(Posted by Fiona)
I have been watching the developments of touch screen technology with interest over the last couple of years. Touch screens make computers accessible from an earlier age. Very young children find the concept of a mouse difficult, as they can’t make the link between moving the mouse and the cursor moving on the screen. It makes much more sense for them to interact with the screen directly. Touch screen devices used to be very expensive, with tablet PCs and Ultra Mobile PCs costing around £800. This is now changing, and I have been looking at two devices which look very promising for 2 and 3 year old children.
The first is the Fizzbook Spin from Zoostorm, a netbook with a touch screen and stylus, whixh costs around £330. It can be used with the keyboard and mousepad, or converted to use as a tablet with the stylus. It is possible to use the touch screen with your finger, but you need to press quite hard before it responds. I tried it out with muy son aged 2 years 10 months, and after about 10 minutes he was perfectly happy using the stylus to navigate the Poisson Rouge website. He was really pleased that he could do it independently, rather than asking me to move the mouse to select what he wants to look at. Here’s a video of my son using the Fizzbook. It seems to be appearing 3 times at the moment, I’ll remove the extra ones when I work out what the problem is!
The second one to watch is the Eee Top from Asus, a touch screen desktop computer which is a bit like a mini interactive whiteboard with the computer built into the monitor. I tried one last week and found the touch screen very sensitive and easy to use. It comes with an ‘Apple’ style mini keyboard and mouse. It would fit very nicely in an early years setting, and costs around £380. There are larger models with more powerful processors, but I think the basic version is fine for schools. With the release of Windows 7, a touch screen friendly operating system, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more touch screen technology in the near future.
(Posted by Fiona)
I recently had a meeting with Samsung to look at their new products, and was very impressed by their NC10 Netbook. A netbook is basically a small, portable laptop, designed to give you access to the internet and core ICT tools wherever you need it. Netbooks are cheaper than full size laptops, and are useful for increasing access to ICT in the classroom.
The NC10 runs Windows XP Home Edition, making it suitable for installing most educational software.Â It has a 10.2″ screen, and is very compact and lightweight. I found the keyboard very user friendly, and could type on it as easily as on a standard laptop keyboard. The real strength of the NC10 for the classroom is the battery life – 6 to 7 hours, in other words a full school day! Priced at around Â£275, it compares very well with Windows version of the Eee PC. It has good looks as well as performance, and comes in aÂ choice of colours – black, white or blue. For full details and specification, see the Samsung website.
The Smart Multitouch table has now arrived in Britain. The new device is an educational version of Microsoft Surface. It allows a group of children to work together on an interactive table top. I haven’t seen it myself yet – at present I would have to travel to the Steljes HQ in Surrey to see one in action. I have been looking at the internet coverage of the release, which includes press releases and videos of the table in action.
There is already a great deal of controversy, mainly caused by the price – the initial retail price will be around Â£5499, which puts it out of reach of most schools for the time being. The forum postings make interesting reading, with some people unimpressed by the videos of the table in action, and the usual split between the technology enthusiasts and the doubters. I am waiting to see the real thing before I form an opinion.
See the table on the Smart website:
For the Smart press release see:
For videos and opinions see:
This week I have been evaluating some of the latest digital audio resources for developing speaking and listening. A large range of digital sound recording devices is now available, with models to suit all ages and budgets.The most simple of the devices are the Talking Tins from Talking Products (http://www.talkingproducts.co.uk/), and Talking Point from TTS (http://www.tts-group.co.uk/). These devices are suitable for very young children, as they only have 2 buttons – record and play. They come in a 10 or 30 second version, and are very cheap starting at around Â£3.50 each. They could be used by children to record words or sentences, as a scaffold for writing, or by teachers to create interactive activities or displays.
Similar to these are the Talk Time Recordable Postcards. The postcards have a slot where a picture or small object can be placed for the children to talk about. The children can then record words or sentences lasting up to 10 seconds.
My favourite new device is the Chatterbox from TTS. This will record up to 24 sound clips of 10 seconds each, on numbered buttons. It is very easy to use – simply hold down a number and the record button and speak, then press the number to play back. This device would be fantastic for retelling stories in order, or rehearsing instructions. It could also be used for a group of children to record their ideas – they can each have their own number. I can also see this being used to support EAL pupils – stories could be narrated page by page in their first language.Until recently there has been a gap between the very simple devices, and digital sound recorders designed for adults.
There are now 2 products which record longer sound clips, but have a simple interface which children can use independently. These are the EasiSpeak (Â£25), which is designed like a microphone, and the iMemo (Â£12.50), which looks like a child friendly dictophone. They are suitable for longer speaking activities – the EasiSpeak records up to 30 minutes, and the iMemo up to 2 hours. The EasiSpeak has a USB connection, which allows sound clips to be downloaded to the computer for use in other work such as multimedia presentations or podcasting.
Posted by Fiona
Last week I had a look at the latest visualiser models from AverMedia. The CP150 is their latest ‘bendy neck’ model, pictured below. At the budget end of the range, it retails for approximately Â£400 and is designed to be a portable visualiser for looking at documents or objects. There is a built in light, which improves the image quality. The CP150 has 2x optical zoom and 8x digital zoom. Optical zoom gives a better quality image, so images tend to pixellate as the limit of the zoom is reached. However you can get around this by using the bendy neck to position the lense closer to the object. The bendy neck design makes it easy to view 3D objects from different angles.
The next model up is the 300AF, and I thought this one was the best ‘all-rounder’. Also a portable model, this one has a ‘hinged neck’ design, which allows the neck to be either fixed in position for looking at documents, or moved around on the hinges for looking at 3D objects. I get on better with this model, as I find it easier to position, particularly as there is a ‘laser positioning point’ display which shows you the shooting area. However it’s movement is more limited than the bendy neck design. This model also has autofocus, which makes it much easier to switch between objects quickly. The image quality is the same as the CP150, with a 3.2M pixel image resolution , 2x optical and 8x digital zoom. This one is slightly more expensive at around Â£500.
The top of the range model is the SPB 350. This one has a platform design with an attached base, which is designed to stay in one place as it’s too heavy to move around. The image quality on this one is excellent, with a 5M pixel resolution, 20x optical and 8x digital zoom. This means it could double as a microscope, as you can zoom in and see very fine detail on objects. However it isn’t as flexible as the portable models, as the head is fixed in position. It retails for around Â£950.
All of the Aver visualisers come with software which works well with interactive whiteboards. Capturing images to Smart Notebook software is straightforward.
I am looking forward to seeing the new Smart visualiser in September. This one is an based on the Elmo L1n, a hinged neck model similar to the Aver 300AF, adapted to work within the Smart Notebook software.