In response to the letter to the editor (July 2003) entitled “No one-to-one solution at hand” (http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/PFshowstory.cfm?ArticleID=4483), I would like to comment on a few items mentioned in the letter.
(1) As computer technology has advanced in the past few years, so has the readability of the handheld computer’s screen. Now in color and even able to be read in direct sunlight, the advantage of a handheld is that an individual student can comfortably view it at any angle and at any distance he or she needs.
(2) The input via the “flat” keyboards is exactly like typing on a laptop computer. In reality, the preferred method of text entry into these devices, which you see students doing on the bus, in the library media center, and at lunch, is via the stylus and writing directly on the screen of the device. Once students learn their ergonomic lessons about “wrists up” and “sitting up straight” that we teach to them from the earliest age, they should have no trouble transferring these concepts over to the use of the handheld computer.
(3) There are hundreds of web sites available that are formatted to fit the handheld screen, and although a lesser amount of information is offered on each page of these sites, the students can easily browse the sites via the handheld to access the information they are looking for. In my experience, by “chunking” web information in smaller amounts, students and educators seem to retain more of what they read. Software programs for the handheld computer are also written to take advantage of the small screen and are easily used by students of all ages. eBook readers for the handheld computers allow the text to be thick, thin, large, or small, and can be individually set by the handheld user.
(4) Not many of the new handheld computers are yet being used as wireless devices on schools’ 802.11b networks, but, as this trend continues to grow, the same security measures taken with wireless laptops and desktops will have to be addressed. Many schools already have security measures in place for wireless computers, and the handhelds will fit nicely into these same procedures.
(5) I have trained educators and students to use handheld computers, and the learning curve is very small; within a couple of hours, they are adept at using the device. The professional development for classroom technology infusion is incorporated into our overall technology professional development, since, as with desktop computers, the handheld computer is just a tool to be used when appropriate to enhance teaching and learning. The teachers are excited when they realize that, with a classroom set of handheld computers, they can create a lesson or unit that allows them to stay in their classroom, go outside for data collection, use the library media center to “harvest” resources, and go to the computer lab–and all with the students having their own personal digital device!
(6) The letter states that there is a cost involved with wiring and “programming all the numerous desktops already in schools to work with Palms.” There is no additional wiring needed, and with classroom sets of handhelds all synchronizing to one classroom computer, the installation of one software program on one classroom desktop can easily be done while doing maintenance or updates of other software. There are also software solutions on the market that easily allow the updating of programs on multiple handhelds that take but a minute to use.
(7) Granted, the type of handheld we would like to have for teachers and students is more in the $200 to $300 range than in the $100 range, but with shrinking budgets–and combined with the use of the existing desktop computers as production and research tools–the less expensive handheld computer can give access to technology for more students as they have never seen before.
–Kathy Schrock, Administrator for Technology, Nauset (Mass.) Public Schools