[Technology 936] handhelds day 2

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Marilyn Williams williams_ma at 4j.lane.edu
Wed Apr 18 10:18:52 EDT 2007


Hi all,
Thanks again for participating in the discussion today. Please send me any comments or
questions as I'd love to establish a dialogue with you!

As it closer to school starting and despite two full days of training, I was still feeling
apprehensive about starting the Palm project. Nonetheless, students were back at school a week
later and I had to be ready to go.
Our first day, I introduced the fact that we had the opportunity to use the handhelds and
explained that everyone would need to take home the permission form and have it back before
we would begin to use the Palms. I thought this would give me a week or so of breathing room!
Of course, they all came back the next day! So, taking a deep breath, we jumped in.
Those first few days were a little chaotic! I did have some basic plans developed but, for the
most part, we played. We experimented with different functions and sent messages to one
another. We also saved our work and set up categories (or files).

One of the most helpful pieces of equipment I used was a FlexCam. This is a camera that has a
flexible neck that can be bent to show whatever the teacher is working on. They are often used
in science classes so all the students can watch a teacher do a dissection or other experiment.
This allowed me to demonstrate which buttons or icons to tap and how and where to enter
information on a screen. It really was (and still is) invaluable.

Our first lessons were basic how to enter information. We played with writing Graffiti, using the
built in keyboard as well as the external keyboard. A fun game to use when learning Graffiti is
called Giraffe.

As we all became more proficient, I started using the Palms in ‘real’ lessons. At first, it was a
stretch to think of how I would use them but as they became part of my repertoire, it was
second nature. One of the earlier projects we did was on government. I divided students into
groups and their task was to create a society. Each group had a set of categories to address
such as school, laws, justice, economy etc. Each student worked on their section then everyone
beamed their portion to each other so the entire group had everyone’s work. This was a great
way to keep them organized and if anyone lost their work, they could easily retrieve it.

Daily, we used our Palms for silent reading responses as well as a unit on word parts. We kept
a list and definitions and examples of literary terms and devices. We wrote poetry which
worked great as I beamed everyone a template and instructions and then they could work
independently.
I know I keep mentioning beaming and I should perhaps explain this function. This allows a
person to just point their Palm at another Palm, tap ‘Beam’ and the data is transferred from one
to another. After a bit of practice we got so we could beam a piece of data to everyone in the
class in the same amount of time it would take to pass out papers. I would beam to one
student, they would beam to another while I got someone else started etc.

It was important for us to organize the Palms in a way that they were easily accessible so I set
up a series of small drawers which contained each person’s Palm and keyboard. Students were
responsible to make sure their Palm was charged and available and, for the most part, this
worked well. If someone forgot theirs at home, they ended up having to use paper and pencil
and that was usually enough deterrent that it wasn’t left at home again.

The biggest advantage of Palms, for me, was the way it leveled the playing field, so to speak,
for all my students. I had taught some of these students since sixth grade in a resource (pull
out) block and had never been able to get them interested in writing. Now that they had this
tool and the example of their peers, they became much more engaged and I was so pleased
with the progress they made. They felt much more positive about themselves as learners as
well.

Fortunately, we had a class set of Palms so everyone had access. In a setting without a class
set, I might establish a ‘Palm learning center’ as part of a rotation. At that center, I’d probably
have assignments listed and have students work in a more individual way. It certainly is more
difficult to incorporate any kind of technology when students have to share.

So far, we've lost only 1 handheld over 3 years!

Marilyn Williams
6th Grade Language Arts/Social Studies
Kennedy Middle School
Eugene, OR