1 August 2006

e-ink and communication

Today I attended a seminar presented by Birgit Loch (USQ) at Bond University on the use of e-ink for teaching mathematics.

One of the problems faced by mathematicians in the online world is sharing formulae and graphs. While there are some options for typing these, they can be difficult for beginners to learn and slow to create. (Aside: OpenOffice Suite has a Math feature for symbols and formulae)

However, the ability to be able to write (with either a stylus on a screen or graphics tablet, or even with a mouse) can make communication of mathematical formulae and graphs much easier. And it can also be a major e-ink smileyenhancement for digital communication on maps, diagrams, art and other images - other things that don't translate well into text.

If you are in a chat session with a customer and want to give them directions on how to find you in the building you could try sending them a sketch of a floor plan with arrows and hints.

Birgit demonstrated the use of e-ink in instant messaging for running online mathematics tutorials for distance education. Some of the challenges:
  • participants messages on different topics overlapping
  • everyone typing at once
  • students didn't use the e-ink much, although they did like the tutors using it to show how they had worked something out or what a graph would look like.
Other e-ink links
Last year I tried using a digital memo gadget. It wasn't really what we were looking for as the recognition of the handwriting for conversion to text was not ideal (even for a neat hand), but for capturing writing and drawings as images it was quite good. It attached to a clipboard and recorded the writing at the same time as the pen (real ink) wrote on a notepad - designed for later upload to a computer.