It takes getting used to since I look at the computer display while writing on the tablet. In fact, it reminds of figure drawing classes where the instructor told me to keep my eyes on the model and not watch my hand.

What have I learned so far?

  • Despite it’s name, its not as intuitive as I would like it to be. I keep wanting to use two fingers to expand my view (as I would on my mouse pad or my iPad) but that doesn’t work. So there is definitely retraining to do.
  • It works fine with Limnu so far.
  • My computer has dual monitors and the default setting was for the 4″x6″tablet to map to both screens, giving a 4×3 area for each monitor. That wasn’t enough space to have great accuracy in my movements with the pen. But then I learned to toggle between monitors, and the accuracy and legibility of my writing greatly improved.

I have one immediate question:

Can I use the Wacom tablet to take screenshots and paste them into a Limnu board the way I can with my keyboard and mouse?

I’m sure I will learn loads more tomorrow as I jump into the fray. As a novice using the device, I don’t feel like I know the right questions to ask. For those of you who are more experienced with the Wacom tablet, what is the most important tip, trick, or advice you would pass along to someone just beginning this journey?

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

One thought on “January 18 Day 316: Beginner’s Mind

  1. From Lauren Lazarus @LLazarusMath on Twitter

    My quick tips:
    – make sure your cursor is visible/bold color on your screen (so you can see where your pen is hovering before you write/click, without looking at tablet)
    – don’t think *too* hard about it
    – use Wacom menus to program the 4 buttons (“undo” is a useful choice)


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