One of my favorite things to do at educational conferences, such as the International Society for Technology in Education event that wrapped in San Diego Wednesday, is to scour the exhibit halls for the latest tools and services to enhance my own teaching and students' learning. This year did not disappoint. One gadget I found, the Wireless Ultra-Mini Touchpad Keyboard by SMK-Link, could have a subtle, yet tremendous impact on classroom management and instruction.
When it comes to classroom management, one of the first lessons a teacher discovers is how physical proximity to students impacts the overall classroom dynamic. When students, for instance, recognize that their teacher is tethered to his or her laptop, they are more likely to be disruptive. It's the nature of the beast.
The Wireless Ultra-Mini Touchpad lets teachers control a computer from anywhere in the room--meaning they can run that two-minute video clip while standing behind potential troublemakers. The RF wireless works up to 33 feet away and doesn't require line-of-sight.
Curious about how the technology worked, I took a demo of the SMK-Link device back to my hotel room for a test drive. I used a netbook running Windows XP, but the technology also reportedly supports Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. Right away, I noticed how the device's controller-like shape made it easy to hold. Weighing in at just 5 ounces, and with dimensions of 5.3" x 3.7" x 1.2", it instantly felt familiar in my hand — like holding an XBox controller. And it sort of looks like one, too — the left and right shoulder buttons serve as the left-click and right-click buttons, as with a typical mouse.
The trackpad is a huge improvement over the previous, discontinued, joystick model. The trackpad on the Wireless Ultra-Mini Touchpad Keyboard has just the right degree of sensitivity and tracking speed. Although the trackpad supports two-finger scroll up and down, which makes reading documents and websites feel natural, tapping with your index finger on the touchpad does not produce a click, and that can take some getting used to.
A cover protects three small lights that indicate caps on/off, battery level, and function key on/off. And, even though the raised, rubber keyboard buttons feel stiff and require a little more pressure than you're probably used to, the keyboard is an ideal companion for short burst text entry from across the room: type a URL, shoot off a quick email, start and stop video clips, access the web — the list is endless.
When the teacher steps away from his or her computer and interacts with the learners in the room, at times standing directly behind key disruptors, classroom management is achieved, leading to an environment that can be more conducive to student engagement — and everybody wins.
Wireless Ultra-Mini Touchpad Keyboard comes with two AA batteries. It also includes a USB dongle (stored on the back of the keyboard) and requires no drivers.
For more on ISTE 2012, visit our ISTE 2012 Conference page.