[Technology 939] Handheld discussion day 3

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Marilyn Williams williams_ma at 4j.lane.edu
Thu Apr 19 10:07:53 EDT 2007

We’ve talked a little about some of the benefits, obstacles and outcomes of the Palm project but
I’d like to expand on some of those today.

I’ll start with the negatives. I don’t think it’s possible to use technology without running into
obstacles! Something always seems to freeze or crash or disappear into Neverland! However, I
think those situations have been pretty minimal considering how much the Palms are used. One
problem is that if a Palm loses its charge completely, the information, and any new applications
which you installed, will be lost. The way to get around this is to have students regularly
HotSync (upload their files to another computer) their data and then it can be retrieved. This is
a good lesson for students and does more to remind them than telling them over and over to be
sure to keep their Palms charged. Palms do freeze on occasion and, again, if you haven’t backed
up data, it’s lost. Sometimes, they can be reset and the info is still there but sometimes it’s
gone. On the plus side of that scenario, a student can easily retrieve general information, like a
worksheet or vocabulary list, from someone else. Palms are small, which is a benefit but they
can easily be left on a desk, on top of the locker or in a pocket. So far, knock on wood, we’ve
always had Palms returned to us. At this point, some of our keyboards are wearing out and have
lost some of their keys. The stylus is also easily mislaid, misplaced or lost, as well.

That being said, the benefits have far outweighed the obstacles, in my opinion. Those of you
who work with students with learning disabilities have probably found that writing can be
especially painful. I often experienced a lot of frustration on the student’s part in trying to get
thoughts recorded. Then, after finally getting something on paper, any revision or editing
suggestion which involved erasure or rearranging was very difficult. I found that students were
much more willing to alter their writing when doing it in an electronic format. It’s much easier
to copy and paste or cut and paste than it is to erase and remember what you wanted to write.
Students also use colors to highlight places they want to reconsider which is an effective peer
revision tool. One strategy we use a lot is to develop an outline in Inspiration (sometimes I give
them the topics and they fill in the details and sometimes they come up with everything on their
own) and then transfer the outline to Documents. Once in Documents, they just write their
paragraphs from the outline that they can refer to easily. Then, they delete the outline and
they’ve got a paragraph (or 2 or 3). Once written, their work can be beamed and printed and
look just as good as anyone else’s.

I think the Palms have really helped generate more equity in my classes. Sometimes it’s a not
so academic student who is helping to figure out how to troubleshoot a problem. Every person’s
work can be easily read and shared by others. Papers don’t become dog eared and left on the
floor as they are all stored in the Palm. Some students, and their parents, worry about the cost
of replacing their Palm if it’s lost or damaged. So far, we’ve only had to deal with this once and
we had the student come in and do some kind of work for us at school.

I hope you’ve gotten a glimpse into the potential of using these devices in a classroom. Please
let me know if I can clarify or expand on any of the information I’ve shared.


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