[Technology 933] handhelds

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Marilyn Williams williams_ma at 4j.lane.edu
Tue Apr 17 17:53:31 EDT 2007

Hi all,
Just thought I'd take this opportunity to address some of the questions that you've sent my way.

One of the biggest issues I'd thought we'd have was with the size of the screens, especially for
using the Inspiration program as it's very visual (flow charts etc.). The students don't seem to
be bothered by this, however. I think they're more used to cell phone screens and Game Boys
etc. than I am. I do find that students think that one screen of writing equals a page! So, I often
have to give them a guideline of, "This should be at least 5 screens long" or something like that.
After a while they understand that the screen usually holds about 2 sentences and they adjust. If
you wanted to run spreadsheets, I think the screen size could become an issue.

The major advantage of a handheld versus a laptop is primarily cost, I think. The Palms run
around $200 plus around $60 for a keyboard which is a lot less than a laptop. The Palms are
also pretty resilient. We're still using many of the Palms we started with 3 years ago and
they've had pretty much daily use. The biggest problem is keeping track of the stylus! These
end up in pockets, on the floor or in binders. So, we now have a sign out system for their use.
The Palms we use do not have internet access and that's fine with me as I think they might
become too distracting with that option.

The major disadvantage I've experienced is what happens with all technology; it freezes up or
breaks down and data is lost. Palms can be hotsynced (or backed up) on a computer and if
that's done regularly, the loss will be minimal. It is frustrating for a student to have worked
hard on something only to have an error message occur. I've really appreciated the beaming
function as students can quickly recover data from someone else (of course this doesn't work
when it was your own).

Students are each assigned their own Palm and take them home and to other classes. One of
the goals of using this technology was to help students learn to transfer their learning across
content areas. So, we have students doing their science homework on the Palm, coming to my
class to print it off, and then turning it in. To print, they just point their Palm at a reader on the
printer and it prints off. You don't need to download to another computer at all. Outside of
class is where Palms are great because students can continue to add to work they're doing very
easily as the handheld is so portable.

The equipment which I use in class includes my own Palm, a projector and a FlexCam. The
FlexCam has been invaluable as it allows me to project exactly what I'm doing with my Palm to
the students. This is a lot easier than trying to explain which little button or icon I'm using.
Our site uses the Palm Tungsten e handheld along with an external keyboard. These are rather
out of date but still work for what I need in class.

Overall, students have really enjoyed the experience of using the Palms. I'll tell you more about
how my classroom uses these tomorrow.


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