The handheld computer is the most recent example of a powerful learning tool for students. It is part of what is called the '4th wave' of technology which has brought the idea of anytime, anywhere, anyone mobile technology and learning. The 4th wave includes handheld devices, improved Internet connections and wireless access to information. The 4th wave builds on the communication, creation and collaboration of the 3rd wave of technology in the 1990's to provide teaming, lifelong learning, learning organisation and new approaches to teaching and learning of information and digital literacy. The use of handhelds in the classroom allows students to be actively engaged in their own learning and be more involved in their own enquiry into concepts. Technology is more natural to students today. They already have a vast array of technologies at home (mobile phone, playstation, desktop computer) and are comfortable with their use. Handhelds are ultra-portable allowing students to collect data in real time without having to 'go to the computer'.
What are our challenges as teachers and parents?
As teachers we need to give students relevant learning experiences and teach them how to appropriately use emerging technologies and apply them to real-world situations. We need to give students the abilities to embrace the 4th wave of technology because this is the future and that is where they will live. Parents need to support the program by encouraging security of devices and show regular interest and a desire to know how the handheld is being used for everyday learning.
But...what about their handwriting skills?
For the past two years the question has been asked at every parent meeting where handheld computing is discussed. I have two main responses to this concern. Firstly, all teachers and students aim to use the best tools they have available for each particular task. It is obvious handheld computers are not the best device for writing an essay on unless perhaps an extension keyboard is attached. However, given a choice of copying a homework task by hand onto a piece of paper (2 minutes) or having it beamed (via infrared communication from the Palm) as a file from the teacher or fellow student (5 seconds) I would choose the latter as the most appropriate method. Secondly, as technologies continue to merge we will be witnessing more devices that can recognise handwriting on the screen and translate it into text. This is available for laptops and PCs (e.g. Tablet PC) and will become more prevalent with other mobile devices allowing handwriting to continue to be used in conjunction with the technology.
handheldcomputing, elearning, 4thwavetechnology, mobilecomputing