Laptop test drives Intel Classroom convertible



The Intel Classroom notebook certainly qualifies as a netbook due to the small size and relatively low price.  The Classroom is aimed squarely at the education field, young children in particular, as the name implies.  Laptop Magazine reports that Intel will be showing a convertible Classroom at the upcoming CES in January.  The convertible Classroom is a typical 8.9-inch netbook with a twist.  The screen swivels around to tablet form and can be operated by touch.

We are not fans of touch-screen netbooks unless the device can assume a slate configuration so it’s good to see Intel approach this from the swiveling angle.  What remains to be seen is how well the palm rejection works since the touch-screen is meant to be used for handwriting in addition to the touch controls.  Windows XP Tablet Edition, Microsoft’s only version of XP that supports handwriting and touch, is no longer available to OEMs so Laptop reports that a specially developed interface and utilities have been produced to take advantage of the tablet capabilities.  They were impressed with how well this worked which sounds very promising.

The pictures we have seen of the convertible Classroom show a nice slate form with the screen swiveled and while that is nice there is no indication of the weight of the netbook.  This device is designed to be used by small children and since slate mode usually requires handheld operation the weight will be critical to its success.  It looks over 4 pounds heavy in the photos but let’s hope it’s much lighter than that.  We’ll try to get a first-hand look at this new Classmate when we attend the CES in just a few weeks.


Andrew Cosgrove

Perhaps the most powerful yet most overlooked advantage of a computer in developing writing skills is as a glorified typewriter. It waits as a blank page which can be written upon, corrected neatly, proofread, edited, added to and rearranged with a minimum of effort, and without rewriting. It allows an approach to teaching writing that is impossible with a pencil and paper, and may have its greatest impact in the earlier years of school.

It is important not to be distracted by technology, and get carried away with multimedia, interconnectivity and internet access. The keyboard and screen can be used to empower children to master the written word, and produce written output at a level necessary to cater for their learning needs. It can be used to teach sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling, the mundane but essential building blocks of written literacy, without being dependent on good handwriting skills which may be slower to develop.

Production of written output is essential to the learning process in school. A child who cannot write cannot learn effectively, so one of the first tasks of school is to teach the child to write. Writing is a complicated process requiring the simultaneous execution of several difficult activities. There is the content, there is the sentence construction, there is remembering to go across the page from left to right, and remembering what shape the letter “e” is. There is the physical movement of pencil on paper. The coordination and complexity involved in handwriting has been compared to that involved in driving a car.
Up until now, all these skills had to be taught simultaneously, and were deeply dependant on how quickly the handwriting skill developed.

It is no wonder that some children are slow to develop adequate handwriting skills, which retards the whole of their school career. Teachers are aware of students whose written output does not match their intelligence, comprehension or verbal language skills.
This can be because their handwriting skill is not adequate for their learning needs.

A keyboard and screen allows the middle order writing skills to be taught in isolation to handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught, but it is no longer the limiting factor. Handwriting skills may develop with maturity and practice, so that when a student is required to produce handwriting for an exam, not only do they have handwriting skills, they also have something worth writing.

Middle order writing skills include such things as sentence construction, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Sentence construction can be broken down into discreet steps, and leverages from a child’s verbal language skills. When they start school, children already use extensive language skills. They do not know the technical terms for the parts of a sentence, but they certainly know how to use them. The “Davidson Method” of sentence construction uses the advantages of a keyboard and screen (any computer with a text editor) and scaffolds a child’s existing verbal skills into the written form.

Davidson Method for Sentence writing

1. Choose an action word, a verb.
A verb is an –ing word
e.g. chasing

2 Ask who or what thing is doing the action. (noun,object)
dog chasing

3. Ask who or what thing is the action being done to. (noun, subject)
dog chasing cat

4. Describe the things (adjective, phrase).
black hairy ferocious dog from next door chasing mangy yellow cat

5. Ask when or where or how the action is happening (adverb, phrase).
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park

6. Check that the tense of the verb matches sentence. Does it sound right?
Modify verb (auxiliary verb, compound verb)
yesterday afternoon black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing mangy yellow cat across the park

7. Add words to make it sound right.
yesterday afternoon the black hairy ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy yellow cat across the park

8. Add commas and full stops. (Punctuation)
yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.

9. Add a capital letter to the first word.
Yesterday afternoon, the black, hairy, ferocious dog from next door was quickly chasing a mangy, yellow cat across the park.

This method allows a sentence to be built logically rather than sequentially, the screen holds the parts in place rather than trying to juggle all the pieces in memory while attempting to write neatly.
It is easier to choose a letter from a keyboard than try to remember the shape of a letter.
Correction is neat and does not require the whole page to be rewritten.
Spelling can be checked as a separate step.
The sentence can be copied by hand to paper when complete to practice handwriting, and it is relevant to the child because it is their sentence with their ideas. There is no need to print the sentence.
There is no dumbing down of the ideas in the sentence to match writing or spelling skill.
Proofreading and editing are being taught as an integral part of writing.

It should be emphasised that this does not replace handwriting. Handwriting must still be taught in the normal way. It does make handwriting more effective by allowing some ideas to be taught and practiced in isolation, thereby increasing focus and effectiveness.

It should also be emphasised that we still need a competent and dedicated teacher to lead the child, to encourage, to nurture. The keyboard and screen is just a different writing tool, with features that a good teacher can use when required.

Computers can be used to increase learning outcomes in KLAs –here-now-today in ordinary classrooms, and bring relief to children who are struggling or giving up because they cannot write fast enough or neatly enough to produce the written output required to cater for their learning needs. Avoid the temptation to reinvent the school system and philosophy of education in order to justify spending money on ICT. Instead look at the problems that are in our classrooms and see if technology can help a competent and dedicated teacher find a way forward.


Now if only HP, Dell, etc. would come out with a netbook/”tablet book” like this.
I would prefer it to run XP Tablet PC Edition than Vista, but regardless this could be the killer app for netbooks in addition to the price.
This could also fulfill Bill Gates long standing tablet pc mainstream adoption desires; of which I think price and complexity have always been their barrier.

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