Friday, October 11, 2013

AlphaSmart 3000

Lina wanted to type...but I was hesitant to give her control of my laptop unless I was sitting right next to her or had her on my lap (you know, to make sure she doesn't modify settings in applications, sends emails to my contact list or deletes data files).

I decided to spend $50 and go old school. I bought a used AlphaSmart 3000, a word processing keyboard. Such a low price, I'm not concerned if it's handled by a 5 year old. Below is the first thing she typed on it:

What was the next thing she typed on it?

The alphabet, of course:

Our deal...she gets to use it at home and I get to use it outside of home.

After she typed like 6 words that she remembers how to spell...she then grabbed picture tiles from her Zingo game. The tiles identify each picture with the word spelled out. She typed all those words (after I taught her how to use the space bar and caps lock). That was a good exercise to sort...because she told me how many unique tiles are included in the board game; she didn't want to repeat the same word twice in her AlphaSmart file. Yes, I am stressing to her that writing by hand is still very important and that's the primary focus as she learns to read. I understand many public schools are skipping cursive (writing and reading)...going straight from printing to typing. I have a feeling she will want to learn script after she masters writing sentences in print. She is fascinated by "fancy writing." But typing is unavoidable and tempting for her.

What's appealing to me about using the discontinued AlphaSmart 3000? It's very sturdy. And inexpensive. I was too worried about bringing my laptop to cafes (in case of coffee spills), out for a hike (in case it gets dropped or gets dirty), on trips (in case it gets lost or stolen during travel). So, now...I have this rugged unit that's 2 lbs (easy to carry around), with a very comfortable keyboard, it can last up to 700 hours (wow!) on 3 AA batteries (no need to bring the AC adapter), it can store 8 files - each 12.5 pages (so, that's 100 pages total!) and I can connect it to my computer with a USB cable when I get home to send the file to any program that accepts keyboard entry of text. And the most important thing to that this is a device that can't connect to the Internet. Like many people, I find the web to be too distracting. So, when I am focused on writing, I don't need the temptation to check email or surf the web (except when I have to do research).

November is a busy month for me (I will rest a little, to recoup from an intense schedule of many days worth of Halloween activities with Lina, then we will start packing), but I am considering participating in the awesome challenge of National Novel Writing Month (better known as NaNoWriMo). The AlphaSmart 3000 will come in handy to write everywhere we go next order to "win" by getting 50,000 words of a new novel down in only 1 month (less than 12% of the participants met the goal last year). A great incentive to kick things into gear for myself. I could write a novel, to edit and publish later or become a NaNo rebel...and write 50,000 words for a book that's actually creative non-fiction (like a memoir) or use this opportunity to write all the text for related pieces of work (for example, a children's book series for little kids...with illustrations added later) . Of course, there are always naysayers...but I like this positive piece written a few years ago about NaNoWriMo in the Los Angeles Times.

Regardless, Lina is very happy with this $50 purchase and so am I. Lina is hoping I type more of the stories that she dictates...ideas come to her all the time when we are out and about. Or I could just collect her drawings and combine them with an audio "reading" of the story, in her voice. She also creates quite a lot of songs that she sings and she wants me to type the lyrics, so she can save them for later. Lots of uses. Cheers.