I finally got my hands on a HP Print App-enabled printer! Having heard the rave about the SAP and OnSponge Print Apps, I couldn’t wait to start trying it out on my Primary Two daughter. Are my days of hunting for and buying exam papers and assessment books from “top schools” over? Will my daughter roll her eyes at me when I plonk a ton of assessment papers in front of her?
The printer I got is the HP PhotoSmart 6520, sleek jet-black beast with only a single on-off button. All other controls are accessed through the touch-screen LCD display panel that looked like an oversized iPhone stuck onto the front of the printer. Setting up the printer was a simple matter of plugging it into a power socket, turning it on, and then configuring the wifi settings just as you would on a normal smartphone. The whole setup process took me less than 5 minutes. I spent more time looking for a free power socket than on configuring the printer.
To install new Print Apps, it is necessary to visit HP Connected on a browser, create a new account, and enter the unique Printer ID of your printer to be associated with your account. Once done, you can browse the entire library of “Printables” just as you would on a normal device appstore. Select the Print App that you like, click on Add, and then complete the application settings to configure the days that you want to receive new printouts. Finally, head back to the printer and you will see the new Print App appearing on the LCD display.
Being the quintessential KiasuParent, the first apps I loaded were SAP and OnSponge. SAP Education, a reknowned publisher of assessment books in Singapore for all Primary school subjects, has made complete sets of assessment papers for English, Mathematics and Science from Primary One to Six available on their Print App! It’s a treasure trove of essential tools for all parents with Primary school kids.
Given that the service is free, I was skeptical about the quality of the questions and answers. So I decided to print out the Primary 6 English SA2 assessment paper and do a quick check.
It turned out to be the full test paper for PSLE Paper 1, Language Use and Comprehension, and includes Booklet A and B. It was a hefty 17 paged package, including the answer sheet attached at the back.
Since I wasn’t able to persuade my Secondary Two son to relive the horrors of the PSLE, I had to go through the paper myself. I got the first 5 MCQs correct, and just as I started thinking that it was going to be a breeze, I began to fumble with the grammar questions. Example:
Everyone except the twins (is, are, was, were) taking part in the marathon next Saturday.
I got this question wrong! . What do you think the answer is?
A quick check with the attached answer sheet shows good, clean answers to the free-form answers, with good semantics and free from grammatical errors.
The answers are way better than those dubious ones we usually find accompanying the “top schools” exam papers. My verdict? This is no half-hearted attempt at creating some “test-paper fax service”. The content is excellent, just as what we would get from the best assessment books that we buy from bookstores.
The next thing to check out is the main attraction of the Print Apps, which is the scheduled, unattended delivery of new content. The SAP Print App allows me to schedule new content to be delivered printed on my HP printer everyday.
I configured the settings for my daughter – Primary 2, English and Math, delivered between 12noon and 1pm on Mondays to Fridays, and then waited with high anticipation. Sure enough, a couple of minutes after 12pm, the printer woke up and started to print out my daughter’s “homework” for the day. I tried to sweeten the deal for her with similarly scheduled daily art & craft materials from the Dreamworks and the Awesome Paper Planes Print Apps to accompany this “pill”, but it turns out that my fears were unfounded. My daughter took to her daily routine like fish to water.
She only has Kumon math enrichment and Chinese enrichment in Molin on Sundays, so she’s pretty free on other days. Compared to Kumon’s math drills of dozens of sums everyday, the 3-4 questions per daily worksheet offered by the SAP Print App are a piece of cake for her. As SAP Education explained, the intent is not to overload the child with intensive worksheets, but to spread out the learning into daily, bite-sized nuggets that the child can easily complete within a few minutes. The questions are directly relevant to what the child learnt in school, so they serve to reinforce the understanding of concepts in a subtle but effective way.
My daughter made a game out of the whole thing. Everyday, she would go to the printer once she gets home from school, and bug me if there is nothing there (I do forget to leave the printer powered-on sometimes). She would collect the print-outs, staple them together, punch holes (I have no idea why) and then attack the work sheets with a vengeance. When she finished in 5-10 minutes, she would check and mark her own answers, giving herself stars, smiley faces, and words of encouragement. Lol.
The more complicated worksheets will come with a worked solution at the front, so that the child can learn the techniques and apply them to answer the rest of the questions.
Primary Two English Vocabulary Daily Worksheet:
Here is a sample Primary Two Math daily worksheet. A variety of different problems are set each day, ranging from simple calculations to problem sums.
I didn’t try out the Science daily worksheets since my daughter is still in Primary Two, but the samples provided by SAP Education is nothing short of amazing. There is a complete discussion of cellular properties, followed multiple choice questions to test the concepts that were discussed. If students do these worksheets and file them away neatly, they can be easily used as revision material prior to the PSLE. I also noticed that higher Primary levels have 6 questions each day, compared to the 3-4 questions at lower Primary levels.
From my tests, the Print App services seem quite reliable, although there are quirks with the printer such as a not-very-responsive touchscreen. Having to leave the printer on 24/7 may be a turn-off for some people, but HP offers an “eco” mode that is supposed to draw minimal power when the printer is on standby. In any case, anyone who has ever owned an inkjet printer will know that the printer should print something at least once a week to prevent damage to the print head, which is very expensive to replace.
The biggest issue would be the need to print a number of pages everyday. I usually get about 7 sheets everyday, and that includes my daily “Sherman’s Lagoon” comics, Dreamworks’ art & craft, and the Awesome Paper planes. Unfortunately, duplex printing does not seem to work for the print apps, even though the printer does support duplex printing for normal print-outs. I’m not sure if this is a limitation with all print apps or if it is print app specific. Will check with HP and revert. Hopefully this is problem that can be fixed.
In conclusion, the quality and scope of the SAP Print App is really impressive, more so than I had originally expected. It is quite amazing that subscription is free-of-charge and accessible to anyone with a HP Print App-enabled printer.