When there's talk of technology in schools, the amout of use of that technology is often mentioned. As this use is examined, many, many schools find that the hardware, with which they spend millions of dollars on, in the end, spends more time collecting dust than acting as a tool for students. Unnecessary to say, this is frustrating, no, aggrevating.
In my second, albeit delayed, post related to my experience with Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris last month, I want to paint a picture of the potential of a "handheld-centric" classroom. Here goes…
My last post read of the ratio of student to computer so I need not address it here. However, I must address the attempts of 1:1 via laptop computers. While this sounds all well and good, I don't think that is the answer for all schools. In terms of learning, handheld computers are more task appropriate. They are instantly available, whether in a student's desk, backpack or their pocket. There is no waiting for the operating system to boot up and ask the student to log in to a specific domain so their every move can be tracked. Handhelds turn on and turn off immediately. When mobility is important, handhelds can't be beat. They fit in a pocket, backpack or in the palm of the hand extremely well. As mobile as it is, it is also invisible. What I mean by invisible is not that you can not see it, but after some regular use, it becomes ubiquitous. I love that word. Every where learning occurs, if necessary or desired, handhelds can be there. It is invisible, because you become accustomed to using it and therefore don't notice it. Until it's missing.
An obvious concern about technology is cost:
"There are 55 million K-12 kids in America. Fifty-five million times $1,000—the cost of a laptop—isn’t going to happen. But 55 million times $100—the cost of a handheld—that could happen tomorrow," (Dr. Elliot Soloway, eSchool News, 2003)
My last point is that, compared to desktops, handheld computer users use 90% of it's functionality. Show me a desktop machine that has 90% of it's functionality being used and I'll show you a stripped down machine with nothing worth a darn using or an Uber Geek that has nothing to do. To reach such a high percentage of usability and still be inexpensive just seems unlikely. But it isn't.
Bottom line: Handhelds are inexpensive, reliable, and highly functional. What tax payer wouldn't want a district to spend their tax money this way?