From Zero to Handhelds

This session was about how to implement handhelds in schools that have never thought of them before. Lynn Lair & Rob DeLilli from Wheelerville Union Free School a rural school in Upstate New York. Their introduction to handhelds was through the Magellan Foundation’s NY Talks Program several years ago.

They started with this question: How can handhelds be used by teachers and students? Seeking and landing a $35,000 grant from a state Senator they then brought in an expert to create a shopping list and sought out open-minded teachers.

What Worked:

  • Getting every teacher a handheld (~25 teachers)
  • Offering training
  • Provide teachers to play (teachers used them over the summer)
  • Modeling practical uses for handhelds (Rob modeled appropriate uses as an administrator as well as used them to communicate with teachers about pre-observation notes)
  • “Advertising” to Students and Parents
  • Gradual deployment to students
  • School Board support
  • Patience, Low pressure, Encouragement, Technical support & Financial commitment

What Didn’t:

  • Software glitch – Mac OS9 conflicts – (Mobilemind-ed Note: Be careful and read the hardware, software and networking requirements before purchasing)
  • Having full-time IT staff
  • Not enough training

This a example of another motivated administrator that gets it and is acting to get things going. Exposing students and teachers to handheld technology is important and to share experiences using handhelds. Students want and need to be plugged-in so accessibility to technology for students is very important. Wheelerville schools have experienced the bumps and successes and analyzed what can be done better and are moving forward with additional deployment, more training, software updates as well as adding wireless connectivity. It will be interesting to see how this implementation project grows within the schools as well as in neighboring schools as well as how they will sustain the project in the future.

Creative, Cool & Crazy

Wendy (my better half) and I had the chance to meet Tony Vincent prior to his keynote address at MAHC 2006 and chat about some tools to use for her classroom. Tony’s keynote was about the creative, crazy and cool ways to use handheld computers in classrooms.

Creative uses:

  • Contacts – create a category in your contact list for ACRONYM’s or vocabulary. Simply put the word or acronym in the last name field and create a custom field titled definition or description.
  • Picture viewers – displaying photos of science experiments such as capturing photos of daily plant growth or weather related photos such as clouds
  • Handybase ($30 – Palm/PocketPC) – create a behavior log of student behaviors. This was handy because in just a few taps you can create a log of behavior instantly with an automatic time and date stamp. Handybase has a large catalog of databases. Tony has a .pdf document that describes how to create a custom made database.

Crazy uses:

  • Transparent Desktops photos – not much educational value other than using photo editing software
  • Stressed (Palm) – fun app for relieving stress of using handhelds, take the virtual hammer and smash the screen

Cool (FREE) Stuff:

  • MathAce (Palm)
  • Silly Sentences (Palm)
  • GoneMad (Palm)
  • Dropairs (Palm) – pair boards are available for download or you can create your own using an application for Windows
  • TicTac15 (Palm) – TicTacToe with an addition twist
  • e-reader (PocketPC)
  • Quizzler (PocketPC)
  • TCPMP – plays a variety of audio and video file formats including .mp3 and .mp4 formats standard for podcasts
  • 9Poll
  • StyleTap will emulate PalmOS software on WindowsMobile devices, beaming is possible, however syncing will not work properly.
  • Moon Phase
  • Storm Voice & FlashBoom
  • Illusion (Palm)
  • NumberTranslator (PocketPC)
  • Match Who Edit (Palm)
  • Decision Maker (PocketPC) a magic-8 ball type application

Tony is energetic and very approachable and what I like about him is that he is practical. The software he shares is free or if there is a cost involved the and The above applications are linked at Tony’s website along with more information. You can read Tony’s notes of the MAHC Conference at

Supporting K-12 Learning Using Handhelds

Karen Fasimpaur joined the MAHC early and filled in for a late presenter cancellation. Palm and PocketPC users converged to learn how using handheld computers can improve instruction and learning for K-12 students.

Karen suggested that teachers and technology leaders consider the outcomes of using handheld computers prior to committing to a purchase. Keep an eye on Linux-based handhelds in the future. Interestingly, she mentioned that there was a buzz about NECC this year about devices called “student appliances”. I haven’t heard this yet, but it was decided that the term was referring to portable devices like the Nova5000 or the Ultra Mobile PC.

So why handhelds for K-12 learning?

One teachers said to me:
We don’t really use or textbooks except to flip through the pictures, because the content is not appropriate for our kids.

One Answer – Curriculum.

I think Karen spoke an interesting quote when she said “the technology needs to be the curriculum”. She elaborated by saying that if it’s one more thing that teachers need to learn, it won’t happen. Also, a sustainable handheld implementation is not about giving students a chance to “play” with the handhelds on a Friday afternoon.

An Approach that Works

  1. Identify a grade level and curriculum area.
  2. Start with existing content objectives or standards
  3. Look at what objectives are most critical and of which handheld tools lend themselves
  4. Develop, adapt, or license materials based on current curriculum. Build your own if necessary.

The Core Tools

  • e-books – teachers love books, Plucker
  • Web clipping – secure, guided web browsing
  • Audio & Video – powerful tool for differentiating instruction
    • Kinoma Player (Palm)
    • Windows Media Player, TPCMP (Windows Mobile)
    • Camptasia Studio –
  • Graphic Organizers – mapping the individual student’s mind, Inspiration
  • Writing – increasing writing opportunities
  • Worksheets – paperless classrooms
  • Quizzes & Tests – can’t escape these!

10 Critical Items for Success

  • Curriculum focus
  • Solid curriculum-based software and/or materials
  • Differentiation strategies (multi-leveled resources, vocabulary support, multimedia, “just in time” individualization)
  • A One-to-One model (there are various ways to implement a 1-to-1 model without breaking budgets)
  • Management tools – file management – how do you get files out to students and back again? SDExpress SD card that installs handheld applications from one SD card.
  • Students being allowed to take handhelds home – important to have parents in on the program, “students guard them with their lives… benefit is so much bigger… just take the leap and do it”

Sidenote: Warming up to the use of cellphones or convergent devices for educational purposes (I have been thinking about posting about this soon… stay tuned.)

  • On-going professional development and collaboration
  • Have an LCD projector
  • Administrative support – there is money there somewhere, administrators are using them
  • Teachers who want to do it

Emerging from the Hand

Here at the Mid-Atlantic Handheld Conference with about 200 other handheld profiecient (or soon-to-be proficient teachers. Sounds like some have traveled from all over the Atlantic coast. There was also a core group of teachers from Texas. I am moblogging from a pre-conference session about “Emerging Technologies & Handheld Devices + Beam Party” given by Todd Fishburn a technology integration specialist from Seaford, DE.

Todd began by reiterating that it’s not about the tool it’s about what we are doing with them and the research behind how students today are learning.

We remember:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see & hear
  • 70% of what we discuss with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally and think critically about
  • 95% of what we teach someone else

Research Studies:

Web Tools
There is a wiki space created to begin collaborating on the use of handhelds in education. The Mid-Atlantic Handheld Conference 2006 Wiki Space can be found here: A discussion on using wikis on a handheld is possible but the inconvenience of Internet accessibility as well as speed is an issue. A neat resource that is handheld friendly is The conversation quickly switched to social networking sites like and the like. Using a video content (i.e. – United Streaming) teachers can differentiated instruction for students by allowing them to access and view videos on a handheld device stored on a SD card. This is a great tool to use to provide learners with prior knowledge

e-Books are a very exciting tool for teachers and there are many sites to access e-books for readers. Check out these links for free e-books:

Yikes! There are so many web tools being presented in this session it’s tough to keep up, so I won’t try. But you can access these at the MAHC Conference Wiki or conference website.

We had a “Beam Party” which was a great idea for getting the group to move around and be mobile learners! It was great connecting with others, sharing applications as well as learning what others are doing with handhelds in the classroom.

Mid-Atlantic Handheld Conference

MAHC @ Salisbury UniversityWell, in a few hours I will be going to Salisbury University to my first ever handheld conference. Gosh! It took me long enough. I will be listening and networking tomorrow and get a feel of where I am in the world of handhelds in education. I always enjoy conferences because they either give me affirmation that I am doing somethings right or they provide me with information and ideas to use and more knowledgable. I have a feeling I will have a mix of the former and the latter during this conference.

On day two of this conference, I will be presenting on the use of AudioBay software to download, listen and create podcasts with ease. I received word that the kind people at VoiceAtom have agreed to donate an AudioBay license as a door prize during my presentation! One sign that they are supportive of what we are trying to do with handhelds in education.

If you are attending the conference and you see me please approach me and say hello. I will have some “hard copy” business cards, but would prefer to beam contact information.

See you in the morning!

iFight is on!

Microsoft has finally decided to take on the iPod head on and develop their own audio and video device to compete with Apple. This New York Times article is worth a read, not just to learn about a possible device from Microsoft, but what may come in the future. There is, you know, mention of a new Apple device with wireless connectivity “waiting in the wings”.

So, the debate between the iPod and the handheld takes another interesting turn. I thought these devices were on a path of merging together (iPods becoming more handheldesque and vice versa) but those of us in education are usually the last to learn of these sorts of things. Yet, this is an indication that different, function specific devices are in demand. I think the sleekness and ease of use of the iPod is extremely tough to contend with. I’m sure that if Apple does have a wireless device in the making, it will include some mobile version of iTunes as well. Makes sense, doesn’t it.

Okay, what does this mean for education then? Well, I’m not sure. This one threw me for a loop. What do you think?

Rewarding Schools for Engaging Students

You might be just returning from NECC and you are looking to gear up with some mobile technologies. Maybe it was the popularity of iPod’s in education, the energetic and knowledgeable Tony Vincent or the dynamic duo of Cathie Norris & Elliot Soloway from GoKnow that sparked your interest in handheld devices. Yet, where do you get the funds? I was reminded by a two-time winner, who just so happens to be my better half, of the Best Buy Teach grant that they are available again from July 1st – September 30th. $2,500 should outfit a mobile classroom nicely. Here are some highlights from the Best Buy Community Relations site:

  • Each year Best Buy will present up to 1,200 schools with $2,500 te@ch awards (in the form of a $2,500 Best Buy gift card)
    • $15,000 will be awarded to up to 36 schools** (see site for details)
    • $250,000 will be awarded to 1 school district*** (see site for details)
  • Total amount awarded: More than $3.5 million
  • Awards go to K-12 public, private and parochial schools using interactive technology in classrooms.
  • Schools must be within 50 miles of a Best Buy store to apply.
  • Educators must apply between July 1 and September 30.
  • Winning schools are announced in February

If you decide to apply, be sure to connect your proposal to learning standards and have a clear plan for implementation. If you do receive a Best Buy Teach award, you use it for mobile technology and you read about it here at Mobilemind-ed let me know. I’ll highlight your award here at Mobilemind-ed! Good luck!

As If We Needed More Proof…

If administrators, principals and technology specialists are unsure of where the world of mobile computing is headed they need look no further than World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Mobile Web Inititative.

“The Mobile Web Initiative’s goal is to make browsing the Web from
mobile devices a reality”, explains Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and
inventor of the Web. “W3C and mobile industry leaders are working
together to improve Web content production and access for mobile users
and the greater Web.”

Community members are supporting standards for authoring web content for use on mobile devices. This sort of movement is a clear sign that content providers are seeing the value of ubiquitous computing.

‘m wondering how many administrators and principals are walking around their schools with Treos, or similar handhelds, accessing and sending e-mail, checking student databases, browsing webpages, getting answers to questions and problem solving. These are things that we try to get our students to do.

It is becoming very easy to get access for students. Access to computers, even in urban and rural areas, is made much easier with a handheld initiative. Here is something I heard about when I met Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris of Go Know, Inc.

Nova5000 offers schools a price performing solution for all of their computing needs, in the classroom, in the lab, at home and for outdoor activities by combining powerful computing performance with patent pending data logging functionality. National Science Foundation research demonstrates that probeware functionality can substantially improve student achievement in mathematics and science. The Nova5000 is the perfect device for 1:1 initiatives, science classrooms and general student computing.

This tool could add to the list of schools and districts that are going 1:1. This tool is very versatile and has functionality for any content area in school. Makes me wish I were a student again.