Alphasmart Neo – #BETT2011

There is something about the simplicity if the Alphasmart Neo that keeps drawing me back. The fact that it allows the children to focus solely on the content of the text rather than the formating and frills is, in my mind, a real boon.

I had not seen the wireless functionality before. The demo of these features was a bit of a mixed bag… The wireless technology is proprietary. This was sold as been an advantage because, in theory, there should not be problems with set-up and from interference. In the same breath, the rep appologised for the poor performance due to the number of WIFI networks at the show.

When it works, the wireless link allowed the teacher to drag and drop text from a Windows PC application and send to one or all of the Alphasmarts in the class. Each user can also send files back to the teachers PC.

Where the wireless link really came into its own was the ability to directly send and retrieve files from Google Docs. It works with Google Docs for Edu / Domains too. All it took was a keyboard shortcut and login and password. In a school using Google Docs, this would be a really cost effective way of providing access.

The downside to the machines, is the need for keyboard shortcuts to access the functions. This is not very intuitive – especially for younger users. There is a reminder list on the base of the unit, but not for all of them.

For £130 each, it is at a rather awkward price point – not very cheap, but getting on to the cost of a more fully featured, modern tool. Even the iPod Touch could offer more for just a tiny bit more.

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