Sunday, July 18, 2021

Wacom for Education

Using a mouse or a computer touchpad to try to annotate an image on your computer or draw on an online collaborative whiteboard is very difficult. It is just frustrating. That is why I have used external pen tablets over the years. I am not an artist, but I do mark-up presentations, sometimes even when I am presenting live! I also take teachers through sketchnoting practice and show them a great alternative to pencil and paper sketchnoting. During the pandemic, many educators used pen tablets and blank presentation slides or online whiteboards to replace their in-classroom whiteboard when they were presenting from home.

Wacom (pronounced Wok'um) has been the standard in the pen tablet and pen display industry since 1984. I have had a couple of Wacom pen tablets over the years -- the Wacom Graphire in 2002 (which included a mouse and a pen), which we also used in my school's computer lab, and the Bamboo Capture Pen and Touch tablet which I reviewed in 2013.

The thing about Wacom pen tablets is they continue to work forever! I only had to put an USB-C adapter on the USB-A connector for the my 2013 Bamboo Capture Pen and Touch Tablet to work perfectly with my Asus Chromebook Tablet 10 and my MacBook Pro M1!  

The wonder of Wacom is the electro-magnetic pen technology which does not use batteries, always works, is pressure sensitive, and very accurate. In addition, the tablets work great for both left and right handed users!

However, since technology has come a long way since 2013, when Wacom recently contacted me, I was happy to review some of the new tablets and those with new features which are targeted especially for the education market!

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The new One by Wacom comes in two sizes - a small size for $69.95 (8.3 x 5.7 x 0.3 in.) and a medium size for $129.95 (10.9 x 7.4 x 0.3 in.). This pen tablet plugs into a Chromebook and just works! (You will have to install small drivers if you are using a Windows or Mac computer.) 

Chromebooks need to be able to run the a current version of ChromeOS and have a USB port to work with this tablet. This page on the Wacom site contains a list of compatible Chromebooks and USB adapters that work with the One by Wacom.

Also on this compatibility site, Wacom includes a list of pen-supported apps for the Chromebook recommended for use with their pen tablets.
  • Chrome Canvas
  • Google Keep
  • Concepts
  • Jamboard
  • Kami for Google Chrome
  • Explain Everything
  • Collaboard
  • Limnu
  • Pear Deck
  • Squid
  • Infinite Painter
  • Autodesk Sketchbook
  • ibisPaint
  • Clip Studio
  • MediBang paint

One by Wacom

I love the following YouTube video which provides both an overview of the One by Wacom, but also showcases the power of the pen tablet for teachers. The same features highlighted for online teaching are of course, the same features that would make the content engaging for students in a face-to-face classroom.


However, the One by Wacom is not just intended for educators. Students, with a computer, will be able to freehand draw, easily do a math problem and show their work, mark up a peer's English essay with their feedback, sketchnote a lecture in class, create an animation in Google Slides, markup an photo taken during a science lab, take their class notes by hand, and much more. Using a pen tablet is just like writing and drawing by hand, but so much easier to edit and fix! In addition, the drawing pen is also available to be used as a pointer for choosing menu items on the Chromebook or other computer.

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One of the newer features, to me, was the ability to un-tether a pen tablet. The Wacom Intuos Pen Tablet comes with or without Bluetooth, and I was intrigued by the Bluetooth model. The Bluetooth Intuos pen tablet comes in a small size for $99.95 (7.87"X 6.3" x 0.35in.) and a medium size for $199.95 (10.4" x 7.8" x 0.35").

The Wacom Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet comes with the ability to be tethered via a USB cable as well as un-tethered when using its built-in Bluetooth connectivity. I am always a fan of un-tethered technology for a number of reasons. First, one can use this pen tablet without worrying about what kind of USB port your device has. 

But, more importantly, imagine the teacher being able to walk around the classroom with the Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet wirelessly connected to the front end computer which is being projected on a whiteboard or large monitor. The educator can hand off the tablet to students to have them to mark up a book passage, draw an image, or, in cursor mode, take the class on a guided tour of something on the Web. 

I used the Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet, attached wirelessly to my laptop, to create two assets. The first was to sketchnote a TED talk by Matt Cutts.


I could sit comfortably with the pen tablet in my lap, watch the video, and then sketchnote as he went along with his presentation. To create the sketchnote, I used my MacBook Pro M1 and sketchnoted in an Explain Everything whiteboard on the Web, via the pen tablet. Here is a video of my sketchnote process.

My second project was to annotate an image on a slide in Apple's presentation software, Keynote. Now, since Keynote does not include an annotation tool, I used Ipevo's Annotator software on my Mac to showcase the image.

Again, I used the Wacom Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet attached wirelessly to my MacBook Pro M1. It worked great!

I also created a short video showcasing how to use this tablet's Bluetooth capability to control a teacher's laptop at the "front" of a classroom!

My Asus Chromebook Tablet 10 was not on the list for compatibility with the Wacom Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet, but I tethered it and was able to take notes in  Google Keep, as you can see by the video below.

I think the Intuos Pen Tablet, whether wired or wireless, is a great addition to any classroom. Drawing naturally with a pen makes the process more precise and easier to do. I believe the Wacom Intuos Wireless Pen Tablet is a great addition to the teacher's toolbox, since the educator can roam and still draw and control the projected computer screen, as well as hand it off to students to allow them to do the same. This adds to the whole class experience in a big way!

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I have never had the chance to use a pen display. A pen display differs from a pen tablet since you can see what you are drawing both on the display and on the computer at the same time.
Wacom has developed the Wacom One Creative Pen Display (not to be confused with the One by Wacom Pen Tablet) with the education market in mind. Wacom makes high-end pen displays for the professional market. The Wacom One Creative Pen Display, in my opinion, would fit best in a high school or college graphic arts program. With an affordable cost ($399), teachers and students would be using the same technology the professionals use. 

The Wacom One Creative Pen Display has a 13.3" diagonal display. Here are some specs, and much more detail can be found on their site.

Wacom One Creative Pen Display plugs into the Windows or Mac computer and requires an HDMI port and a USB-A port on the computer. In addition, the pen display must be plugged in to electricity using the included power adapter.
Stock photo of a Windows laptop and the Wacom One

For those, like me, that do not have either an HDMI connector or a USB-A port on their computer, an external pass-through adapter is needed for using this pen display. My MacBook Pro M1 has only has two, USB-C Thunderbolt ports. As long as the tablet was plugged into the computer via a USB-A to USB-C adapter, I could use the external pass-through adapter for the HDMI. All I had to do after that was to download the Wacom drivers from their site.

My set-up of a MacBook Pro M1, external pass-through adaptor, and the Wacom One

According to the Wacom site, some compatible computer apps for use of Wacom One Pen Display include:
  • ibisPaint
  • MediBang paint
  • Bamboo Paper
  • Adobe Sketch
  • Infinite Painter
  • Concepts
  • Autodesk SketchBook
  • Adobe Premiere Rush
  • Jump Paint by Medibang
  • Clip Studio Paint
However, I am not an artist, so I decided to test it out using online drawing sites.
On my website, Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything, I have one page that is dedicated to online tools. Here is the list from my site. Remember, these same tools can be used with the Intuos Pen Tablet but the ease of drawing directly on the Wacom One Creative Pen Display felt more natural!

The first thing I tried was to sketchnote that same TED Talk by Matt Cutts I had previously completed. You can see from the shot of what is on the tablet, that I did a much better job this time using the Wacom One Creative Pen Display (Of course, it also could have been due to the fact I had now watched the video two times!)

I looked mostly at tools that did not require a log-in. With no login or saving, students would have to screenshot the drawings when they are finished. (Of course, these online tools work with the One by Wacom pen tablet, too.)The online tools that worked best with the Wacom One Creative Pen Display were:

ABCya Paint is an easy to use drawing tool for the youngest students. The brushes and colors are big and easy to choose and use!


InspirARTion is a great site that offers tons of features, but it did not feel overwhelming. There were pop-up helper tips which would support students as they are learning this online art tool.


Sketch Toy has a grid background, which makes it easy to draw mind maps, mechanical drawings, and project prototypes and keep them neat.


Draw Island has simple drawing tools, but it has layers available, and students can even make a hand-drawn animated GIF from this site.


AutoDraw is a very fun site! With auto-draw turned on, as a student draws, the tool provides artificial intelligence-generated icons of the item the student is trying to draw. It is a great beginner site for the non-artist. And, if one turns off the with auto-draw feature, the blank sheet is able to be used for anything!


If you are a Google Suite user, Google Drawings has a scribble mode which allows the user to draw on the blank sheet, and, of course, embellish it with text, images, or icons that the user pulls in, too.

Another cool thing that I did not think about when using the Wacom One Creative Pen Display, was that it is actually also an external second display! When I shut off "mirror screen" in the Preferences on the Mac, I could see a separate background on the Wacom Pen Display. This would come in very handy for virtual meetings. 

For example, as you can see below, after picking "Play Keynote in window" I could drag my open Keynote presentation to the Pen Display, but I could control the presentation and see my notes on the laptop. When presenting, I would pick the "external display" for the audience to see, and still be able to refer to my notes.

The Wacom One Creative Pen Display is a great pen display. It is easy to set-up and use. It feels natural to draw with the pen. The matte surface makes the pen display feel like a piece of paper, too!

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I want to thank Wacom for sending me the tablets to review and for their development of these new, lower price-point products that provide excellent tablets for K-12 teachers and students! 

Thanks also to Thomas Fresco for help with some items in the post!