Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Pen Gets a Whole Lot Mightier

New York Times: I found this article particularly interesting because several years ago I purchased a "smart" pen scanner to evaluate and found that it was much more difficult to produce accurate results with it than the demonstrator at Comdex displayed. Supposedly it was designed to allow you to easily scan article snippets and business cards into your PDA or laptop but I found negotiating the tiny menu with button clicks far too slow and frustrating to be efficient enough to recommend to my colleagues.

Apparently, the reviewer of this "pentop" also expressed a little irritation about navigating its menu as well although it is at least audio-enabled. There was no mention of speech recognition. It would be really nice if, when listening to the audio menu, you could reply "yes" when it gets to the option you want. Perhaps that will come with future enhancements. I was intrigued by the interactive testing and math studies applications though.

"The Fly Pentop Computer, made for children ages 8 to 14, is essentially a computer in a pen, with a computer chip, a speaker and a tiny camera. But Fly's maker, LeapFrog (maker of LeapPad, the popular interactive book reader), has much greater ambitions.

Fly Through Math, for example, is dedicated to multiplication and division. You write the digits of a math problem into the squares of the included graph paper. Like a watchful parent or teacher, the Fly's little voice-over elf comments immediately when, for example, you forget to carry the 1 or misplace a decimal point. This in-problem feedback is far more helpful than a computer program that just tells you that your final answer is wrong.

Then there's Fly Through Tests. From a Web site (, your sixth- through eighth-grader can download multiple-choice quizzes in PDF format that correspond to the chapters of specific popular published textbooks (math, science or social studies). You print them onto the blank paper that comes with this cartridge, and voilĂ : instant interactive tests, specific to the textbook you're using in class."
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