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 – http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp
  • 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

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