Classroom – Thinkpad Yoga and its Digitizer
I have been using the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga for half a year now. One main feature is that you can turn its screen over 180° to get a tablet feeling. But I have chosen the Yoga because of its digitizer. That is not a capacitive screen which needs a finger or a soft tip to work. It is a real digitizer with pressure sensitive, thin tip. Why is that useful for classroom action?
It turned out that this idea is good. But in a different way than I first thought. The most fruitful tool was a software called Zoomit (now Zoomhub). which I do not use for zooming. Instead, I use its screen annotations. With a simple shortcut red lines can be drawn on the screen. This allows arrows to point out formulas, lines to enhance relations, or circles to emphasize content. Also small drawings are possible or other additional information. For the students, this is useful even if they have no printed versions of the PDF . For it is always difficult to read and listen at the same time, and such screen annotations make it easier to link both.
In classrooms without a blackboard I use OneNote for small computations and demonstrations. Note, however, that a full math lesson cannot be done in this small format. For a math class, I nothing beats a good blackboard.
Couldn’t we just use smartboards (interactive whiteboards)? This may be possible in small classrooms. But I have to teach in a room for 200 students with a presentation surface to huge to write on. We also have a cheap alternative, the camera projection. But this cannot be used to annotate PDF non-destructively, and I would have to print out my slides. Admittedly, the fineness of written computations is a bit better than the one you can achieve with OneNote.
Zoomit has is quirks. The beamer resolution must be the resolution of the Yoga, which is quite high. Not every beamer can do this. If the resolution is lower, Zoomit will zoom in when activated, and it will not show the complete screen. Moreover, annotations will not align to the pen. This is a bug. But since the interface of Zoomit looks a bit antique I have my doubts that it getting fixed. The software is open source no. Maybe someone can help out here.
PDF also has its problems. Unless you have a slide designed for presentations, you cannot use Acrobat’s reader. It will present the PDF page by page in full screen. There are other readers (among them the included reader app for Windows 8) which do a better job. By the way, the annotations of the included reader app are not useful for our purpose. They cannot be deleted easily.
Would I buy the Yoga again? Not really. This PC has too many problems, especially with a second screen. For one, Photoshop often crashes the graphics driver and is then unable to load an image. The computer needs to be restarted in this case. Installing the original drivers from Intel helped a bit, but Lenovo readily updates the drivers to its own choice. Sometimes, the switch from first to second screen did not work properly, and the Yoga changed the resolution to an unreadable mud. To fix this requires a reboot again. The docking station also generates a hum on the loudspeakers. You have to turn them off. Finally, the Yoga is a bit on the expensive side. Last year, however, there was no other choice with a good digitizer. The Microsoft Surface was ruled out because it cannot be opened and fixed easily. With the small money available to universities we have to live with a computer for years.