Software’s FatFinger 2.4
great as laptop computers are for mobile education, they still
have some disadvantages for practical deployment in a contemporary
educational setting. Since the concept of the “one to one computing
standard”—or one mobile device for every student, teacher, and
administrator—is to ensure equal opportunity for techno-literacy,
it’s an unfortunate fact that the very classrooms that most need
access to the technology, have the least space to make use of
it. Also extant, of course, is the problem of transporting these
delicate, valuable appliances; areas of the city in which students
are least like to have Internet availability and computer use
in the home, are the ones, unfortunately, where carrying even
a budget laptop is most likely to be a serious security risk for
both the child and the laptop.
Thanks to a new generation of products, handheld computing now
offers a reasonable solution to the above challenges. Color screens,
connectivity options, and solid RAM capacities make wonderful
PDAs like the Palm Tungsten series potentially serious players
in the educational tech market.
However, even with the most current models available, interface
issues have remained a roadblock to their unqualified acceptance.
Although adults may find the need to use a stylus or a thumb board
only an annoyance, particularly with younger students, suspicion
about the appropriateness and ergonomic viability of sustained
use of such input methods for students has continued. Accessories
like folding keyboards have made some inroads, but they often
nullify one of the key advantages of the devices—their favorable
form factors for space-needy classrooms.
Avaion Software’s flagship product FatFinger 2.4 provides a new
slant on this issue that holds great promise for both juvenile
and adult PDA users alike. The software creates a unique way to
enter in information without having to use an inconvenient hardware
keyboard, or complicated Graffiti hieroglyphics. The inexpensive
software application offers a whole series of on-screen keyboards
that are large enough to allow the user to type on them to input
directly with their fingers—no stylus required. After download,
FatFinger can be used with any of the preloaded apps running on
Palm OS 3.1 or higher; including Address, Datebook, and Memopad,
etc., as well as many third-party programs too. The keyboards
include Alpha, Numeric, and Symbol character sets, and are even
configured to operate in the dark with their implementation of
the Palm backlight.
Soon after install, I was confidently typing much more quickly
within a few minutes of using the program. I’ve never been able
to make efficient use of the Graffiti language, and FatFinger
even seems faster than my Palm’s thumb board mini-keyboard, let
alone those awful styli. Although I do have some concern about
the effect of extended application of finger oils to my PDA’s
touch screen, both the manufacturer and Palm themselves assure
me that they have found such issues no reason for concern.
For anyone worried about the effect on young technology users
of repetitive stress from handheld input—and that should include
all New York City education professionals making use of or supervising
students with the devices, an approximately $15 investment in
FatFinger will go a long way towards creating peace of mind. More
information about the product, including a free demo for download
as well as online ordering, is available at the company’s site
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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