A few comments on Elky Langer’s proposed scenarios.
1. Using the Airliner of similar digitizer tablets (e.g. Wacom digitizers) either wired or wireless, is not as simple as it may seem. It requires a significant amount of eye-hand coordination since you are moving your hand based on what you are seeing on a screen across the room. I experimented with such a setup (a USB wired Wacom digitizer pen tablet ~$35)and found that I did not have the coordination or dexterity for it to be a worthwhile endeavor, although my results did improve when I was seated and was using the digitizer tablet as one would use a mouse. Since I too tend to move around my classroom, the fixed desk approach is not a viable option for me.
2. Although I have been using the tablet PC for a short time now I find that I am most comfortable using it based from a moveable lectern. I have the Tablet PC connected to an LCD projector wirelessly (it uses the WiFi 802.11g protocol not Bluetooth) and have the projector on a desk mid-classroom pointing at my white dry-erase board. The projector does occasionally get bumped or jarred but since it does not have to be re-oriented, it is not particularly disruptive to an ongoing lesson.
3. While new Tablet PCs are pricier than standard laptops (they start at around $800-900) used and refurbished models are available for substantially less (e.g. $400-$500 for a Gateway M275 still under the original Gateway warranty). Since what you are probably doing in the classroom will not be stretching the capabilities of an older machine (assuming you are not trying to run MS Windows Vista), you should enjoy the benefits of a Tablet PC without breaking the bank.
4. An unanticipated advantage to the Tablet PC setup versus the whiteboard setup relates to classroom management. When I use the Smartboard I have to turn my back on the class, just as when I write on the whiteboard. When using a Tablet PC I do not have to turn my back on the class. (While I am sure that absolutely none of us have students who might act up while a teacher’s back is turned ;) this may be a factor for those “other” teachers who may have such issues.)
5. I liked the Smartboards with the built in projector, but felt guilty investing in a non-sharable resource. While I like the idea of always having access to the resource, I realize that I will not be using it every period every day. This leads me to my next point…
6. My students were enthralled the first time I used the Smartboard, in every class since they have been asking for me to use it But like any other tool it is not a panacea and it certainly can be misused or overused. I am finding that one of the challenges in developing technologically dependent lessons is maintaining a balance. I want to be sure that I will be using the technology when it will improve and enhance the learning experience rather than using technology for its own sake.