I traveled to Illinois last week for the annual Illinois Technology Conference for Educators. The conference was one of the best run and organized conferences I've had the pleasure of attending. One look at the conference sessions, and you'll see blogging, RSS, Web 2.0, and podcasting were popular topics. One of the best things about a conference are the handouts. IL-TCE has a page full of them! Also, the conference has an ongoing blog. The blog started before the conference began and it will continue well after the conference is over.
I presented two sessions twice: "Radio For Kids, By Kids" and "I Like Handhelds Because..." Folks in the "Radio For Kids, By Kids" sessions were really pumped about producing an episode of Our City Podcast. I suspect we'll be hearing about several cities in the Illinois and Indiana area on the podcast.
One of the highlights of "I Like Handhelds Because..." was when I briefly demonstrated LeapFrog's FLY Pen ($99). It's a "pentop" computer with no screen. All feedback is auditory (and don't worry, the pen comes with earphones).
I demonstrated the FLY Through Math: Multiplication & Division module ($30) for the pentop computer. The module comes with a computer chip containing the software and special grid paper. A student can set up a problem to solve on the paper by carefully writing one digit per box. The student then attempts to complete the problem. The pen alerts the student if he or she has written an incorrect digit while solving the problem. If the student gets stuck, he or she can tap the hint button at the bottom of notepad with the tip of the pen. The FLY then gives a cute and memorable tip. For instance, I demonstrated a hint for when you have finished a long division problem but the remainder needs to be recorded next to the quotient. Tapping the hint button will get you this catchy tip: "Mmm, mmm, mmm, leftovers! Record your remainder next to the quotient." That hint got quite the chuckle from those at IL-TCE.
The FLY Pen is a specialized handheld computer. I don't see it as a computer that you give each and every student. But I can see having a few FLY Pens in the classroom as a center or resource. If you have some money to spend in your budget, consider a FLY Pen or two for the classroom. Kids will love learning from a talking pen!
I plan to share more about the FLY Pen in the future. I'll tell you about the FLY Through Spelling, FLY Through Spanish, and FLY Through Tests add ons. In the meantime, learn more about FLY from TechLearning.com: LeapFrog FLY & The Pentop Computer.