Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why Handheld Computers?

Grade 7 Handheld User in the classroom

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?

A
s 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 havi
ng 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.

Promoting team work and collboration with handhelds

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4 comments:

David said...

Hello there

Did you see my post from eLive on mobile learning. I thought the stuff they were doing with handhelds in Wolverhampton was brilliant. It may be worth getting in touch with them to see if there are things you can learn from each other.

Julie Lindsay said...

Hi David
Thanks for sharing your post with me. I agree, excellent material coming from the Learning2Go initiative. In particualr I can identify with the student ownership of the devices as that is the thrust with our HIFE (Handheld Initiative For Education) program at ISD. We are also having success with learning objectives, but this is to be quantified still. However, despite the obvious difference where we are using Palms, other are using Pocket PCs, there are other incredible differences in implementation, staff adoption and PD and parental input with an international school such as ours in a country like Bangladesh. Have a look at my posting in the 1-to-1 Stories Project facilitated by David Muir at Aiming for a sustainable handheld program: an international perspective

Bob Irving said...

Hey, Julie. Thanks for your kind words about my Shiftin' Paradigm Blues blog. I don't know how I got on that list either. I AM #832,451 on the Technorati list, so I suppose that counts for something.

Seriously, though, I'm fascinated with what you're doing with handhelds and would love to keep in touch with you and see how it's going. Handhelds are something we've discussed here.

Keep up the good work!
Bob Irving

Julie Lindsay said...

Hi Bob

Good to hear from you. our HIFE (Handheld Initiative For Education) program is about 2 years old and has its highs and lows. I almost had teacher mutiny this year which was a reflection of the lack of time the school was prepared to devote to PD and support for educators to take on teh new technology. Essentially though we are moving into our 3rd year with a lot of students owning Palm TX with WLAN connectivity (supported by our WLAN in teh secondary school building). I will also have a teacher set of TX's to loan out so staff can have the same device.
I believe the main thrust next year will be on developing appropriate use using generic software, developing pedagogical use of MP3 file formats and continuing to incorporate useful, everyday applications that may interface with the desktop (eg eBook Studio and eReader).

I am very interested in your use of ELGG. I also set up a site through elgg.net recently. We have had a weblog program using Manila software and a UK hosting service through Peter Ford. In particular we have used the weblogs for digital portfolio display so I am looking for a learner environment that will also allow students to upload files and display work as well as interact etc etc.

Julie