WO2002035499A2 - Alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system - Google Patents

Alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2002035499A2
WO2002035499A2 PCT/US2001/046109 US0146109W WO0235499A2 WO 2002035499 A2 WO2002035499 A2 WO 2002035499A2 US 0146109 W US0146109 W US 0146109W WO 0235499 A2 WO0235499 A2 WO 0235499A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
user
ofthe
writing
letter
character
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Application number
PCT/US2001/046109
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French (fr)
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WO2002035499A9 (en
WO2002035499A3 (en
Inventor
Richard Paul Goodwin
Kwok Wing Leung
Original Assignee
Richard Paul Goodwin
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Priority to US24294100P priority Critical
Priority to US60/242,941 priority
Priority to US70531200A priority
Priority to US09/705,312 priority
Application filed by Richard Paul Goodwin filed Critical Richard Paul Goodwin
Publication of WO2002035499A2 publication Critical patent/WO2002035499A2/en
Publication of WO2002035499A3 publication Critical patent/WO2002035499A3/en
Publication of WO2002035499A9 publication Critical patent/WO2002035499A9/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B17/00Teaching reading
    • G09B17/003Teaching reading electrically operated apparatus or devices
    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B19/00Teaching not covered by other main groups of this subclass
    • G09B19/04Speaking
    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B7/00Electrically-operated teaching apparatus or devices working with questions and answers
    • G09B7/02Electrically-operated teaching apparatus or devices working with questions and answers of the type wherein the student is expected to construct an answer to the question which is presented or wherein the machine gives an answer to the question presented by a student

Abstract

A system, including an apparatus and method, for educating children and detecting learning disabilities. According to the referred apparatus, the system comprises a local device (102) cooperativewith a remote device. The local device consists of a CPU (202), speech generator (204), volatile memory (206), non-volatile memory (208), Alphabet letter keypad (130), game selector (142), mode selector (146), speaker (214), display (134), writing tablet (136) and signal transmitter (126). The system presents a plurality of games requiring written input of alphabet letters to assist educators and parents in detecting learning disorders, such as dyslexia, in children at an early age. The games are selectable (142), allowing a child to write characters on a tablet (136). These characters are then analyzed for proper formation and audible feedback provided to the child (204).

Description

ALPHANUMERIC EDUCATION AND LEARNING DISORDER DETECTION SYSTEM

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the field of educational aids, and in its preferred embodiments, to a system for educating children and for detecting learning disabilities.

BACKGROUND OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

In the past, most children were taught how to read, write, and speak the English alphabet in school by educators and, typically, when the children were in the first grade. Educators used a variety of educational aids, or tools, to accomplish this task. For instance, educators employed specially-ruled, or lined, charts which displayed each letter of the alphabet, upper and lower case, as a plurality of individual strokes, or segments, to be formed by a child using a writing instrument and writing tablets which were similarly ruled, or lined. Each stroke, or segment, of a letter had a starting point and a number and an arrow beside it, and was defined appropriately with respect to the lines of the charts. The number indicated to the child, the order in which the strokes, or segments, were to be formed, while the arrowhead of the arrow indicated the direction in which the child should move the writing instrument from the starting point in order to form the letter. Upon prompting by the educator and/or in conjunction with lesson books making use of such charts, a child would attempt to write the letters of the alphabet by mimicking the form ofthe letters displayed in the charts. Then, the child would, either alone or with a group of other children, attempt to recognize and speak the letters upon further appropriate prompting and repetitious identification and enunciation of the letters by the educator. Similar charts, tablets, and techniques were employed to teach children how to read, write, and speak the numbers ofthe English number system.

Unfortunately, due at least in part to high pupil-to-teacher ratios, an educator, or teacher, could not constantly observe each child writing every letter or number in order to determine if a particular child formed them in accordance with the proper sequence of the strokes, or segments, set forth in the charts. Thus, the educator could only view a child's "final product" and may or may not have been able to detect errors in the sequence (i.e., as determined by comparison of the sequence used by the child to the proper sequence of stroke, or segment, formation identified by the numbers of the charts) actually used by the child to form the letters or numbers. As a consequence, a child may have formed the letters or numbers using an improper sequence of strokes or segments. Over the years, it has become well-known that many children are afflicted with learning disorders or disabilities. If detected early enough, some learning disorders may be remedied or have their effects lessened by appropriate treatment. However, if not detected early enough or not detected at all, a child may unknowingly suffer from the direct and indirect effects of the learning disorder, not only as a child, but also as a teenager, and even as an adult. Therefore, it is imperative to detect learning disorders in children and to initiate appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

Dyslexia, one such learning disorder, impairs a person's ability to recognize and comprehend written words and numbers. When attempting to read written words or numbers, a person with dyslexia often tries to read them in a right-to-left direction rather than the left- to-right direction which is proper for the English language. Similarly, when attempting to write letters, words, or numbers, a person with dyslexia often writes individual letters or numbers using an improper stroke sequence, writes individual letters or numbers "backwards", and/or writes words in a right-to-left direction instead of the proper left-to-right direction.

Today, most educators are familiar with and have been taught to recognize a number of learning disorders, including dyslexia, in children at an early age. However, many parents are not as familiar with dyslexia or other learning disorders and have not been instructed on how to detect them. Those same parents are, also, now interested in beginning their children's education at an earlier age, prior to pre-school or kindergarten, by teaching their children how to read and write letters ofthe English alphabet, words of the English language, and numbers. If the same parents could detect the existence of a learning disorder, such as dyslexia, in a child before the disorder would, otherwise, be detected by an educator, treatment could begin sooner and the child's chances for a more normal life would, likely, be improved dramatically.

Therefore, there is a need in the industry for a system, including an apparatus and method, that enables the teaching of an alphabet to children and the early detection of a learning disorder, such as dyslexia, and which addresses related, and unrelated, disadvantages or shortcomings of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

Briefly described, the present invention comprises an alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system. More particularly, the present invention comprises an alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system including a method which enables, and assists educators and parents, in the detection of learning disorders, such as dyslexia, in children at an early age through the playing of a plurality of alphabet and number-related, educational games. According to an apparatus ofthe preferred embodiment, the system comprises a local device and a remote device cooperative therewith. The local device includes a game board appearing to be held by a bear and having an alphabet letter keypad, a character display, a writing tablet, a speech generator, and a wireless signal transmitter. The remote device, styled as a plush toy bear, includes a speech generator and a wireless signal receiver. The system is operable in a first mode of operation in which the speech generator ofthe local device generates appropriate signals that are converted into speech by a speaker to provide, to a user, various greetings, prompts, and messages which, for example, acknowledge correct input by the user, provide positive reinforcement, identify alphabet letters which are written backwards or which constitute, an otherwise, incorrect input or response to the system. The system is also operable in a second mode of operation in which the local device generates appropriate signals identifying such greetings, prompts, and messages and communicates the signals to the remote device, via its wireless signal transmitter and the remote device's signal receiver, thereby enabling the remote device to utilize its processor, speech generator, and speaker to produce appropriate speech for the user and the appearance that the toy bear is talking.

The local device further includes, preferably, an alphabet letter keypad, a character display, a writing tablet, a game selector, and a mode selector. The alphabet letter keypad enables the user to select or input an alphabet letter in response to a prompt by the system. The character display and the writing tablet have individually illuminable elements, or dots, arranged in row and column configurations with each element being illuminable by the system under software control. The writing tablet also includes a plurality of switches arranged in a one-to-one relationship with the tablet's illuminable elements, thereby enabling illuminable elements to be progressively illuminated when a user closes corresponding switches while attempting to write (i.e., by moving a stylus atop the writing tablet to depress appropriate switches thereof) an alphabet letter on the tablet. The game selector is positionable by the user in a plurality of positions which are each associated with a game playable by the user (i.e., the instructions of which are stored in a non-volatile memory and executed by a central processing unit) and which allow the user to select a game. The mode selector, depressable by the user, allows toggling ofthe system's mode of operation between the first and second modes.

According to a method of the preferred embodiment, the system enables the user to play a plurality of games which teach the user how to write alphabet letters, to visually and audibly recognize alphabet letters, and to associate the phonetic sound(s) of alphabet letters with the their visible appearance. The games utilize techniques which request input from the user, describe and/or illustrate an appropriate response to the user (for instance, how to correctly form an alphabet letter), repeatedly perform such requests and descriptions if the user provides erroneous input, and provide positive reinforcement upon receipt of correct input.

During the playing of certain games, the system requires the user to write an alphabet letter (including, upper and lower case letters) on the writing tablet. The system, upon receiving (i.e., through depression ofthe switches ofthe writing tablet) and collecting data representative of writing strokes input by the user on the writing tablet in an effort to write the alphabet letter (i.e., the depression ofthe switches ofthe writing tablet essentially digitizing the writing stokes), utilizes a handwriting recognition process to determine the letter input, or written, by the user. The handwriting recognition process, in an attempting to recognize a letter written by the user, determines (i) whether the user has correctly written, or formed, a letter (and, if so, which letter has been written, including upper and lower case), and (ii) whether the user has eσoneously written, or formed, a letter. Preferably, in order to make such determinations, the handwriting recognition process compares the number of strokes forming an input letter, the direction ofthe strokes ofthe input letter, and the size of the input letter against similar respective parameters for correctly formed letters which are stored as stroke set data by the system. If the user has correctly formed a letter, the system then determines whether the input letter constitutes an appropriate response for the game being played. If so, the user is rewarded with positive reinforcement spoken by the system. If the user has erroneously formed a letter or if the input letter does not constitute an appropriate response for the game being played, the system generates an appropriate spoken message so informing the user and, generally, provides the user with the opportunity to try again.

In certain games, the system requires the user to write a specific, requested alphabetic letter on the writing tablet. Upon determining that the user has written an input letter which is unrecognizable and is, hence, written erroneously, the system utilizes a backwards handwriting detection method to determine whether the input letter has been written backwards. To do so, the backwards handwriting detection method, preferably, compares the starting position and direction of the first stroke of the input letter to the starting position and direction of the first stroke of the requested letter. If the user has formed a requested letter backwards, the system generates a spoken message informing the user (i.e., and educators and/or parents within hearing distance) that the letter has been formed backwards, thereby enabling educators and/or parents to become aware that the user may be repeatedly writing letters backwards and have a learning disorder, such as dyslexia.

In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the system comprises substantially similar local and remote devices which enable the teaching ofthe numbers of a number system to children and aid in the detection of learning disorders in children. Instead of an alphabet letter keypad as is present in the local device of the preferred embodiment, the local device ofthe alternate embodiment includes a numerical keypad having the individual numbers of a number system which enables the user to select and input numbers in response to prompts by the devices ofthe system. The illuminable elements of the character display and writing tablet of the local device ofthe alternate embodiment are illuminable to enable the display of numbers and the detection of writing strokes of a user in a substantially similar manner to their comparable components ofthe preferred embodiment. The local device of the alternate embodiment also includes a processor, and game, handwriting recognition, and backwards handwriting detection software which operate and utilize methods substantially similar to that ofthe preferred embodiment, except that in the alternate embodiment, the games and other software are configured, respectively, to teach and recognize numbers. More specifically, the methods ofthe games teach the user how to write numbers, to visually and audibly recognize numbers, and to associate the phonetic sound(s) of numbers with the their visible appearance. The methods ofthe handwriting recognition and backwards handwriting detection software, similar to those of the preferred embodiment, detect a properly formed number, an improperly formed number, and a backwardly formed number by evaluating writing strokes input by the user against data, stored in the local device, which define the correct starting position of the number, number of strokes forming the number, and direction of the strokes of the number.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to enable the teaching of an alphabet or a number system to a child. Another object ofthe present invention is to enable the detection of learning disorders in a child.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to make possible the teaching of an alphabet or number system to a child through self-instruction. Still another object ofthe present invention is to teach a child the upper and lower case letters of an alphabet.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to entertain a child while the child is receiving instruction pertaining to an alphabet or number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide positive reinforcement to a child while teaching an alphabet or number system to the child.

Still another object o the present invention is to teach a child the letters of an alphabet or numbers of a number system.

Still another object o the present invention is to cause a child to visually recognize the letters of an alphabet or the numbers of a number system. Still another object ofthe present invention is to cause a child to audibly recognize the letters of an alphabet or the number of a number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to teach a child the order o the letters of an alphabet or ofthe numbers of a number system.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to instruct a child in writing the letters of an alphabet or the numbers of a number system.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to train a child to print the letters of an alphabet or the numbers of a number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to teach a child to form the letters of an alphabet using the proper strokes, or segments, ofthe individual letters ofthe alphabet. Still another object of the present invention is to teach a child to form the numbers of a number system using the proper strokes, or segments, ofthe individual numbers of the number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to educate a child to form the letters of an alphabet using the proper sequence of strokes, or segments, of the individual letters o the alphabet.

Still another object of the present invention is to educate a child to form the numbers of a number system using the proper sequence of strokes, or segments, o the individual numbers of the number system. Still another object ofthe present invention is to instruct a child to form the letters of an alphabet using the proper direction of strokes, or segments, ofthe individual letters ofthe alphabet.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to instruct a child to form the numbers of a number system using the proper direction of strokes, or segments, ofthe individual numbers of the number system.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to audibly inform a child or parent that the child has incorrectly formed a letter of an alphabet or a number of a number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to audibly inform a child or parent that the child does not know the correct order of the letters of an alphabet or the numbers of a number system.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to teach a child how to pronounce the letters of an alphabet or the numbers of a number system.

Still another object of the present invention is to educate a child as to how each letter of an alphabet or number of a number system sounds when enunciated properly.

Still another object ofthe present invention is to cause a child to correctly associate the visual representations ofthe letters of an alphabet with the appropriate respective sounds ofthe letters.

Still another object of the present invention is to cause a child to correctly associate the visual representations o the numbers of a number system with the appropriate respective sounds ofthe numbers.

Other objects, features, and advantages ofthe present invention will become apparent upon reading and understanding the present specification when taken in conjunction with the appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a pictorial view of an alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment o the present invention. FIG. 2 is a block diagram representation of a local device ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram representation of a remote device ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system of FIG. 1. FIG. 4 is a flowchart representation of a method of game initiation of the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart representation of a method of a first game ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart representation of a method of a second game o the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. FIG. 7 is a flowchart representation of a method of a fourth game ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart representation of a method of a fifth game ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart representation of a method of a sixth game o the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a flowchart representation of a handwriting recognition and evaluation method ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention.

FIG. 11 is a flowchart representation of a backwards handwriting detection method of the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to the drawings, in which like numerals represent like components throughout the several views, FIG. 1 displays a pictorial view of the apparatus of an alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 (also referred to herein as the "system 100") in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention. The system 100 comprises a local device 102 including a game board 104 appearing to be held by and in front of a bear 106 (i.e., which is, in the preferred embodiment, part of and integral with the game board 104) styled to appeal, preferably, to system users such as children. The game board 104 has an enclosure 108 with a top 110, a front 112, a back 114, a right side 116, and a left side 1 18. Preferably, the enclosure 108 is manufactured from an impact- resistant, plastic material. Also preferably, the game board 104 is sized to be easily grasped at the right and left sides 116, 118 for holding by a user (e.g., a child) during a play, or education session. The back 114 ofthe game board 104 is, preferably, substantially flat and has a pair of folding legs extendible therefrom to enable the game board 104 to be positioned atop a flat surface (i.e., such as, for example, a table or floor) without obstructing, or muffling, sound output from speaker 214 described below. The bear 106 has a head 120 and face 122 residing at and appearing to overhang the top 110 ofthe game board 104. The bear's head 120 includes a plurality of ears 124 protruding therefrom and a signal transmitter 126 (see FIG. 2) mounted substantially within the head 120 and adjacent an opening 128 in the game board's enclosure 108 between the bear's ears 124. Preferably, the signal transmitter 126 includes an infrared transmitter. It is understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes signal transmitters of other types, including wired and wireless signal transmitters which transmit different forms of signals such as, for example and not limitation, radio frequency (RF) signals and sonic signals. It is also understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes the use of animals other than a bear 106 appearing to hold or positioned proximate the game board 104.

The game board 104 includes an alphabet letter keypad 130 having a plurality of switches and a plurality of switch actuators 132 (also referred to herein as "alphabet letters 132" or "letters 132") styled in the form of upper case alphabet letters. Each switch ofthe plurality of switches is, preferably, normally open and is associated in a one-to-one relationship with an alphabet letter 132. The keypad 130 is mounted within the game board 104 adjacent to the game board's front 112 such that each alphabet letter 132 protrudes through a respective opening defined by the game board's enclosure 108 at the game board's front 112. Adjacent each opening and alphabet letter 132 on the front 112 ofthe game board 104 are indicia representative of the lower case alphabet letter associated therewith. During operation, selection and depression of an alphabet letter 132 by a user closes the respective switch associated with that alphabet letter 132 and enables detection and determination of the user's selection, or input, by the processor 200 described below.

As seen in FIG. 1, the game board 104 also includes a character display 134 mounted within the game board's enclosure 108 and adjacent the game board's front 1 12. The character display 134 is visible to a user ofthe game board 104 through an opening defined in the game board's enclosure 108. The character display 134 includes a plurality of illuminable elements (also referred to herein as "dots" or "segments") configured in row and column matrix. A character display 134, acceptable according to the preferred embodiment, is a liquid crystal display having sixty-four individually illuminable elements arranged in a row and column matrix having eight rows and eight columns, and a liquid crystal driver device for energizing or de-energizing the elements, as necessary and appropriate, to form respective characters. The character display 134 communicatively connects to the processor 200 as described below. Each dot ofthe character display 134 is independently illuminable under software control by the processor 200. When appropriately illuminated, the dots of the character display 134 form alphabet letters. Each dot ofthe character display 134 is also illuminable in a progressive sequence to display, to a user, the appropriate number of writing strokes, direction of writing strokes, and sequence of writing strokes required to form an alphabet letter.

Additionally, the game board 104 includes a writing tablet 136 on which a user attempts to write alphabet letters, using stylus 138, upon prompting by the system 100. The writing tablet 136 is mounted within the game board's enclosure 108 adjacent to the game board's front 112. The writing tablet 136 is visible and accessible to a game board user via an opening defined in the game board's enclosure 108. The writing tablet 136 communicatively connects to the processor 200, described below, and comprises a multi- layer structure having a switch panel layer and a display panel layer configured in a sandwich-like structure. The switch panel layer has a plurality of switches arranged in row and column matrix. Preferably, the plurality of switches includes sixty-four individual switches arranged in eight rows and eight columns. The switches of he plurality of switches are normally open and are closed, during operation or use of the game board 104, by pressure applied by the user using stylus 138 (i.e., attached to the game board 104 by cord 140) to "write" on the writing tablet 136. The display panel layer has a plurality of individually illuminable elements (also referred to herein as "dots" or "segments") arranged in a row and column matrix such that each element is associated, in a one-to-one relationship, with a switch of the plurality of switches of the switch panel layer. In operation, the dots are illuminated upon closure of their corresponding switch or are illuminated by processor 200 absent such closure under software control as set forth herein. Preferably, the elements ofthe display panel include sixty- four light emitting diodes having a configuration of eight rows and eight columns. Alternatively, the elements of the display panel include liquid crystal segments similarly arranged. The dots ofthe writing tablet 136 are illuminable in a progressive sequence, similar to those ofthe character display 134, to display the appropriate number of writing strokes, direction of writing strokes, and sequence of writing strokes necessary to form an alphabet letter. The game board 104 further includes a game selector 142 which enables a user, during use ofthe system 100, to select a game for education of the user in learning the letters of the alphabet and for detecting learning disorders. The game selector 142 is mounted adjacent the game board's enclosure 108 and adjacent to front 112. Preferably, the game selector 142 includes a multi-position, slidable switch having six positions, with each position corresponding in a one-to-one relationship to a game which the system 100 enables the user to play. At each position, numerical indicia indicating the number of the game corresponding thereto is present on the front 112 ofthe game board 104. During operation, a user positions the game selector 142 at the number of the game (e.g., "1" corresponds to game one, "2" corresponds to game two, "3" corresponds to game three, "4" corresponds to game four, "5" corresponds to game five, and "6" corresponds to game six) that the user desires to play and the processor 200, acting under software control, determines the position ofthe game selector 142 and, hence, determines the game which a user desires to play.

As seen in FIG. 1, the system 100 further comprises a remote device 144 styled, preferably, as a plush toy bear. The remote device 144 includes a processor 300 and a signal receiver 148 communicatively connected thereto as described below in more detail.

Preferably, the signal receiver 148 includes an infrared signal receiver. It is understood that the scope ofthe present invention comprises signal receivers of other types, including wired and wireless signal receivers which receive different forms of signals such as, for example and not limitation, radio frequency (RF) signals and sonic signals. The game board 104 further includes a mode selector 146 which allows a user to select a mode of operation of the system 100. In the first mode of operation, processing of user inputs and speech generation are performed by the local device 102. In the second mode of operation, processing of user inputs is performed by the local device 1 2, but speech is generated by the remote device 144 so as to produce, for the user, the illusion that the toy bear is talking to the user. To do so, appropriate signals are communicated to the remote device 144, via communication channel 150 (i.e., indicated in FIG. 1 by arrow 150), by the signal transmitter 126 and signal receiver 148 working cooperatively. The mode selector 146 is mounted within the game board 104 and, preferably, includes a pushbutton switch and an actuator 152 coupled thereto which is styled as a bear's head. The actuator 152 protrudes through an opening in the enclosure 108 at the front 1 12 ofthe game board 104. The pushbutton switch communicatively connects to the processor 200. By depressing the actuator 152 (and, hence, the pushbutton switch), a user causes the system 100 to change between the two modes of operation of the system 100. FIG. 2 displays a block diagram representation of the local device 102 ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 in accordance with the preferred embodiment. Note that in FIG. 2, arrows having a single arrow head indicate the uni-directional communication of signals, data, or instructions in the direction ofthe arrow head, and arrows having double arrow heads indicate bi-directional communication of signals, data, or instructions in both directions. The local device 102 comprises a processor 200 having a central processing unit 202 (also referred to herein as CPU 202) for executing program or operating system instructions, a speech generator 204 for producing signals representative of and convertible into speech by a speaker, a volatile memory 206 for storing intermediate and temporary data, and a non-volatile memory 208 for storing operating system software instructions and for storing software instructions of programs or routines which cause appropriate operation ofthe local device 102 when executed by processor 200. The non-volatile memory 208 also stores a set of data (also referred to herein as "stroke set data") for each alphabet letter which includes data pertaining to the letter and the strokes necessary to correctly form the letter. The stroke set data for an alphabet letter preferably includes, a starting point for formation ofthe letter, the positions of the first three dots ofthe first stroke of the letter, the number of strokes required to form the letter, the starting point and direction of each stroke ofthe letter, and a size range for the letter. Note that stroke set data is, generally, stored for both upper and lower case versions of each alphabet letter where appropriate (i.e., for some letters, the upper and lower case versions are essentially identical except for size and, hence, because a child may err somewhat in writing a letter with respect to size, it is appropriate to store only data for one stroke set (e.g., upper case) for those letters). Note also, where desirable for other reasons, additional stroke sets may be stored for a particular alphabet letter.

The CPU 202, speech generator 204, volatile memory 206, and non-volatile memory 208 connect to a bus 210 which enables the communication of instructions and/or data therebetween. Preferably, the volatile memory 206 includes random access memory (RAM) and the non-volatile memory 208 includes read-only memory (ROM). The processor 200 further includes a plurality of input/output ports 212 (i.e., or interfaces) which enable the uni- directional and bi-directional communication of data, as appropriate, between the processor 200 and other components which are communicatively connected to the processor 200. It is understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes a processor 200 having a CPU 202, speech generator 204, volatile memory 206, non-volatile memory 208, and input/output ports 212 residing on single or multiple integrated circuit chips.

Each input/output port 212 of processor 200 is identified by a unique alphabetic subscript and is connected to a respective component residing outside ofthe processor 200. As seen in FIG. 2, input/output port 212a is connected to the alphabet letter keypad 130 for the receipt of signals identifying which actuator 132, or letter, of keypad 130 has been pressed by a user during operation of the local device 102. Input/output port 212b is connected to the game selector 142 for the receipt of signals identifying the position ofthe game selector 142 and, hence, identifying the game that the user desires to play. Input/output port 212c is connected to the mode selector 146 and, during operation of the local device 102, receives signals indicating that the user has depressed actuator 152 in an attempt to toggle operation of the system 100 between the first and second modes of operation.

The local device 104 further includes a speaker 214 mounted within the game board enclosure 108 adjacent to the back 114 thereof. The speaker 214 is connected to input/output port 212d which includes, preferably, a digital-to-analog converter. During operation ofthe local device 104, the speaker 214 receives signals representative of speech from the speech generator 204 via the digital-to-analog converter of input/output port 212d. Upon receipt of such signals, the speaker 214 produces sounds corresponding to the received signals. Character display 134 is connected to input/output port 212e for the receipt of signals from processor 200 identifying which dot, or segment, ofthe display 134 is to be turned on or turned off. The writing tablet 136 is connected to input/output port 212f and, during operation of the local device 102, receives signals from processor 200 identifying which dot, or segment, ofthe tablet's display panel layer is to be turned on or off in response thereto. The writing tablet 136 also communicates to the processor 200, the identity ofthe switches of the tablet's switch panel layer depressed by the user with the stylus 138 during use of the local device 102. The detection and providing of the identity of the depressed switches to the processor 200, and CPU 202, as the switches are depressed by the user while attempting to write, or form, letters on the writing tablet 136, as described below, constitutes a digitization process through which digitized information about each "written" stroke is provided to the processor 200, and CPU 202, on a "dot-by-dot" basis. The digitized information is converted by the CPU 202 into data related to each stroke for subsequent use in handwriting recognition and backwards handwriting detection processes 1000, 1100 described below and includes, for example and not limitation, the starting position of each stroke, the direction of each stroke, the ending position of each stroke, and the size (or size range) of a letter. Signal transmitter 126 is connected to input/output port 212g ofthe processor 200 for the receipt of signals for communication by the local device 104 to the remote device 144.

FIG. 3 displays a block diagram representation ofthe remote device 144 ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 in accordance with the preferred embodiment. Note that in FIG. 3, arrows having a single arrow head indicate the uni-directional communication of signals, data, or instructions in the direction ofthe arrow head, and arrows having double arrow heads indicate bi-directional communication of signals, data, or instructions in both directions. The remote device 144 comprises a processor 300 having a central processing unit 302 (also referred to herein as "CPU 302") for executing program or operating system instructions, a speech generator 304 for producing signals representative of and convertible into speech by a speaker, a volatile memory 306 for storing intermediate and temporary data, and a non-volatile memory 308 for storing operating system software instructions and for storing software instructions of programs or routines which cause appropriate operation ofthe remote device 144 when executed by processor 300. The CPU 302, speech generator 304, volatile memory 306, and non-volatile memory 308 connect to a bus 310 which enables the communication of instructions and/or data therebetween. Preferably, the volatile memory 306 includes random access memory (RAM) and the nonvolatile memory 308 includes read-only memory (ROM). The processor 300 further includes a plurality of input/output ports 312 (i.e., or interfaces) which enable the uni-directional communication of data between the processor 300 and other components which are communicatively connected to the processor 300. It is understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes a processor 300 having a CPU 302, speech generator 304, volatile memory 306, non-volatile memory 308, and input/output ports 312 residing on single or multiple integrated circuit chips.

The remote device 144 further includes a speaker 314 mounted therewithin. The speaker 314 is connected to a first input/output port 312a which, preferably, has a digital-to- analog converter. During operation of the remote device 144 in the system's second mode of operation, the speaker 314 receives signals representative of speech from the speech generator 304 via the digital-to-analog converter of input/output port 312a. Upon receipt of such signals, the speaker 314 produces sounds corresponding to the received signals. The signal receiver 148 is connected to a second input/output port 312b and, during operation ofthe remote device 144 in the system's second mode of operation, receives signals from the signal transmitter 126 ofthe local device 102 to cause the remote device 144 to generate speech appropriate for the game being played by the user and appropriate for the current status of the game.

In the descriptions of methods that follow, the methods are implemented by the system 100 as a plurality of program instructions which reside in non- volatile memory 208 and which are executed by CPU 202 (and, as appropriate, residing in non-volatile memory 308 and executed by CPU 302). Speech generated by the system 100 in association with the methods is produced by the appropriate CPUs 202, 302, speech generators 204, 304, and speakers 214, 314 functioning together (i.e., as determined by whether the system 100 is operating in the first or second mode of operation and as described above with relation to the interaction and operation of the appropriate components of the system 100). FIG. 4 illustrates a method of game initiation 400 ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 and the steps thereof in flowchart form according to the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. The method of game initiation 400 is followed by processor 200 upon power-up ofthe local device 102 and is implemented by the system 100 as a plurality of program instructions which reside in non- volatile memory 208 and which are executed by CPU 202. After starting at step 402 and performing basic system initialization tasks, the method advances to step 404 where CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user to the system 100 and inviting the user to play along. Then, at step 406, CPU 202 determines the position ofthe game selector 142 so as to determine which game the user desires to play. At step 408, CPU 202 decides if the game selector 142 is in the first position, indicating that the user desires to play the first game. If so, CPU 202 branches to and executes, at step 410, the program instructions for the first game according to a method for the first game described below. If not, CPU 202 advances to step 412 of the method where CPU 202 ascertains whether the game selector 142 is in the position associated with the second game. If so, CPU 202 branches to and executes, at step 412, the program instructions for the second game in accordance with the method described below.

If, at step 412, CPU 202 concludes that the game selector 142 is not in the position for the second game, CPU 202 continues to step 416 ofthe game initiation method 400. At step 416, CPU 202 decides if the game selector 142 is in the third position, thereby indicating that the user desires to play the third game. If so, CPU 202 branches to and executes, at step 418, the program instructions associated with the method ofthe third game which is substantially similar to that of the second game, except that lower case alphabet letters are taught as opposed to upper case alphabet letters as in game two (i.e., therefore, a separate figure is not included herein to describe the method employed by the third game). If not, CPU 202 proceeds to step 420, where CPU 202 ascertains whether the game selector 142 is in the position for the fourth game, indicating that the user desires to play the fourth game. If so, CPU 202 branches to and executes, at step 422, the program instructions for the fourth game as described below. If not, at step 424, CPU 202 concludes whether the game selector 142 is in the fifth position, thereby indicating that the user desires to play the fifth game. If CPU 202 decides that the game selector 142 is in the fifth position, CPU 202 branches to and executes, at step 426, the program instructions according to a method ofthe fifth game set forth below. If not, the game selector 142 must be in the sixth position indicating that the user desires to play the sixth game and, at step 428, CPU 202 branches to and executes the program instructions in accordance with a method ofthe sixth game described below. FIG. 5 depicts, as a flowchart, a method of the first game of the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 and the steps thereof in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. The first game teaches a user to associate the alphabet letters with their appearance and sounds, instructs the user in the correct formation ofthe alphabet letters by displaying the appropriate starting point for the alphabet letters and the direction and sequence of their strokes, and identifies to the user whether the alphabet letters are vowels. The method ofthe first game 500 is followed by processor 200 upon determination that the game selector 142 is in the first position. After starting at step 502 and performing basic system initialization tasks, the method advances to step 504 where CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user and inviting the user to play along. Advancing to step 506, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech which prompts the user to select an alphabet letter from keypad 130.

At step 508, CPU 202 waits for the receipt of an alphabet letter selection by the user (i.e., by scanning the alphabet keypad 130) for a pre-determined period of time. If no selection of an alphabet letter is detected prior to expiration of the pre-determined period of time, CPU 202 once again causes the generation of speech prompting the user to select an alphabet letter at step 506. If the user selects an alphabet letter from the alphabet keypad 130 and CPU 202 determines that it has received that selection at step 508, CPU 202 causes the display of the selected alphabet letter, at step 510, on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136. Then, at step 512, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the selected alphabet letter as an upper case, or "big", letter and correctly pronouncing the letter. Continuing at step 514, CPU 202 causes the display, on the character display 134 and writing tablet 136, of the selected alphabet letter by causing (i) the illumination ofthe appropriate dot corresponding to the starting point for formation ofthe selected alphabet letter, and (ii) the sequential illumination of the appropriate dots, in the appropriate directions and appropriate order (i.e., sequence), which correspond to the strokes and sequence of strokes required to form the letter. CPU 202, at step 516, then determines whether the selected alphabet letter is a vowel and if so, causes the generation of speech instructing the user accordingly. Looping back to step 506, CPU 202 continues operation in accordance with the method ofthe first game 500 by once again causing the generation of speech prompting the user to select an alphabet letter from the alphabet letter keypad 130. Note that the steps (i) and (ii) described above in this paragraph are also referred to herein as the "progressive display" of an alphabet letter on character display 134 or writing tablet 136.

FIG. 6 illustrates a method ofthe second game ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 and the steps thereof in flowchart form, according to the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. The second game educates a user on how to write the upper case alphabet letters by presenting the steps necessary to correctly form each alphabet letter (i.e., the steps including starting at the correct location for each letter and writing the strokes of each letter in the correct direction and sequence beginning at the correct starting location for each stroke), by allowing the user to attempt to write each alphabet letter following the presented steps, and by evaluating the user's performance to determine if the user correctly formed each alphabet letter. Most importantly, if an alphabet letter is formed incorrectly, the second game detects whether the user formed the letter backwards and generates speech indicating that to the user, thereby assisting educators and parents in detecting learning disorders, such as dyslexia, in children.

After starting at step 602 and performing basic system initialization tasks, the method advances to step 604 where CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user and inviting the user to play along. Then, at step 606, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech which informing the user that the user will be taught how to write the letters of the alphabet. Continuing at step 608, CPU 202 causes the display, on the character display 134 and writing tablet 136, of an upper case alphabet letter to be written by the user. At step 610, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the upper case alphabet letter displayed on the character display 134 and writing tablet 136 and to be written by the user. CPU 202 causes, at step 612, the generation of speech which instructs the user to watch how the upper case alphabet letter is written, or formed. At step 614, CPU 202 causes the clearing the upper case alphabet letter from the character display 134 and writing tablet 136.

Proceeding to step 616 ofthe method ofthe second game 600, CPU 202 causes the progressive display of the upper case alphabet letter to be written by the user on the character display 134 and the writing tablet 136. Then, at step 618, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech prompting the user to write the upper case alphabet letter on the writing tablet 136 beginning at the appropriate starting point for the letter. CPU 202 causes, at step 620, the clearing the upper case alphabet letter from the writing tablet 136 (i.e., but not from the character display 134) and identifies the correct starting point for formation ofthe letter by causing the corresponding dot ofthe writing tablet 136 to be illuminated. Continuing at step 622, CPU 202 determines whether any writing strokes have been made by the user on the writing tablet 136. If not, CPU 202 loops back to step 608 and again causes the display of the upper case alphabet letter on the character display 134 and the writing tablet 136. If so, at step 624, CPU 202 causes the display ofthe user's writing stokes by progressively illuminating (i.e., one after another) dots on the writing tablet 136 as the user presses and moves the stylus 138 on the writing tablet 136 and as CPU 202 receives and processes the identity ofthe switches of the writing tablet 136 (i.e., corresponding in one-to-one relationship with the dots) depressed by the user's actions. As indicated at step 626, CPU 202 collects data associated with each stroke that the user makes as the user attempts to write the upper case alphabet letter on the writing tablet 136. Such information includes, for example and not limitation, information related to the starting point the user used to begin forming the letter, the number of strokes made by the user, the starting point of each stroke, and the direction of each stroke. At step 628, CPU 202 evaluates the collected data, using the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 and, if no correctly formed alphabet letter has been written, the backwards handwriting detection method 1100, and determines (i) if the upper case alphabet letter was formed correctly by the user, (ii) if the upper case alphabet letter was formed backwards, (iii) if another, non-prompted for, letter (i.e., upper or lower case) was formed by the user, or (iv) if the upper case alphabet letter was, otherwise, erroneously formed by the user. Next, at step 630 and based upon the evaluation made at step 628, CPU 202 decides whether the upper case alphabet letter was formed correctly. If so, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech, at step 632, acknowledging the correct formation of the letter and providing positive reinforcement for the user. CPU 202 then loops back to step 608 where it causes the display of the next, different upper case alphabet letter to be written by the user. If not, CPU 202 concludes, at step 634, whether the upper case alphabet letter was formed backwards by the user. If so, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech, at step 636, informing the user that the letter was written backwards and encouraging the user to try again. CPU 202 then loops back to step 612 of method 600, where it causes the generation of speech instructing the user to watch how the letter is correctly written. If, at step 634, CPU 202 determined that the upper case alphabet letter was not formed backwards, it then ascertains, at step 638, whether another alphabet letter (i.e., upper or lower case) was formed by the user. If so, CPU 202 causes, at step 640, the generation of speech informing the user that a non- prompted for alphabet letter was written, identifying the alphabet letter actually written (i.e., including identification of the case), and encouraging the user to try again. Branching back to step 612, CPU 202 then once again causes the generation of speech instructing the user to watch how the upper case alphabet letter is written. If, at step 638, CPU 202 decides that another alphabet letter was not formed, then the upper case alphabet letter must have, otherwise, been erroneously written and CPU 202 causes, at step 642, the generation of speech which prompts and encourages the user to write the prompted-for letter again. CPU 202 then loops back to step 612 of method 600 where it again causes the generation of speech asking the user to watch how the upper case alphabet letter is formed correctly.

FIG. 7 displays, according to the preferred embodiment, a flowchart representation of a method ofthe fourth game 700 of the alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100. The fourth game teaches the user the sounds that a selected alphabet letter makes when enunciated, or spoken, correctly. Also, the fourth game teaches the user the association between the appearance of an alphabet letter and its phonetic sound, thereby assisting educators in teaching children phonetics. Upon starting at step 702 and performing basic system initialization tasks, the method 700 advances to step 704 where CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user. At step 706, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech prompting the user to select an alphabet letter from the alphabet letter keypad 130 and informing the user that the game will teach the user the sound(s) made by the selected letter. After prompting the user, CPU 202 determines, at step 708, whether a selection of an alphabet letter has been received from the user. If not, CPU 202 loops back to step 706 to repeat the user prompting process. If so, at step 710, CPU 202 ascertains which alphabet letter was selected by the user by depression of an actuator 132. Proceeding at step 712, CPU 202 causes the display ofthe selected alphabet letter on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136. At step 714, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the selected alphabet letter and describing the sound(s) (i.e., some letters have more than one sound) made when the selected letter is spoken. Upon delaying briefly CPU 202 branches back to step 706 of method 700 to cause prompting ofthe user for the selection of another alphabet letter. FIG. 8 illustrates a method ofthe fifth game 800 ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 in flowchart form and in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. The fifth game aids in instructing a child to associate the sound(s) (i.e., a letter may have more than one sound) of an alphabet letter with the written form ofthe same alphabet letter. Starting at step 802 of method 800, CPU 202 performs various initialization tasks. CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user at step 804 and causes the clearing ofthe character display 134 and writing tablet 136 at step 806. Then, CPU 202 causes, at step 808, the generation of speech enunciating the sound(s) that an alphabet letter makes when spoken correctly and prompting the user to write the corresponding alphabet letter. Continuing at step 810, CPU 202 causes the display of a flashing question mark on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136. At step 812, CPU 202 determines whether the user has selected an alphabet letter from the alphabet letter keypad 130 instead of attempting to write the letter on the writing tablet 136. If not, CPU 202 jumps ahead to step 816 ofthe method 800 described below. If so, CPU 202 determines, at step 814, which alphabet letter was selected from the keypad 130 by the user and jumps forward to method step 826 described subsequently.

At step 816, CPU 202 determines whether the user has begun to write on the writing tablet 136. If the user has not written any strokes after a pre-determined period of time, CPU 202 loops back to step 806 where it causes clearing of the character display 134 and the writing tablet 136. If, alternatively, the user begins writing on the writing tablet 136, CPU 202 causes, at step 818, the progressive display ofthe user's writing strokes on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136 by illuminating, one after another in sequence, the dots ofthe writing tablet's display panel which correspond to the respective underlying switches of the writing tablet's switch panel which are depressed, and closed, as the user moves the stylus 138 across the writing tablet 136. As indicated at step 820, CPU 202 collects data associated with each stroke that the user makes as the user attempts to write the alphabet letter having the spoken sound(s) on the writing tablet 136. Such information includes, for example and not limitation, information related to the starting point the user used to begin forming the letter, the number of strokes made by the user, the starting point of each stroke, and the direction of each stroke. Continuing, CPU 202 evaluates, at step 822, the collected data, using the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 and determines whether an alphabet letter was written by the user on the writing tablet 136 and, if so, what alphabet letter was written. If no correctly written alphabet letter is recognized, the backwards handwriting detection method 1100 is used to determine whether the user has written a letter backwards.

CPU 202 decides, at step 824, if a recognizable alphabet letter was written by the user on the writing tablet 136. If not, CPU 202 loops back to step 806 o the method 800 in order to cause clearing of the character display 134 and the writing tablet 136. If so, CPU 202 advances to step 826 ofthe method 800. At step 826, CPU 202 determines whether the input letter (i.e., input either by selection of a letter by the user from the alphabet letter keypad 130 or by writing on the writing tablet 136) matches the letter having the sound(s) spoken at step 808. If not, CPU 202 jumps ahead to step 834 described below. If so, CPU 202 causes, at step 828, the generation of speech acknowledging the user's correct identification of the alphabet letter associated with the spoken sound(s) and providing positive reinforcement to the user. CPU 202 then, at step 830, causes the display ofthe alphabet letter corresponding to the spoken sound(s) on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136. Next, at step 832, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the alphabet letter associated with the spoken sound(s) and restating the sound(s). After doing so, CPU 202 loops back to step 806 where it causes clearing of the character display 134 and writing tablet 136 to continue method 800 in order to test the user's recognition of the sound(s) associated with another, different alphabet letter.

At step 834, CPU 202 causes the display of the alphabet letter input by the user if it does not match the alphabet letter correctly associated with the spoken sound(s). Then, at step 836, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech informing the user that the input alphabet letter is incorrect, identifying the alphabet letter actually input by the user, and the sound(s) associated with that letter (i.e., the input alphabet letter not being the letter correctly associated with the spoken sound(s)). Next, CPU 202 loops back to step 806 to prompt the user to try again.

FIG. 9 depicts, in flowchart form and in accordance with the preferred embodiment, a method of the sixth game 900 ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100. The sixth game aids in educating children on the sequence of the alphabet letters by "singing" a portion ofthe alphabet song, stopping after that portion, and requiring a user to input the letter following the point at which the singing stopped. The sixth game also teaches a user to associate the sounds of alphabet letters with their order in the alphabet.

After starting and initializing at step 902, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech greeting the user at step 904. Next, CPU 202 causes, at step 906, the generation of speech instructing the user on how the sixth game (i.e., referred to as the "musical alphabet game") is to be played and singing the "alphabet song" (i.e., the song having lyrics corresponding to the alphabet letters). Continuing at step 908, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech "singing" the alphabet song from its beginning to its end and prompting the user to sing along. Then, at step 910, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech prompting the user to listen and play along.

At step 912, CPU 202 causes the clearing ofthe character display 134 and the writing tablet 136. After doing so, CPU 202 causes, at step 914, the generation of speech singing the alphabet song up to the alphabet letter that the user is to input via the alphabet letter keypad 130 or the writing tablet 136. Upon stopping generation ofthe speech singing the alphabet song, CPU 202 causes the display of a flashing question mark on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136. CPU 202 then, at step 918, ascertains whether a selection has been made by the user using the alphabet letter tablet 130. If not, CPU 202 jumps forward to step 922 described below. If so, CPU 202 determines, at step 920, which alphabet letter was selected by the user and then advances to step 232 described below.

At step 922, CPU 202 determines whether the user has begun to make any writing strokes on the writing tablet 136. If not, CPU 202 loops back to get the user to try again. If so, at step 924, CPU 202 causes the progressive display of the user's writing strokes on the character display 134 and on the writing tablet 136 as described previously herein. Continuing at step 926, CPU 202 collects data associated with each stroke that the user makes as the user attempts to write the alphabet letter next in the alphabet sequence on the writing tablet 136. Such information includes, for example and not limitation, information pertaining to the starting point the user used to begin forming the letter, the number of strokes made by the user, the starting point of each stroke, and the direction of each stroke.

Proceeding to step 928, CPU 202 evaluates the collected data, using the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000, and determines whether an alphabet letter was written by the user on the writing tablet 136 and, if so, what alphabet letter was written. If no correctly written alphabet letter is recognized, the backwards handwriting detection method 1100 is used to determine if the user has written a letter backwards. Then, at step 930, CPU 202 decides whether an alphabet letter was written by the user. If not, CPU 202 loops back to allow the user to try again. If so, CPU 202 advances to step 932 of method 900 where it determines whether the input alphabet letter is actually the next letter in the alphabet sequence after stoppage of the alphabet song. If not, CPU 202 proceeds to step 940 described below. If so, CPU 202 causes, at step 934, the generation of speech acknowledging the correct identification by the user ofthe next alphabet letter in the alphabet. At step 936, CPU 202 causes the display on the character display 134 and writing tablet 136 ofthe alphabet letter next in the alphabet letter sequence. Then, at step 938, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the alphabet letter next in the alphabet letter sequence and providing positive reinforcement to the user. CPU 202 then loops back to step 912 where it substantially repeats the process for a different letter.

At step 940, CPU 202 causes the display ofthe alphabet letter input by the user via the alphabet letter keypad 130 or the writing tablet 136. Then, CPU 202 causes the generation of speech identifying the alphabet letter input by the user and prompting the user to try again. Subsequently, CPU 202 loops back to step 912 of method 900 where it repeats the process for the same desired letter.

FIG. 10 displays a flowchart representation of a handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 for evaluating a user written letter ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100 in accordance with the preferred embodiment ofthe present invention. The handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 is used by and in conjunction with the various methods ofthe games when a letter written, or printed, on writing tablet 136 (i.e., an "input letter") must be evaluated by the system 100 to determine (i) what letter has been written by the user (including, upper or lower case), or (ii) that no recognizable letter has been written by the user (i.e., that a letter was erroneously formed by the user). The handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 evaluates data collected from the writing tablet 136 during writing thereon by the user (i.e., "collected data") against the stroke set data stored in non- volatile memory 208, described above, for the letters ofthe alphabet. The collected data for the letter written by the user (i.e., the input letter) includes, for example and not limitation, (i) the position of the starting point of the letter, (ii) the number of strokes of the letter, and (iii) the position of the starting point, the direction, and the positions ofthe first three dots ofthe strokes ofthe letter.

Upon starting at step 1002 and initializing various parameters, CPU 202 sets, at step 1004, a pointer which identifies, or points to, the stroke set data for an alphabet letter against which the collected data ofthe input letter is, preferably, evaluated (i.e., referred to herein as the "current stroke set") on the basis of the number of strokes of the input letter, the directions ofthe strokes ofthe input letter, and the size range o the input letter. Next, at step 1006, CPU 202 determines the number of strokes present in the input letter written by the user on the writing tablet 136. Then, at step 1008, CPU 202 compares the number of strokes ofthe input letter against the number of strokes of the current stroke set (i.e., which is stored in nonvolatile memory 208) to determine if the number of strokes ofthe input letter matches the number of strokes ofthe alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stoke set. If the number of strokes ofthe input letter matches the number of strokes ofthe alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stroke set, CPU 202, at step 1010, branches to step 1020 described below. If, alternatively, the number of strokes ofthe input letter does not match the number of strokes of the alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stroke set at step 1010, CPU 202 advances to step 1012.

CPU 202, at step 1012, determines whether the collected data ofthe input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208 for the letters ofthe alphabet. If not, CPU 202 sets the pointer to the current stroke set data against which the collected data ofthe input letter is, preferably, evaluated to point to the next set of stroke set data at step 1014. Then, in accordance with method 1000, CPU 202 loops back to compare the number of strokes ofthe input letter against the number of strokes ofthe current stroke set as described with reference to step 1008 above. If, CPU 202 determines, at step 1012, that the collected data ofthe input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208, CPU 202 sets a return code (i.e., for use by the game method calling or utilizing the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000) at step 1016, indicating that the input letter has not been recognized (i.e., because the collected data of the input letter does not match the respective stroke data of any stroke set stored in non-volatile memory 208) and that the input letter has been written erroneously by the user. Then, at step 1018, the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 returns control of the operation of CPU 202 to the game method which requested recognition of the input letter.

Continuing at step 1020, CPU 202 determines the directions of the strokes ofthe input letter written, or formed, by the user on writing tablet 136. Next, at step 1022, CPU 202 compares the directions of the strokes ofthe input letter to the directions ofthe strokes ofthe current stroke set and, hence, to the alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stroke set (i.e., which are stored in non- volatile memory 208). If the compared directions match, CPU 202 branches, at step 1024, to evaluate the size range ofthe input letter against the size range ofthe alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stroke set as described at step 1034 below. If the compared directions do not match, CPU 202 proceeds, at step 1024, to step 1026 where it determines whether the collected data of the input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non- volatile memory 208 for the letters of the alphabet. If, at step 1026, CPU 202 determines that the collected data ofthe input letter has not been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data, CPU 202 sets the pointer to the current stroke set data against which the collected data of the input letter is, preferably, evaluated to point to the next set of stroke set data at step 1028. Then, CPU 202 loops back to step 1008 of method 1000 where it, once again, compares the number of strokes of the input letter against the number of strokes of the current stroke set. If, CPU 202 determines, at step 1026, that the collected data of the input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208, CPU 202 sets, at step 1030, a return code (i.e., for use by the game method calling or utilizing the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000) which indicates that the input letter has not been recognized (i.e., because the collected data ofthe input letter does not match the respective stroke data of any stroke set stored in non-volatile memory 208) and that the input letter has been written erroneously by the user. Then, at step 1032, the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 returns control ofthe operation of CPU 202 to the game method which requested recognition of the input letter. At step 1034, CPU 202 determines the size range (and, hence, the size) ofthe input letter written by the user on the writing tablet 136. Proceeding to step 1036 ofthe method 1000, CPU 202 compares the size range (i.e., the size) ofthe input letter to the size range (i.e., the size) ofthe Gurrent stroke set and, hence, to the alphabet letter of, or associated with, the current stroke set. If, at step 1038, the compared size ranges are determined to match, the input letter has been recognized by method 1000 and CPU 202 branches to step 1040. CPU 202 returns, at step 1040, the ASCII code associated with the recognized alphabet letter (i.e., the ASCII code ofthe alphabet letter of, or associated with the current stroke set) to the game method which requested recognition or evaluation ofthe user input letter, and returns control over operation o the system 100 to that game method.

If CPU 202 determines, at step 1038, that the compared size ranges do not match, CPU 202, at step 1042, determines whether the collected data ofthe input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208 for the letters ofthe alphabet. If not, CPU 202 sets the pointer to the current stroke set data to point to the next set of stroke set data at step 1044. CPU 202 then, once again, loops back to step 1008 to compare the number of strokes ofthe input letter against the number of strokes ofthe current stroke set. If, CPU 202 determines, at step 1042, that the collected data of the input letter has been evaluated against the last set of stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208, CPU 202 sets a return code (i.e., for use by the game method calling or utilizing the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000) at step 1046, indicating that the input letter has not been recognized (i.e., because the collected data ofthe input letter does not match the respective stroke data of any stroke set stored in non- volatile memory 208) and that the input letter has been written erroneously by the user. Then, at step 1048, the handwriting recognition and evaluation method 1000 returns control ofthe operation of CPU 202 to the game method which requested recognition ofthe input letter.

FIG. 11 illustrates a flowchart representation of a backwards handwriting detection method 1100 according to the preferred embodiment ofthe alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system 100. The backwards handwriting detection method 1100 is used by and in conjunction with the various methods ofthe games when the system 100 requests that the user write, or print, a particular letter on writing tablet 136 (i.e., referred to herein as a "requested letter") and the system 100 must then determine whether a letter actually written by the user (i.e., the "input letter"), in response thereto, has been written backwards. The backwards handwriting detection method 1100 evaluates data collected from the writing tablet 136 during writing thereon by the user (i.e., "collected data") against the stroke set data stored in non-volatile memory 208, described above, for the letters ofthe alphabet. The collected data for the letter written by the user, as described above, includes, for example and not limitation, (i) the position ofthe starting point ofthe letter, (ii) the number of strokes ofthe letter, and (iii) the position ofthe starting point, the direction, and the positions ofthe first three dots ofthe strokes ofthe letter.

According to the backwards handwriting detection method 1100, after starting at step 1102 and initializing various parameters, CPU 202 determines from the collected data, at step 1 104, the starting position of the input letter written by the user. Next, at step 1106, CPU 202 compares the starting position ofthe input letter against the correct starting position ofthe requested letter using the stroke set data for the requested letter stored in non-volatile memory 208. Then, CPU 202 decides, at step 1108, whether the compared starting positions match. If not, CPU 202 branches to step 1110 where it sets a return code indicating that the compared starting positions do not match and that the requested letter has been written backwards by the user. At step 1112, the backwards handwriting detection method 1100 returns control ofthe operation of CPU 202 to the game method which requested backwards handwriting detection.

If, at step 1108, CPU 202 decides that the compared starting positions ofthe input letter and requested letter match, CPU 202 branches to step 1114 where it determines the positions ofthe first three dots ofthe first stroke ofthe input letter. Next, at step 1116, CPU 202 compares the positions ofthe first three dots ofthe first stroke ofthe input letter against the respective positions ofthe first three dots ofthe first stroke ofthe requested letter, using the stroke set data for the requested letter, to determine if any ofthe respective dot positions are more than two dots apart (i.e., and thereby, to determine if the first stroke ofthe input letter and the first stroke ofthe requested start in the same direction). Advancing to step 1118, CPU 202 determines whether any ofthe respective dot positions are more than two dots apart. If not, CPU 202 sets, at step 1120, a return code indicating that the input letter was written backwards. Control ofthe operation ofthe system 100 is then returned, at step 1122, to the game method which requested backwards handwriting detection. If, at step 1 118, CPU 202 determines that none of the compared respective dot positions are more than two dots apart, CPU 202 sets a return code, at step 1 124, indicating that the input letter was not written backwards. Subsequently, at step 1126, control ofthe operation ofthe system 100 is returned to the game method which requested backwards handwriting detection. According to a handwriting recognition and evaluation method of a first alternate embodiment ofthe present invention, each letter ofthe alphabet is defined by a definition including a starting point and one or more fundamental sets of stroke patterns (i.e., with each set of stroke patterns having one or more strokes having a correct starting point and extending in a correct direction, thereby forming a pattern) which must be present if the letter is correctly formed. Such definitions are stored in non- volatile memory 208' of the local device 102' prior to its use. Each letter also has a definition including a starting point and one or more sets of fundamental stroke patterns (described above) required to form the letter backwards.

For example and not limitation, a definition for the upper case letter "B" might include a first fundamental stroke pattern comprising a single vertical stoke "1" and a second fundamental stroke pattern comprising a plurality of strokes resembling the numeral "3". In combination, the first and second fundamental stroke patterns, when written in appropriate spatial relationship to one another, "define" the upper case letter "B". Hence, an exemplary definition for the upper case letter "B" includes the first fundamental stroke pattern (i.e., comprising a single vertical stroke "1") and the second fundamental stroke pattern (i.e., comprising a plurality of strokes resembling the numeral "3"). In a similar manner and using a relatively small number of fundamental stroke patterns, definitions for the alphabet letters and for numerals have been created and stored in non- volatile memory 208'.

Whenever an input letter is examined in accordance with a game method using the handwriting recognition method ofthe first alternate embodiment on the input letter, the starting point ofthe input letter is identified and an attempt is then made to identify the appropriate set, or sets, of fundamental sets of stroke patterns which may be used, alone or in combination, to form the input letter. The starting point and the resulting set, or sets, of fundamental stroke patterns identified as forming the input letter are compared against the starting point and sets of fundamental stroke patterns of the definition of correctly formed letters to recognize the input letter. If the substantially same starting point and sets of fundamental stroke patterns are present, then the input letter is deemed to be the letter having that definition. If not, the starting point and resulting set, or sets, of fundamental stroke patterns identifying the input letter are compared against the starting point and the sets of fundamental stroke patterns of the definitions ofthe backwardly formed letters. If the substantially same starting point and sets of fundamental stroke patterns are present, then the input letter is deemed to be the backwards-written letter having that definition. Other comparisons of the starting point and the set, or sets, of fundamental stroke patterns identifying the input letter and definitions (i.e., forward and backward) associated with other letters may be made as well. If all such comparisons fail to identify a definition corresponding to the input letter, then the input letter has been erroneously written by the user. Note that the handwriting recognition and evaluation method ofthe first alternate embodiment is also employable, in a substantially similar manner, to detect and recognize numbers which are input by the user and which are correctly formed, incorrectly formed, or formed backwards. In accordance with a second alternate embodiment of the present invention, the system 100" comprises local and remote devices 102", 144" which are substantially similar to the comparable devices 102, 144 of the preferred embodiment described above, with the exception that the devices 102", 144" enable the teaching of the numbers of a number system to children instead of teaching the letters of an alphabet. Therefore, the local device 102" of the second alternate embodiment includes a numerical keypad 130" having the individual numbers 132" of a number system instead of the alphabet letter keypad 130 as is present in the local device 102 of the apparatus ofthe preferred embodiment. The numerical keypad 130" enables the user to select and input numbers in response to prompts by the devices 102", 144" ofthe system 100". The illuminable elements of the character display 134" and writing tablet 136" ofthe local device 102" ofthe second alternate embodiment are illuminable to enable the display of numbers and the detection of writing strokes of a user in a substantially similar manner to their comparable components in the preferred embodiment.

The local device 102" ofthe second alternate embodiment also includes a processor 200" and game and handwriting recognition and evaluation software, stored in non-volatile memory 208", which operate and utilize methods substantially similar to their counterparts in the preferred embodiment. However, in the second alternate embodiment ofthe system 100", the games and handwriting recognition and evaluation software are configured, respectively, to teach and recognize numbers ofthe number system ofthe English language instead of letters ofthe alphabet. More specifically, the methods ofthe game software teach the user how to write numbers, to visually and audibly recognize numbers, and to associate the phonetic sound(s) of numbers with the their visible appearance. The methods of the handwriting recognition software are, likewise, substantially similar to those of the preferred embodiment and detect a properly formed number, an improperly formed number, and a backwardly formed number by evaluating writing strokes input by the user against stroke set data, stored in the non-volatile memory 208" of the local device 102", which define, for example and not limitation, the correct starting position of the number, number of strokes forming the number, and direction of the strokes of the number. It should be understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes the use of other methods of recognizing and evaluating letters or numbers input by a user. It should also be understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes all methods of recognizing and evaluating letters of the English language, or other language, input by the user in printed, cursive, or symbolic form.. It should be further be understood that the scope ofthe present invention includes all methods of recognizing and evaluating numbers ofthe English language, or other language, input by the user in printed or symbolic form.

Whereas this invention has been described in detail with particular reference to a preferred and certain alternate embodiments, it is understood that variations and modifications can be effected within the spirit and scope o the invention, as described herein before and as defined in the appended claims. The corresponding structures, materials, acts, and equivalents of all means or step plus function elements, if any, in the claims below are intended to include any structure, material, or acts for performing the functions in combination with other claimed elements as specifically claimed.

Claims

CLAIMSWhat is claimed is:
1. An apparatus for analyzing writing strokes input by a user, said apparatus comprising: an output device for requesting written input by a user of an identified character of a writing system; an input device for receiving from the user writing strokes possibly indicative of the identified character; a memory for storing data corresponding to the identified character, wherein the data includes at least one parameter associated with correct formation of the identified character; and, a processor for analyzing the writing strokes with respect to the data to determine whether the writing strokes are representative of an erroneous formation ofthe identified character; whereby a learning disorder o the user may be detected if a determination is made that the writing strokes are representative of an erroneous formation ofthe identified character.
2. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein said processor is further operable to detect a backward formation o the identified character.
3. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein said parameter includes a starting position for correct formation of the identified character, and wherein said input device and said processor are further operable to identify a starting position of the writing strokes and to determine whether the identified starting position substantially conforms to the starting position for correct formation of the identified character.
4. The apparatus of Claim 1 , wherein said parameter includes an initial stroke direction for correct formation of the identified character, and wherein said input device and said processor are further operable to identify an initial stroke direction of the writing strokes and to determine whether the identified initial stroke direction substantially conforms to the initial stroke direction for correct formation ofthe identified character.
5. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein said output device is further operable to inform the user of a starting position and initial stroke direction for correct formation of the identified character.
6. The apparatus of Claim 1 , wherein said output device is further operable to inform the user of the writing strokes required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
7. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein said output device is further operable to inform the user of the relative starting position, direction, length, and sequence of each respective writing stroke required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
8. The apparatus of Claim 4, wherein said input device is further operable to provide digitized dot data representative ofthe positions of at least the first two dots of an initial writing stroke received from the user, wherein said parameter includes the positions of at least the first two dots of an initial writing stroke required for correct formation ofthe identified character, and wherein said processor is further operable to determine whether the positions of at least the first two dots ofthe initial writing stroke received from the user substantially conform to the positions of at least the first two dots ofthe initial writing stroke required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
9. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein said input device includes a plurality of sensors for creating data representative of writing strokes received from the user.
10. The apparatus of Claim 1, wherein the writing system includes a plurality of characters and said memory is further operable to store data descriptive of the correct formation ofthe respective characters of said plurality of characters, and wherein said processor is further operable to analyze the writing strokes with respect to the data to determine whether the writing strokes are representative of any character of the writing system.
1 1. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein said data includes the number of writing strokes required for correct formation of each respective character of said plurality of characters, and wherein said input device and said processor are further operable to determine the number of writing strokes received from the user and whether the number of writing strokes received from the user matches the number of writing strokes required for correct formation of a character of said plurality of characters.
12. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein said data includes the directions ofthe writing strokes required for correct formation of each respective character of said plurality of characters, and wherein said input device and said processor are further operable to determine the directions of the writing strokes received from the user and whether the directions of the writing strokes received from the user match the directions of the writing strokes required for correct formation of a character of said plurality of characters.
13. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein said data includes a size range associated with correct formation of each respective character of said plurality of characters, and wherein said input device and said processor are further operable to determine a size range defined by the writing strokes received from the user and whether the size range defined by the writing strokes received from the user matches a size range associated with correct formation of a character of said plurality of characters.
14. A method for analyzing writing strokes input by a user, the method comprising the steps of: requesting written input by a user of an identified character of a writing system; receiving from the user writing strokes possibly indicative ofthe identified character; storing data corresponding to the identified character, wherein the data includes at least one parameter associated with correct formation ofthe identified character; and, analyzing the writing strokes with respect to the data to determine whether the writing strokes are representative of an erroneous formation of the identified character; whereby a learning disorder of the user may be detected if a determination is made that the writing strokes are representative of an erroneous formation of the identified character.
15. The method of Claim 14, wherein the method further comprises a step of analyzing the writing strokes with respect to the data to detect a backward formation of the identified character.
16. The method of Claim 14, wherein the parameter includes a starting position for correct formation of the identified character, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of identifying the starting position ofthe writing strokes and determining whether the identified starting position substantially conforms to the starting position for correct formation of the identified character.
17. The method of Claim 14, wherein the parameter includes an initial stroke direction for correct formation of the identified character, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of identifying an initial stroke direction ofthe writing strokes and determining whether the identified initial stroke direction substantially conforms to the initial stroke direction for correct formation ofthe identified character.
18. The method of Claim 14, wherein the method further comprises a step of informing the user of a starting position and initial stroke direction for correct formation of the identified character.
19. The method of Claim 14, wherein the method further comprises a step of informing the user o the writing strokes required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
20. The method of Claim 14, wherein the method further comprises a step of informing the user of the relative starting position, direction, length, and sequence of each respective writing stroke required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
21. The method of Claim 17, wherein the method further comprises a step of generating digitized dot data representative of the positions of at least the first two dots of an initial writing stroke received from the user, wherein the parameter includes the positions of at least the first two dots of an initial writing stroke required for correct formation of the identified character, and wherein the method further comprises a step of determining whether the positions of at least the first two dots of the initial writing stroke received from the user substantially conform to the positions of at least the first two dots ofthe initial writing stroke required for correct formation ofthe identified character.
22. The method of Claim 14, wherein the step of receiving includes generating with a plurality of sensors data representative of writing strokes received from the user.
23. The method of Claim 14, wherein the writing system includes a plurality of characters, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of storing data descriptive of the correct formation ofthe respective characters ofthe plurality of characters, and of analyzing the writing strokes with respect to the data to determine whether the writing strokes are representative of any character o the writing system.
24. The method of Claim 23, wherein the data includes the number of writing strokes required for correct formation of each respective character ofthe plurality of characters, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of determining the number of writing strokes received from the user and determining whether the number of writing strokes received from the user matches the number of writing strokes required for correct formation of a character of the plurality of characters.
25. The method of Claim 23, wherein the data includes the directions ofthe writing strokes required for correct formation of each respective character of said plurality of characters, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of determining the directions of the writing strokes received from the user and determining whether the directions ofthe writing strokes received from the user match the directions ofthe writing strokes required for correct formation of a character of said plurality of characters.
26. The method of Claim 23, wherein the data includes a size range associated with correct formation of each respective character of said plurality of characters, and wherein the method further comprises the steps of determining a size range defined by the writing strokes received from the user and determining whether the size range defined by the writing strokes received from the user matches a size range associated with correct formation of a character of said plurality of characters.
PCT/US2001/046109 2000-10-24 2001-10-24 Alphanumeric education and learning disorder detection system WO2002035499A2 (en)

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Citations (5)

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US5241332A (en) * 1991-11-29 1993-08-31 Farrell Joyce M Treatment modality in occupational therapy
US5730602A (en) * 1995-04-28 1998-03-24 Penmanship, Inc. Computerized method and apparatus for teaching handwriting
US6030226A (en) * 1996-03-27 2000-02-29 Hersh; Michael Application of multi-media technology to psychological and educational assessment tools
US6111976A (en) * 1996-11-04 2000-08-29 Rylander; John E. System and method for handwritten character recognition and qualification
US6215901B1 (en) * 1997-03-07 2001-04-10 Mark H. Schwartz Pen based computer handwriting instruction

Patent Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US5241332A (en) * 1991-11-29 1993-08-31 Farrell Joyce M Treatment modality in occupational therapy
US5730602A (en) * 1995-04-28 1998-03-24 Penmanship, Inc. Computerized method and apparatus for teaching handwriting
US6030226A (en) * 1996-03-27 2000-02-29 Hersh; Michael Application of multi-media technology to psychological and educational assessment tools
US6111976A (en) * 1996-11-04 2000-08-29 Rylander; John E. System and method for handwritten character recognition and qualification
US6215901B1 (en) * 1997-03-07 2001-04-10 Mark H. Schwartz Pen based computer handwriting instruction

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