HP Intros Digital Learning Suite for Educators, the Cloud, K-12

HP's new Digital Learning Suite includes six solutions, such as a tablet and "pocket" whiteboard, that can be paired depending on the classroom's need.

Hewlett-Packard, the worldwide leader in PC sales, is introducing a suite of education-focused products aimed at helping "schools prepare students for greater achievement and success," it said in a Feb. 2 statement. Called the HP Digital Learning Suite, it includes six components, from a tabletlike Sketch device to a network-connected charging cart for a classroom's worth of notebooks.

Describing the various components during a Feb. 1 conference call, Elizabeth Crawford, HP's education marketing manager for K-12, offered color on the three groups the suite looks to address. The first, early childhood education-or pre-kindergarten through fourth grade-requires tools that are mobile, easy to use and can engage the learning styles of young children, Crawford explained.

In the second group, secondary education, or fifth through 12th grades, teachers are tasked with "igniting a passion for learning" among students who are already very tech-savvy, and so teachers must be "on the ball" and savvy themselves.

In the last group, blended learning environments and the cloud, Crawford said, "each customer is unique, with unique needs, and this lets them design the kind of solution that works best for them."

Included in the suite is the HP Digital Sketch, a wireless tablet device that connects to a teacher's notebook or desktop, allowing him or her to navigate a centrally located computer while walking around the classroom. It works in conjunction with HP's Scrapbook software-which offers shortcut keys and various Scrapbook tools-and features an input area large enough for two students to offer input at once. The name is an appropriate one, as it better resembles a big sketch pad than it does the super-slim tablets appealing to mainstream consumers today.

Also new is the HP Pocket Whiteboard. Unlike full-size whiteboards, which are notoriously costly, this slim, compact device can "turn almost any surface into an enhanced interactive space," according to HP. It captures strokes that are transmitted directly to a laptop with an ultraportable receiver. It also features USB-based plug-and-play installation for fast setup, and it can be easily moved around, from a wall to a standard whiteboard.

HP's Classroom Manager software is designed to be used with notebooks or netbooks and offers features such as the ability to administer a real-time quiz to a classroom of students or to share a desktop view with an individual or the entire class. HP will offer a free "light" option and a more feature-rich version for $10 a seat.

A fourth announcement was the HP MultiSeat t150 thin client, which isn't new but a second-generation product with improved features. It enables up to 10 students to simultaneously share a single host computer via a USB connection, enabling schools to maximize computer seats while keeping costs to a minimum.

Another first is the HP Presentation Station 1000, a rolling, ultrathin podium of sorts. It can house a laptop or tablet and, beneath it, a keyboard and mouse, as well as a DVD player, projector and more, on a footprint nimble enough to be wheeled to various rooms. Its casters lock in place, and the whole platform is height adjustable, so that a teacher can, in an optimally ergonomic way, stand and work at the device that's clicked into the Station's dock.

Finally, HP will also be offering a 20-Notebook Charging Cart and Notebook Managed Charging Cart for 20 or 30 devices. While stored in the cart, notebooks or netbooks can charge and, because the carts include network connections, receive pushed-out software updates. It's the first time, said Crawford, that HP is offering a branded cart. In "a real differentiator for us," she added, the carts can fit notebooks or netbooks of a variety of sizes, up to those with a screen of 15.6 inches on the diagonal.

HP expects the Digital Sketch to be available in March, the Pocket Whiteboard and Classroom Manager software in February, and the charging carts and Presentation Station 1000 in April. The thin client is available now.

Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and manager of HP's Personal Systems Group, said in a statement that HP is "bringing to life a compelling suite of education solutions and connected devices that will better prepare students for whatever environment they'll face-in school and out."

The introduction of HP's Learning Suite came two days after HP, with Intel and IBM, announced support for Startup America, a new initiative from President Obama to encourage entrepreneurship, Market Watch reported Jan. 31. As part of the initiative, Intel will invest another $200 million in American technology companies, IBM will invest $150 million in programs to promote new business opportunities, and HP will provide support, said the report, through "educational and technological outreach to startups and small business owners."