Schools are experimenting with Palm Pilot computers, and software manufacturers are responding with programs and services designed specifically for students. Palm computers, which have become ubiquitous in the business world during the past few years, can send and receive information over the web, track class schedules and assignments, maintain databases, and play games. Prices run from about $150 to $500, depending on the power of the systems and the built-in features they offer.
Scholastic.com (owned by Scholastic Inc.) was first out of the box with services designed to utilize Palm’s capabilities. Scholastic’s free service includes news updates, classroom lesson ideas (grades 3-8), and communication functions. These can be accessed by wireless Palms or by hooking Palms to internet-enabled computers.
eHomeRoom.com is trying to take advantage of Palm’s features through its online school calendar. Schools that sign up with eHomeRoom.com can create yearly and class-specific schedules (including homework assignment reminders) that school employees, parents, and students can access.
MindSurf Inc., a joint venture between a wireless-data company, Aether Systems Inc., and Sylvan Ventures, a division of Sylvan Learning Systems Inc., is providing lesson plans, news, and other educational content. The company recently purchased HiFusion Inc. to expand its technology and content for online users.
The real breakthroughs, however, have yet to arise. Developers of education programs say the increased availability of Palms and their ease of use will transform science and math classes. Elliot Soloway, a professor of engineering, education, and information at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has developed one such application, which he calls PiCoMap. This program uses Palm’s graphical capabilities to let students build word-association maps.