A study to test the use of Tablet PCs in the classroom showed that the computers had no effect on grades and that the student users had...

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A study to test the use of Tablet PCs in the classroom showed that the computers had no effect on grades and that the student users had bad experiences with the technology, according to The Telegraph in Macon, Ga.

The study set out to test whether high-tech devices helped students at Houston County High School, in Warner Robins, Ga., improve academically, according to the article. Twenty-eight freshmen were given Tablet PCs, which were developed by Microsoft, in 2003, and their performance was monitored over the course of the school year.

The students said the Tablets helped them organize their homework better and send things to teachers more easily. Also, the multimedia projects they turned in were more sophisticated.

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The project had design problems, however. Teachers didn’t receive enough training on the machines at the beginning, and students — allowed to download software onto the Tablet PCs — were caught so often having online chats or browsing the Web during class that teachers moved to the back of the room in order to see the screens.

The machines also had no backup batteries and would be drained of power by midday. And one or two Tablets would need repairs each week.

Churning talk

John Chapple, CEO of Kirkland-based Nextel Partners, found himself in Panama City Beach, Fla., this month addressing a crowd of more than 700 wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “1.4 percent.”

Wireless edge

About 3 percent
of all broadband subscribers — about 4.5 million worldwide — are expected to be using WiMax wireless access by 2009.

Source: In-Stat

The occasion? Chapple was awarding a free trip to one of his call center’s best performers and rallying the troops to meet this year’s goals. One of those goals is retaining customers, or keeping churn down to 1.4 percent.

The visit seemed to have an additional urgency, given that Nextel Partners, which offers Nextel-branded services in small and rural markets, might be swallowed up in the proposed merger between Sprint and Nextel Communications. If that happens, Nextel Partners shareholders could vote to require Nextel, which owns 32 percent of Nextel Partners, to buy the rest of the company.

“I was reinforcing the point that let’s keep doing what we are doing,” Chapple said. “We will see what happens.”

Not even “Half”

Ouch! Microsoft‘s “Halo 2” game got only one nomination for this year’s Game Developer’s Choice Awards, a prestigious event in the video-game industry. “Halo 2” was nominated in the category for best audio.

Quite a different story for “Half-Life 2,” released last year by Bellevue’s Valve Software, which dominated the nominations with nods in the best game, character design, game design, technology, visual arts and writing categories. Other nominees for best game include “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” “Katamari Damacy” and “World of Warcraft.”

Members of the International Game Developers Association will vote on the winners, which will be announced March 9 at the Game Developers Conference.

What’s frog in French?

Seattle-based Blue Frog Mobile is suing French media company Lagardere Active North America for using Blue Frog’s trademarked phrases — “Get some bling in your ring” and “The hook up” — in ads.

Blue Frog also wants a judge to deny Lagardere’s request to trademark the phrase “bling tones,” which Blue Frog uses in reference to some of its ringtones.

Blue Frog’s announcement of the lawsuit includes a quotation in French from the company’s chief executive, Ron Erickson. “C’est quoi le probleme? Ils n’aiment pas les grenouilles bleues?” We think that means, “Stay away from my bling, or else!”

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.