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Tablet cure for handwriting?

PEN and paper could go the way of chalk and slate if the hype surrounding a new hi-tech portable computer is to be believed.

The Tablet PC looks like an Etch A Sketch and comes with a plastic stylus and handwriting recognition software.

Writing, squiggles or pictures are drawn directly on to the A4 screen. Pupils can store and retrieve their work and it can be edited into text.

Microsoft claims it improves handwriting because work has to be neat and readable for the computer to transcribe it correctly.

Teachers can mark and return students' work by email. Teaching materials can also be stored on the Tablet, which can be connected to a projector for lessons.

Sceptics who balk at the idea of paying pound;799 for the equivalent of a sophisticated exercise book might be swayed by the reaction of pupils. In trials at two schools, the "instant feedback" on the quality of writing was a big hit.

Fifteen free Tablets have been in circulation at Millennium primary school, in Greenwich, south-east London. Children used the Tablets for note-taking in class, then carried out a search to recall items for homework or exam revision.

Headteacher Dave Edwards said: "They have enormous potential and are a greater facility than an ordinary laptop. For instance, a local street map was downloaded on to them and pupils went out map reading."

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