"Here Sir!" - Pocket-lint goes back to school with Dell's connected classroom

Dell was showing off its connected classroom at its Dell Tech Camp and Pocket-lint was on hand to take a pew.

And believe us, it wasn't that easy to take a pew. You try squeezing your fully grown (and some) posterior into one of those primary school classroom friendly mini chairs. Not an easy task let us tell you.

Anyway, back to Dell's connected classroom. It's a solution that Dell has made available to schools for a while now, but it's the first time that we've actually witnessed it first hand. After all, it's not exactly like we could just wander into a school and see what all the fuss was about. Society frowns upon things like that.

The idea, according to Dee Chury, practice manager of messaging and communications at Dell, was to offer schools a simplified ICT setup with a range of hardware that was compatible and wouldn't cause the schools problems down the line.

"We are on board with a number of partners", he said. "Everything in the catalogue is compatibility tested".

The setup we were shown was a classroom full of Dell Latitude 2110 netbooks, all connected to the teacher's Latitude notebook that was displayed, via a Dell S300WI projector, onto an ordinary whiteboard. The projector comes with a Wii like controller which also doubles up as a virtual pen.

Each netbook has a light on the lid with an open API. One example of what developers could do with this is for the light to shine red if a pupil starts straying away from the syllabus and onto another application.

This might not be needed though, as the teacher also has thumbnail displays from each of the pupil's webcams so they should be able to see if little Tommy is up to no good.

Speaking of cameras, there is also a 360 degree camera. This is designed to enhance the virtual classroom - a long distance extension of the connected classroom. With the virtual classroom pupils who are unable to get to class for any number of reasons, as well as guest speakers, are able to join in with the physical classroom.

The 360 degree camera determines who the dominant speaker is and focuses on them in the main picture. Whenever someone speaks, the camera switches focus.

"It works brilliantly if a child stands up to ask a question or perhaps does a recital", said Chury. "The beauty is the teacher doesn't need to think about operating the camera, it is automatic".

When the kids are finished with their netbooks, they can slot them into the companion cart, which can take up to 24 of the 2110 netbooks. The cart charges the netbooks and also acts as an 802.11n wireless access point for the classroom.

The connected classroom is a far cry from the classrooms that we remember from our school days. Kids these days eh? They don't know they're born. Although, how you'd draw a cartoon willy on your teacher's jacket with a virtual pen is a mystery to us.