This machine overcomes the most fundamental problem of IT in education: how do you use computers to teach large-group lessons? Whiteboard technology is one answer, but it has its problems: it remains expensive, it's largely immobile and it requires high-level presentation skills. The Cruiser, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive, portable, it allows the teacher to move or sit among the class and it is totally interactive. And it comes with an hour's "how-to" training session.
The Cruiser is a TwinHead notebook PC with a removable screen that can be placed on an overhead projector so all the class can see its information on a whiteboard or screen. Infrared technology allows a teacher to control everything while sitting among the class with a remote control to run applications, presentations, CD-Roms, live TV, video and Internet-based lessons. A number of visual effects can be applied to the projected image to emphasise points.
The optional remote keyboard has a built-in mouse function that can be passed around the room for individual pupils to make contributions - I wish I had had a Cruiser for all those times I introduced software packages to a class clustered around a 14-inch monitor.
To enhance the Cruiser's appeal, its distributor, Presentations By Design, has another trick up its sleeve: the "lessons-in-a-box", which is essentially a removable hard disk. When plugged into the Cruiser, it provides on-the-spot training.
Schools are starting to discover the power and flexibility of the system. The Cruiser has transformed lessons at the City of London junior school and the head of IT believes it offers tremendous training possibilities.
King Edward VI school in Northumberland reports that the big difference comes with the removable hard drives. If other teachers want to borrow the box, they simply pop in their own hard disk.
At John Kelly Girls' Technology College the Cruiser has been given a starring role in the end-of-term production, Millennium Bug. It will be used to project images and produce sounds from past events on to a backdrop while the cast provides the drama.
The system will also provide GNVQ students with a hi-tech medium through which to present coursework. If the Government is unable to give every teacher a laptop, they might at least consider supplying every school with a Cruiser. It just might let them teach IT skills efficiently and spur the more technophobic teachers into action.
Presentations By Design 0181 450 3488
Cruiser V, laptop computer with removable screen for presentations, pound;1,399 (+VAT), remote keyboard with mouse controls pound;79, lessons-in-a-box on 3.2Gb hard disK pound;99.