We examine the best graphics tablets for online teachers to use in the classroom
Best Graphics Tablets for Online ESL Teachers
Keeping students engaged during online ESL classes can sometimes be a challenge. Adding diversity into your classes can be one of the best ways to keep students, especially younger ones, focused on the lesson and interested in what is being talked about. There are a few different ways that this can be accomplished including using props, digital effects with a program such as Many Cam, and an often overlooked method of drawing and illustrating with a graphics pad. We’re going to discuss the latter of these methods and how you can utilize a graphics pad in your online ESL classes as well as the best graphics tablets for online ESL teachers.
Why would I use a graphics tablet in my online class?
Have you ever used the built-in annotation feature that many online ESL companies have in their courseware and become frustrated? These tools are often quite clunky on their own nevermind if you are trying to draw something with a mouse and in a short amount of time. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just take a pen and draw something simple to illustrate what you are talking about?
If you’ve taught a few classes then you have probably figured out that using pictures and drawing are two of the easiest and quickest ways to illustrate a complex concept. Why try to explain the idea of Christmas or a snowman to a young Chinese child when you can draw a Christmas tree or snowman on a screen and they can connect that to their own understanding from movies. A picture is worth a thousand words and this has never been truer than when trying to teach a new language to a young student who may be on the other side of the world from you.
A graphics tablet allows you to easily and, just as important, quickly, draw items on the screen with more precision and speed than you would ever be able to get using your computer’s mouse. It will also allow you to save time trying to navigate through the annotation software and constantly switch between the different tools that may or may not be available to you at any time.
How can I use a graphics tablet in my online class?
Now that you understand why you would want to use a graphics tablet in your class, you may be wondering exactly how to use it. This can be a bit tricky depending on which company you work for and how their software works, however, it should be easily manageable for almost all teachers.
The best, and for many teachers, the only way to use a graphics tablet in their online classroom will be to pair the graphics tablet with a desktop whiteboard app, of which there are many. This will allow you to quickly switch between the courseware and the whiteboard with just a quick click of the mouse. You will be able to draw what you need to illustrate the point you are trying to make and then get back to the lesson without wasting valuable time.
It really is as simple as this. There won’t be a need for a lot of extra clunky software that will bog down your computer and installation will be as simple as hooking a USB plug into your computer. You can go from those awkward drawings of houses to awesome illustrations that students will actually be able to understand in just a matter of minutes.
What are the best graphics tablets for online teachers?
The XP-Pen sets itself apart from the other graphics tablets on our list in that it is a monitor and not just a pad. This means that you will actually be able to see what you are drawing on the tablet and not just on the computer. This can be of benefit to first-time graphics tablet users who may find it strange not being able to see exactly what they are drawing under their hand and instead having to look at the computer screen. The XP-PEN also has the added benefit of working with both PC and Mac computers.
- As mentioned above, this is a monitor and not just a tablet. This means that you will be able to see what you are drawing on the tablet itself instead of having to look at the computer to see what your hand is doing. This is great for first-time tablet users who may find it a bit strange not looking under their hand to see what is being drawn. It also means you will get more precise drawings.
- The tablet works with both Mac computers as well as PC’s and is not resource intensive. This means that teachers with different computers that meet different spec requirements will easily be able to use the tablet without having to worry about their computer crashing.
- The pen which comes with the XP-PEN has over 8,000 levels of pressure. While this won’t mean much for many teachers who are drawing basic items such as houses and stick figure families, if you have a bit of artistic talent it means you will be able to put it to good use to create more detailed illustrations.
- One of the biggest cons is also the greatest pro. The fact that it is a monitor and you can see what you are doing on the tablet is great. However, one drawback to this is that it takes your focus away from your computer screen and camera. This means that while you are drawing you are going to be looking away from your students down to your graphics tablet. This may be a big problem for some companies so be aware that this could be an issue with this specific graphics tablet.
- This is the most expensive graphics tablet on our list. For most teachers, this specific tablet will be overkill. It is extremely powerful and has a plethora of features which are of great use. However, for the average teacher looking to more easily be able to draw something on the screen, this will be a bit of overkill.
- Some users have reported that the pen can be a little too sensitive if you are heavy handed. They report having a blotting effect due to pressing too hard and having trouble consistently getting the desired pressure without creating this blotting effect. This may be something to be aware of if you know yourself to be heavy handed.
Huion is known brand when it comes to graphics tablets. This means that you are getting the assurance of a brand name with a proven track record for producing quality tablets. The Huion, like the XP-PEN, works well with both Mac computers as well as PC’s which makes it a good option for many different teachers.
- The H610 is light and compact making it a great option for teachers who move around frequently. This is also a traditional graphics tablet, meaning that it has a drawing surface instead of a monitor like the above XP-PEN which means that there is less of a chance of breaking the drawing surface when traveling.
- As mentioned above, this tablet is compatible with both Mac computers as well as PC computers which makes it a good option for all teachers regardless of the type of computer they are using.
- The drawing surface is 10 inches by 6.25 inches which will provide plenty of room for drawing. This makes it a good option for people who have never used a graphics tablet before as there is less need to be precise and there will be plenty of room for movement.
- The pen for the H610 only has 2,000 levels of pressure which means it will be less precise than the above XP-PEN. The upside of this is that if you are a heavy-handed teacher you won’t have as many concerns with blotting from pressing too hard and too much pen sensitivity.
- Some users have reported having significant issues with the drivers when connecting to Windows computers. Specifically, users who are operating with Windows 10 have reported having significant issues. These complaints have been from a small number of users but should be noted if you are using Windows 10.
- One issue that a number of users experience was improper tracking occasionally with the pen where the pen seemed to skip over certain areas of the tablet. Many people noted that this problem did not consistently happen and could be an issue connected to the pen and not the tablet itself.
A less thought of option for a graphics tablet is the Apple iPad. This is certainly going to be the most expensive option, however, if you already have an iPad that is capable of supporting the Apple Pencil then this may be a great graphics tablet alternative. The iPad can be connected to both a Mac computer as well as a PC through a number of different methods and can be used to create illustrations on the computer’s screen.
- Apple is a trusted name in the electronics industry. This means that you can rest assured that you are purchasing a piece of equipment that is going to last for many years and keep up-to-date with your needs.
- As the iPad is a regular tablet and not specifically a graphics tablet, you will be able to use the iPad for many other purposes than just illustrating things in your classroom. This means that it will be easier to justify the expense of the tablet.
- There are many different ways that you can connect the iPad to your PC or Mac including screen mirroring, remote software, and other methods. This means that you can connect wirelessly as opposed to through a USB as with the above graphics tablet. This can be a major plus for teachers who like to stand and move around when they are teaching classes.
- Apple iPads are not cheap. This is the most expensive option on our list. If you are only getting a tablet so that you can create drawings and illustrations to enhance your online classroom this may be overkill in terms of both price, function, and power.
- Using the iPad as strictly a graphics tablet is going to be a bit less straightforward than with the above graphics tablets. This is because you are going to need a way to connect to the computer, whether through remote control software or through screen mirroring. You will also need a whiteboard program for drawing. This is a bit less straightforward than a graphics tablet which has been created for that specific purpose.
- Using the iPad for the purposes of a graphics tablet can be a bit more resource intensive due to the way you are connecting with your computer. If your computer is on the lower end of specs so that you are barely meeting the requirements of your online school then this may not be the best option for you as it may cause your classes to crash.