Pros:lightweight, portable, easy to use, works cross-platforms!
Cons:limited to 8 files, keys can be a bit louder than conventional keyboard
The Bottom Line: As an extra "computer" around the house, or used in the school setting, the AlphaSmart is a great buy!
I have been using the AlphaSmart in an educational setting for almost six years now. I am an elementary school teacher, presently working as the Technology Integration Specialist for a large metropolitan Boston school system.
Recommend this product?
Ok Smartypants, what is it?
The AlphaSmart is a cute little word processor. Measuring 12Ē wide by 9Ē high by 1-1/2Ē high, my little beauty has room for eight files of work to be saved, a spell checker, data recovery option, and works off three AA batteries.
Essentially, the AlphaSmart is oh so very slightly smaller than a standard keyboard. It does not contain a keypad, and is laid out like a typewriter. The keys are easy to strike and the hand rests are comfortable. The space between the keys is smaller than on my iMac, but it isnít uncomfortable to use the AlphaSmart keyboard at all.
What is it used for?
I use the AlphaSmart to write my epinions, jot down thoughts and ideas I have during the day, compose correspondence.
The unit weighs less than 2 pounds and comes with some spiffy options.
The AlphaSmart can be used with ANY computer system, IBM/Apple. When beginning a document, you simply press a file key, located at the top of the keyboard in gray keys. If the AlphaSmart is turned off, loses battery charge or another file key is pressed, the file is automatically saved. There are many times I start my article, only to be interrupted for a long time. When I return, I simply press the on/off key and my article reappears on the screen, exactly where I left off.
The instructions for use are unbelievably easy to follow. Simply turn on the machine, select a file and start typing. When finished, the document can be loaded onto the computer or printer in two different ways, via cable or electronically via infrared red technology.
When loading the document onto a computer, you need to have a word processing program (any will do) or spreadsheet program open on the desktop, then either plug the cable into the computer keyboard or into the printer and press the send key. That easy!
How Do Kids Use it?
At the moment, Iíve seen the AlphaSmart used in three different settings:
A) Individual Student is assigned an AlphaSmart. This student uses it in the classroom setting, either typing documents, spelling lists, vocabulary words, etc, then downloads their work and hands it into the teacher similar to the other students turning in written work. There are many students with fine motor skill issues (those who have difficulty holding a pencil) who have benefited from using this equipment.
B) Whole Class Lab Application:
The AlphaSmarts are kept on a special cart and wheeled into a classroom for writing assignments. The entire class uses them. Each student is assigned certain files to keep their work in and is given a password, this way, they can save their work without worrying that another student will not write over it.
C) Homework: Students borrow an AlphaSmart for a night, just like borrowing a book.
Why Bother When I Have A Computer?
At less than 3 pounds, the AlphaSmart is easy to carry in any type of bag, sets up without any wires or modems, stores pages and pages of documents and can be dropped with little damage (trust me on this one, Iíve watched them fall from a wheelchair onto concrete and still work). There is an internal battery which can become dislodged if the unit is dropped with force but is easily repositioned.
For $200 it is an absolute steal as an extra word processor to have if you need an additional computer and donít feel like spending a grand on a new one. It doesnít take up space in luggage and it is fun to use! It can work with either platform, IBM or Apple. AlphaSmart will work with Apples as early as a IIe (really!) and a 286.
Iíve seen them used at meetings for minute taking, on trains/planes, and in the classroom.
Finally, my 1 1/2 year old bangs the keys like crazy and it still works.
The True Story
While working for another school system, I had the privilege of working with B, a student with Aspbergerís Syndrome, a form of Autism. Although B had come far in his schooling, by the 4th grade, his frustrations with writing hit an all-time high. Included in the classroom setting, he still stuck out in many ways. Once he was given the AlphaSmart his mood, performance and confidence improved OVERNIGHT! He was able to keep up with the spelling tests, could easily write sentences (before he would produce maybe one sentence in a class period, after was able to write an entire paragraph or so) and helped his classmates with the computer (he was able to print, save, open files the other students never had access to). B was a transformed child. His parents were so impressed, they bought another AlphaSmart for the classroom so that a different child could have access as well.
I always encourage my teachers to use the AlphaSmarts in and out of the classroom. They go on field trips, home for the evening and somewhere in the summer.
Email me if you have any questions at email@example.com or stop by the AlphaSmart web site at www. AlphaSmart.com
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Amount Paid (US$): 199.00