I just saw an advertisement on TV for these things. How the heck do they work?
From the website's tutorial, I gather that Fly Pentop computers can "read" what you're writing. This seems a little incredulous to me, but apparently that's how it works. In the homework or calculator modes, it can then offer you advice or the solution. It sounds like it would be cool if it worked, but it might not work for everyone's handwriting. But maybe I'm wrong.
Apparently, the computer has a few modes, including calculator, algebra, translator, FlyTones, and Scheduler. (FlyTones is a program in which you draw a keyboard and drums, and then tap them with the end of the pen to 'make music'.) If that's not enough, you can purchase extra kits for use with your FlyPen, like FlyGreetings, FlyFriends, and FlyJournal. The company makes money through the pens themselves, these extra kits, and the FlyPaper, which the pen apparently doesn't work without.
I'm dubious that it works as well as in the commercials, but if it did, it sounds cool.
From a teacher standpoint, I think I'd have mixed feelings. The translator mode might be great in some ways, but if a kid uses it too much (like any dictionary or translator), they won't really learn the vocabulary. Although this particular model "talks" through the answers, if this kind of thing is ever changed so that it's silent, teachers would have to be very careful to check what types of pens and pencils their students were using during tests. The FlyTones was probably added as a feature to make a homework-helping device more appealing to kids, but it could also be very distracting while kids are in class or working on homework. Still, I think overall it's a pretty cool product, if it works as well as it says. I like the algebra mode, especially-- the idea of talking kids through each step doesn't just give them the answer; it forces the student to find the answer and helps them learn the process.
Anyway... has anyone seen one of these in action, or tried it? I want to know how well it actually works!
P.S.-- Probably due to reading some of the things my friend Erica has written about advertising, I noticed that their website is pretty much awesome. It helped me understand the product, too, after seeing a 30-second commercial on TV. Might want to check it out. :)