I am writing to say that I was concerned by your recent article (Jan 7, 2000) on the use of Dreamwriter laptops in County Durham. I am currently piloting a Dreamwriter for my Local Education Authority because of my handwriting difficulties and would like to express concern over the following:
* Portability is one of the things which you mention but there is a difference between children using them just for one or two lessons a week as a novel way of learning and pupils who depend on them full time like me. Nathan Parker, one of the teachers you quote seems to mix up portability and low cost. I have to carry my Dreamwriter around my secondary school site (large) and to and from home every day. The Dreamwriter has to be carried in a separate shoulder bag because it is too bulky to fit in my normal school rucksack. I do not find it "chunky and friendly" so much as bulky and cumbersome. The Dreamwriter manual says it weighs 4lbs, but in actual fact it weigh 4.75 lbs without the carrying shoulder bag. This means that I have sore shoulders at the end of my school day.
* Reliability. It has a low reliability in terms of being carried around from class to class as I have discovered that if it is accidentally knocked - even gently - then the reset mecanism automatically kicks in and all the work on it is lost! I hope that the children going on the field trip at Greenfield School do not come back losing all their work or with a sore back.
* I know that Dreamwriters are cheap but it is meant to be a reliable practical tool - vital for someone like me. It may look good on paper and sound attractively cheap but the size and weight are not practical for pupils who need a laptop full-time. I think that there is a danger that Dreamwriters could end up being used as cheap alternatives for special needs pupils who are dependant on a laptop to survive at school.
Year 8 student (name witheld) Bristol