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Handhelds in the classroom

Geoff Gasior
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Wired has an interesting story up on how students in Oakland Park, Ill are using Palm IIIxes instead of traditional noteboooks at school. The program includes 2,200 handhelds used in everything from math to biology and raises some interesting questions regarding the benefit of computers in labs versus handhelds.

“A low-powered computer in your hand is more educationally beneficial than a high-powered Pentium III computer down the hall,” said Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor who has developed applications for the Palm.

“Every school can afford to provide every child with a $100 computational tool,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of priorities.”

While I don’t think we’ll see computer labs replaced in school anytime soon, this program does bode well for the future of handhelds in the education system. With students who can’t afford the devices eligible for financial aid the possibility does exist for every student to have a handheld, especially with the discounting on the units themselves. Of course the article does point out one fairly immediate problem.

“Even as the cost of handhelds has dropped significantly, there’s still going to be loss. If a student drove over his notebook, it probably wouldn’t be damaged the same way a Palm Pilot would be,” he said. “That (loss) doesn’t happen to a notebook that costs a buck nineteen.”

You’d think something like that would be impossible to do but sure enough one of my profs last term lost her Palm III to the wheel of her husband’s car. Personally I think there’s a far greater danger of students playing Dreadling in class.

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