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Pete Roythorne explains Tablet PCs

Tablet PCs offer much interactive classroom experience. They are fully functioning Windows-based computers; they're as powerful as your desktop or laptop PC, but there's one big difference: they are operated via a sensitive screen (built into the unit, giving it a slate-like appearance) designed to interact with a complementary pen.

This is not a simple touch-sensitive screen, so only the supplied pen will work the software - resting your hand or dragging your cuff across the screen will not affect what you are doing. There is no built-in keyboard or mouse, so text is entered by writing it directly onto the screen, where it can either be stored as it is or converted to standard type.

The pen feels like a normal pen and Microsoft has added handwriting recognition to Windows for the Tablet for this purpose. Handwriting can be used in all your usual applications, so you can scribble notes in margins, highlight points or make changes on others' documents. Otherwise the pen works just the same as a mouse.

Tablet PCs have all the usual connections (USB, FireWire, wireless networking etc) but in a tough mobile computer with an industrial-strength shell and shock-mounted hard drive capable of handling the day-to-day stresses of being passed round a classroom.

On top of this, many Tablet PCs can be attached to a docking station with keyboard and mouse, which effectively converts them into standard desktop PCs, so you get the best of both worlds.

Tablet PCs really come in to their own when linked wirelessly (ie, using no cables) to a digital projector (DP). As the Tablets can be used while standing or sitting, this gives you the freedom to roam your classroom. No need to stand in front of the class to teach or to turn your back to pupils to demonstrate something on the board, anything you do will be projected via the DP to the front of the class.

The Tablet can also be easily handed to pupils for them to demonstrate answers to questions without having to leave their seats; this can really help include those pupils who are less outgoing.

Furthermore, groups of Tablets can be linked to a DP to allow pupils to work together and then present their work.

Although the price of Tablet PCs can be off-putting, the benefits of a robust, slate-style computer that is compatible with handwriting, keyboard and mouse provides students with a practical workstation that can be used across the curriculum.

Links Tablet trials: www.bgfl.orgserviceselearntabletpc.htm

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