Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Erie #1 BOCES where we looked at the Handheld-Centric Classroom. The presenters were none other than Dr. Elliot Soloway and Dr. Cathie Norris of GoKnow, Inc. I got so much out of this workshop, I couldn't possibly put it into one post. I decided to post what I learned in chunks related to what the good doctors spoke about.
I can't say enough about the down-to-earth discussions I had with Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris. Dr. Soloway was real, understanding and very curious as to what the group thought were some reasons why handheld computers were not more prevalent in our schools. Despite Dr. Soloway's correct statement, "they are not handheld computers, they are computers!", I choose to continue to refer to them as handhelds or handheld computers because they are not prevalent in schools at this time. Unfortunately, many teachers see them as just personal organizers or only good for games. We simply must to a better job on getting the word out to administrators, teachers and students.
Dr. Soloway suggested that there has been "precious little" impact of technology on K-12 education. I have to agree. Every where you look districts are throwing wads of money into hardware for classrooms. Has this method really changed anything? Even with the major money being thrown around they can't throw enough to reach the holy grail of technology integration, 1 computer per student . The typical ratio of students to computers is 5:1 (9:1 in urban areas) and is far from 1:1. Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris believe as do I that handheld computers are the solution. (Remember they are computers)
A great idea is how some teachers are getting sets of handhelds, at very low costs, by looking for older used units. What's so great about this idea is that for just getting started with handhelds you don't need a high end unit. Many of the older (+/- 2-3 years) are capable of running most applications that are used in a classroom. Many of these applications can be found at Tony Vincent's web site learninginhand.com.
I want to publicly thank Michelle Okal and Jeff Dolce of Erie1 BOCES for inviting me to attend this workshop. Check back for more in the next few days as I run through the rest of what I learned from this great experience.