01 June 2013

A fantastic opportunity

About a month ago, Wacom contacted me with a fantastic opportunity.  Wacom wants to help teachers, especially those looking to create instructional podcasts, find better ways to make their videos more engaging.  So, being a teacher who makes those types of videos, they asked me to product test one of their
tablets and give share my thoughts on the device.  But, there was a catch (isn't there always?).  Wacom said that no matter how I felt about their product, I had to raffle one away on my blog.  That's right!  Dear readers, one of you will be receiving a brand new Wacom tablet simply for reading this post (details and fine print at the end).  So here are my thoughts on the device.

I was given the choice between the Bamboo Create and the Bamboo Splash.  To be honest, I really knew nothing about either device.  I had used a Bamboo tablet at the Flipped Classroom Conference last year for about 5 minutes.  But, being a Tablet PC user, I have never had the need to use an external tablet.  My attitude has always been 'Go big or go home' so I asked Wacom if I could test the Create simply because it was physically bigger, and I'm definitely happy with that decision.  Here are some of the things I discovered.

First, here is a short video about the product:

  1. I like to do most of my work on my family room couch with my computer in my lap so I prefer devices that do not require me to sit at a table.  With my computer sitting in front of me, the Create's size made it almost like a small lap desk giving me room to lean my arm on the device without interfering with writing.  This was a huge benefit because the extra room around the edge of the writing space meant my arm didn't move the pointer.
  2. Wacom offered me the wireless adapter and I feel that is a definite must.  I do not have a clean desk at work, in fact the only clean spot is usually the small rectangle that my laptop occupies, so something that allowed me to push back from the desk is ideal.  I also like the idea of being as wireless as possible in the classroom and the adapter definitely aides in that.  I found that my writing was still pretty accurate at about 10 feet from the computer.  The product details indicate that it is good up to 10 meters, but I didn't test it that far.
  3. The device has buttons along the side that serve as the left and right mouse buttons, but also 2 that can be programmed as short-cut keys for specific programs.  I didn't have a need for these extra buttons, but the art teachers that I shared the device with found it handy when working with programs like Photoshop.
  4. The device is extremely slim and light weight.  It added very little weight to my computer bag (a concern for my shoulders carrying it back and forth to school) and was easy to carry around in class.  The other benefit of this physically larger device was it rested in my arm nicely as I was writing.  Other, smaller, tablets that I have seen before have to be held in one hand while the person awkwardly writes on it or they have to put it down on a flat surface.  This tablet could be cradled in the arm while writing standing up.
  5. The Bamboo Create came with several different programs that help you not only learn how to use the device, but also to become comfortable with looking away from your hand while writing (more on this below).  I found some of the games extremely useful and fun.  My 5 year old was also able to play the games with little problem.
  6. Absolutely zero issues with inking in PowerPoint and Word.  I was a little concerned about this as my Tablet PC is not really designed to use external tablets and have had issues with other types of third-party devices in the past.  But, the drivers were loaded quickly and PowerPoint treated the device like an external mouse.
So those are some of the positives.  Now let's discuss the drawbacks.

  1. If you are not going to purchase the wireless adapter you will need to plug the tablet into a USB slot with a short cord.  Connected to my laptop, this wasn't much of an issue, but a huge problem with my home desktop.  My CPU is under the desk in my home office and the short cord made it so I had to lean over to use it.  Also, at work, I had to move my keyboard to get the tablet close enough to the computer.  This can be a deal breaker for some users.
  2. Now, to preface, I have been using a Tablet PC for nearly 5 years so I found it difficult to adjust to an external tablet.  I can use my stylus to write directly on the screen, but with an external you need to look at the computer screen while your hand is writing off to the side.  This took me a while to get used to.  My handwriting was so bad for some of my videos that I couldn't read what I was writing.  But, that is a personal issue.  Others who used the device adjusted much faster as they weren't accustomed to doing it a different way.  I think if I had the patience and time to sit walk through all of the training programs, it would have solved the issue.
Other than that, there were no other drawbacks about the device.  My students were eager to try it out and the art teachers in my school are excited to have something that will allow them to do more digital work with the students.  If you are a person looking to take your podcasts to the next level, move to a paperless environment (great for annotating on work students submit digitally!), or make what you current do with a mouse easier, this is the device you are looking for.  Seems like a winner for everyone!

So, here is how the giveaway is going to work.  Think of different ways that your classroom, students, and teaching methods could be improved by having a Wacom Bamboo Create and leave your ideas as comments below.  Comments will be accepted for the next 7 days.  You can earn additional entries by tweeting about this blog post, and following me on Twitter.  On Saturday, June 8th, the winner will be randomly selected and announced on this blog.  Thank you to everyone and Good Luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway