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Handhelds for Students? 212

OmegaGeek writes "Wired is reporting from NECC 2002 that one solution to achieving universal computer access advocated by teachers (and marketing departments too, no doubt) is the use of handheld computers instead of laptops or desktop PCs. Is this a reasonable solution? Does it offer anything for the students other than the ability to beam notes instead of passing a piece of paper? I've also posted a commentary at LearningTech."
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Handhelds for Students?

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  • The idea looks nice, but the blocking factor would be the speed at which notes could be taken, I'm afraid. I grafitti much slower than I type, but I type slower than I can take notes on paper. So what you'd be left with would be an expensive replacement for textbooks.
    • You add a microphone, and at least the vocal part of the notes can be taken almost instantly.

      You have the teachers distribute the handouts in a digital form and the written portion of the notes are handled as well.

      The only fear that remains are people who don't study or pay attention. Now, they won't have to do anything in class with this set up because all of the vocal part of the class will be recorded and all of the written part will be transmitted. Thus, the only remaining reason to write would be for small details not covered in the written portion.

      Interesting idea though. (Albeit, seeing how many of my friends turned their graphic calcs into message sender/receivers(infra-red ports), I wouldn't be surprised if that happened with this as well.)
      • Erm... I thought the point of making notes during class was that you could use them to study the material, or annotate the provided texts. With a voice recorder you'd be forced to listen to every lecture *again* when exams rolled around. Surely no student has the time for that?
        • ...which is why no one would learn anything!

          If your notes are beamed to you and you record the lectures, then hell all you are doing is distributed storage of the teacher's data.

          Only one student would have to show up for class though, could make life fun for the students till exam time rolls around and no body knows anything, not even the ones who went to class because the main mode of learning was taken away from them (writing out notes of things you need to remember)
        • I always thought the best thing about taking notes was the actual writing down of the information. I'm not really trying to be funny, but I almost never even opened my notebook to study, I already knew it because I remember writing it down. I probably couldn't have studied it anyway, I can't even read my own writing half the time.
      • The only fear that remains are people who don't study or pay attention. Now, they won't have to do anything in class with this set up because all of the vocal part of the class will be recorded and all of the written part will be transmitted.

        People who don't want to pay attention won't in any case learn a thing, but such devices will surely let the uninterested/lazy student to pretend to study in an easier way ; )
    • My wife has a slim little toshiba laptop and she types much faster ( not to mention much neater) than she can scrawl with a pen or pencil.

      Given the extremes, it seems silly to "mandate" such a thing into existence- let the typers type, let the writers write, and let the kids who sleep in the back use a tape recorder!
    • The idea looks nice, but the blocking factor would be the speed at which notes could be taken, I'm afraid. I grafitti much slower than I type, but I type slower than I can take notes on paper.

      Bah. Teach kids to type, and they'll soon be doing 60-70wpm. Plenty fast enough to take notes. Not to mention that computers can automatically fill out abbreviations, as well as spell and grammar check on the fly. And my god, what I wouldn't have given for fully indexed searchable notes when I was in college. Admittedly, something would have to be done for math equations...I know of no quick and easy way to take Calculus notes, for example. But, that's just a matter of writing and proting the software.

      So what you'd be left with would be an expensive replacement for textbooks.

      What?! Expensive? I don't know about where you went to school, but my college texts were a lot more than a palm. Around $60-$70 a piece (and some courses needed 2 or 3 texts). Multiply that by 4 courses per semester, 2 semesters per year, and 4 years of get about $2000. Plenty of money for an eBook reader and downloadable textbooks. Once again, the searchability is a big advantage as well. Oh yeah, and you don't have to lug around 35 pounds of books. Why haven't they done this yet????

      • Erm... all that money doesn't go to printing the texts. Most of it goes to the publishers/writers. So if you tossed it all on an e-book, you'd still have to pay the same amount, with the price of the e-book reader added. No, this is not logical, but CD's also cost plenty of money despite being ultra cheap to produce.

        Hmmm... coming to a Napster server near you soon... college textbookz ;-)
        • It's much harder to pirate a paper book than it is to pirate an e-book.
        • No, but I'm sure a good bit of the money goes to printing, shipping, storing, warehousing, and retailing.

          Not to mention that the professors (in universities) and school boards (in k-12) get to dictate what books they use. If a publisher offered ebooks, and then promoted it, I think it would be a valuable alternative...even at a negliglible price difference.

      • Why haven't they done this yet????

        I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much easier it is to read printed material than it is to read from a lit display. I really don't think it'd be feasible for extended use until ebook readers support electronic ink. It's just too hard on the eyes.

        On another note, reliance on spell/grammer checkers is, I believe, leading to people not being able to spell well on their own or form gramatically correct sentences. I'm don't claim to be immune from this either. My spelling can be terrible at times (most of them). I won't even start on how grammer checkers have such bad grammer. Who are they helping?
        • I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much easier it is to read printed material than it is to read from a lit display. I really don't think it'd be feasible for extended use until ebook readers support electronic ink. It's just too hard on the eyes.
          Maybe you're study habits were different than mine, but I'd say less than an hour per book per day in college for me. My god, man, I spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer, and have very little trouble reading.

          On another note, reliance on spell/grammer checkers is, I believe, leading to people not being able to spell well on their own or form gramatically correct sentences. I'm don't claim to be immune from this either. My spelling can be terrible at times (most of them). I won't even start on how grammer checkers have such bad grammer. Who are they helping?

          I don't think bad spelling and grammar is a recent phenomenon. The internet just exposes the problem more, because we're so used to talking to people...not writing to them. Oh...and they're helping those with poor grammer[sic] and poor spelling. Like you. ;)

      • Bah. Teach kids to type, and they'll soon be doing 60-70wpm. Plenty fast enough to take notes

        Sure if you are taking pyschology. But I graduated as an engineer, which requires math, text and graphics. And all of this has to be annotated. And while it would be nice to get the notes ahead of time, most of my profs actually did things on the fly. This meant sure they knew roughly, but not exactly and work out the problems in the class get about $2000. Plenty of money for an eBook reader and downloadable textbooks.

        So while you would not have to lug around the books, you would still have to buy the text books. Because I REALLY doubt they would give them away for free. So now I have both an expensive PDA and electronic textbook

        As sad as it sounds nothing has yet to replace my simple small bound block of paper and pen. I do most of my notes and thoughts that way. Easy, Cheap and if there is anything important I scan it in.

        • So while you would not have to lug around the books, you would still have to buy the text books. Because I REALLY doubt they would give them away for free. So now I have both an expensive PDA and electronic textbook.

          I wasn't suggesting a $2000 PDA. How about a $500-$750 reader, with limited PDA functionality, and 50-75% of the cost of a bound book. The ebook gives you (a) more portability (it's hard to lug around 6 text books all the time), (b) an actually useful iindex...searching, (c) it's updateable as errors are discovered, or new material is added. The professor can even insert his own material into appropiate sections. Plus, as you go on to advanced engineering, you can still refer back to your basic engineering textbook on the fly.

          Sure if you are taking pyschology. But I graduated as an engineer, which requires math, text and graphics. And all of this has to be annotated. And while it would be nice to get the notes ahead of time, most of my profs actually did things on the fly. This meant sure they knew roughly, but not exactly and work out the problems in the class.

          Professors should make thier notes ahead of time, IMO. But, even so, styli and touchscreens make drawings a snap. Like I said, a "killer app" for note taking would need to be developed (I don't know of any...but maybe there are some?) for math equations and the like...but that's trivial to do, really.

    • The situation is not as bad as you would think. I've used a PDA throughout High School for taking notes, keeping track of assignments, etc. It's true that using Graffiti, for me, is a lot slower than typing and slightly slower than handwriting, however, I am still able to keep up using a tried and true trick for notetaking: shorthand. Alternately, several friends of mine have shelled out the $99 for a Palm keyboard. In any case, having a PDA in your pocket can actually make school a lot more convenient. For example, I have a palm app called TinySheet that I use to enter data from lab experiments. I can do preliminary analysis right away, and I can easily sync the spreadsheets to my computer without having to painstakingly reenter data. Sharing notes and information via infrared beaming is also hugely convenient. Of course, cheating using beaming would be quite convenient as well, except that pulling out a PDA during a test would look incredibly suspicious. Beyond that, the same issues of ethics apply as with pen and paper.
    • Kids should learn how to write on paper before they learn graffiti. When I was a kid......
    • Most ppl can get their typing speed up to something good enough to take notes in real time. But I doubt anyone could get their graffiti speed up to anything like handwriting level, never mind the speed of a typical good typist.

  • a new idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alan Partridge ( 516639 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:02AM (#3742884) Journal
    doesn't anyone else recall the Apple eMate 300?
  • by Fapestniegd ( 34586 ) <> on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:03AM (#3742886) Homepage
    It takes just as long to learn how to program one of those things (in my day it was the hp 48) than it does to simply upload the material to your brain using a little IO device called "studying."

    Just my $.02 YMMV
  • Palms and kids (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You slap one of these into their hands and the first thing they'll do is install a game into it and start playing. While this may not be that far from what adults would do, it certainly wouldn't help education.
    • This is already going on with the innovation of graphing calculators
    • You slap one of these into their hands and the first thing they'll do is install a game into it and start playing.

      Then you put wireless communication into the scheme and you'll have kids playing games against each other and some l337 h@><0rZ doing scans all day instead of listening to the teacher.

      This could go to a Very Bad Place. I can see it now.

      Teacher: Young man, would you like to share that instant messages with the rest of the class?
    • And this differs from kids drawing in their notebooks, making paper airplanes and origami out of notebook paper, and playing paper games like Tic-Tac-Toe... how?
  • Computers don't belong in the classroom. They belong in the library or at home.

    Giving kids expensive gadgets is an even worse idea than teaching kids in front of computers.

    At least I know I can always mug a kid in the school parking lot and get myself a PDA and a hot piece of ass.
    • "At least I know I can always mug a kid in the school parking lot and get myself a PDA and a hot piece of ass." uhh if thats what it comes down to what pedifiles really want...guess the schools should conform appropriately...thanks for tellin everyone how you really feel
  • My school in illinois has palm IIIxe's for studens.. i think its the most useless thing any student can have.. i just bring my linuxtop to school and use that.. and i got it for about the price as one of them pda's with the keyboards.. laptops are better.. pda's.. laff
  • by Vengie ( 533896 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:05AM (#3742901)
    PDA's and other hand-held devices can be a huge boon to anyone who has the capacity to use them. Sure, students who already know how to use a computer and _type_ will benefit from the technology. However, what about students who lack that. We haven't reached the point where all students in all public schools have computer access or even a relevant amount of computer knowledge. To a certain extent; this is overkill.
    I don't quite think this will turn into glorified note passing; Given the chance to roll their own apps, I think this could result in a number of great projects. I know that if I had been handed some form of PDA with wireless capability in high school, my friends and I would have developed some form of networked app/network game. (Ahh, the joys of having time to code in homeroom) However, the amount of experimentation that would be allowed with the device would be called into question; You'd need a really progressive school system to allow that type of innovation.
    • The students that are natuarly drawn to tech will learn how to use it regardless.

      The problem for the schools is that most teachers, and administrators are not interested in tech (they are interested in teaching thier core subjects). And they may not understand how to use it, which is not thier fault, they were most likely never trained on it, or have no desire to use it.

      The schools are told to embrace tech, and teach it. They do, but find out that the technicaly inclined kids quickly outpace the teachers and are doing things that the administrantion and teachers do not understand, and are not comforatable with.

      Before you know it, the studetns are in a locked down envirment, techincaly speaking, with tools that can go far beyond what the students are allowed to do with them. It is no fun learning a tool that you are not allowed to use to its full potential.

      They end up teaching tech to the lowest common denominator, and the technicaly savvy kids are frustrated, and move on to something else, or find ways to break the system.

      If you want to teach tech, you need tech savvy teachers... otherwise it is wasted effort.

    • However, what about students who lack that. We haven't reached the point where all students in all public schools have computer access or even a relevant amount of computer knowledge.

      If they don't have a computer or don't know how to use one, then they should be given one and taught how to use it. I saw first hand in high school just a few years ago what happens to the kids that don't have any access to technology. They fall behind, they're forced to work harder to get a smaller amount of information, and they generally learn less and have a harder time in school.

      Teachers shouldn't shy away from giving technology to kids because they might not know how to use it. They should be given that technology and taught how to use it for exactly that reason.
  • I'm a college student. I bought a PDA the summer before I entered, preparing for what I thought I would need for the University. Spent 299 USD on the PDA.

    ... never spent a better 299 ever. Also picked up a targus keyboard, and I use it to take notes. As someone with an average /. typing speed (110 wpm), I type far faster then I write... so, I take very complete notes, I can pay attention to the professor (since I'm not busily writing), and my grades have improved.

    PDAs for gradeschoolers? I'm all for it. Just make sure you still have desktops in the classroom
    • so..

      How do you write formulas or draw pictures on the thing?

      I don't think a pda would work so well for things like, oh I dunno, describing the equations of motion for a fluid using navier-stokes (or drawing a quick sketch to illustrate what the equations should model)

  • In Short, NO. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:08AM (#3742915) Homepage Journal
    Why? Glad you asked!

    I think educators are basically being tapped out for their budget, so they are being marketed (or "marked") by poeple who have computers and want to sell it.

    But before we step in to the "can we do it?" phase, we need to step into the "Why?" phase:

    What advantage is this going to confer to kids?
    A radically changed lesson plan to incorporate whiz-bang gizmos, where neither the lesson plan nor the gizmos have had all their bugs wrinkled out?

    No, this is a bottom up approach and you end up having the tail wag the dog. Lets look at computers in some schools- in the late 80's my grammar school had a couple of Commodore PETs (literally 2), it was wheeled out for special occaisions (once a year) and wheeled back into its closet. It was obvious that they bought the hype that "computers are our future, so simply by having one near a classroom it will enrich the students!"

    We need a top down approach: what are we trying to teach? How best to implement the lesson plan?
    And if you want to teach "computers" (ugh, who'd want to take that class?!) figure out what you want to do- maybe instead of a hand held device one of those microprocessor lab trainers (a computer on a board with a led read out and hex keypad input), or a unix system, or just a plain ol' windows box with Word on it (hey, typing is a skill!)

    I hate when people just throw tech at a problem without thinking it through.
    This guy,
    "I'm trying to figure out how to use Palms in our schools,"

    is doomed.
    • by Nomad7674 ( 453223 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:28AM (#3743033) Homepage Journal
      These were roughly my thoughts, but better said than the conversation going on in my head. ;-) I live near two large cities, New York City and Bridgeport, CT, both of which are struggling to improve their education. Are they struggling to introduce technology to improve the lives of students and introduce them to the 21st century? No! They are struggling to teach the BASICS - math, reading, science, etc.

      At this time, we need to be focussing on Equality of Opportunity by making sure every citizen is literate, understands at least enough Math to balance a checkbook and understand how to save money, and understands enough science to know snake oil salesmen when they show up. If a person knows that much, they can take their destiny into their own hands and learn the rest from books, the Net, whatever.

      That is not to say we should not strive to make computers available to everyone - internet computers in libraries are a great idea. But first things first.

      • Exciting will the future be. Everyone will know how to read, but nobody will know how to write clearly since they all use grafiti or other writing rec.

        I mean, given time they'll be able to draw out characters, but given they do it so seldomly, it'll prolly look like the writing of a kid learning to write.
    • Re:In Short, NO. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cthrall ( 19889 )
      > We need a top down approach: what are we trying
      > to teach? How best to implement the lesson plan?

      The ONE place I've seen applied technology in the classroom that worked was in my Physics class at UMass. We had handhelds that students or groups of students would use to answer multiple choice questions.

      If the results showed the majority of the class knew the material, the teacher moved on. Otherwise, he'd work on it until he knew we knew it.

      That actually worked. Of course, there are tons of people that claim you need high-speed, 30fps video, blah blah blah. Don't listen to 'em. Give the kids a way to give feedback to the teacher.
      • WOW! Instead of that annoying socratic method (Professor: "Mr Pithers! Please stand up and tell us WHY we should never invert the apex of a geometric nucleus?") to find out the students grasp of knowledge, have a "private" little quiz- almost anonymous, and the teacher gets a better "random sample" of what the class knows.

        P.S.- that geometric nucleus question is hard.
    • I remember the advice my grandfather gave my mother:

      "honey, never learn to type, it's beneath you. if you do, then for god sakes, don't tell anyone"

    • I think educators are basically being tapped out for their budget, so they are being marketed (or "marked") by poeple who have computers and want to sell it.

      For the most part I agree with you. I have yet to see a "Computers" class that was even remotely useful. I didn't take any of the available classes in high school, I knew BASIC pretty well as it was. It seems to me that as soon as the Apple ][s were replaced everything went to crap, there was nothing interesting left to do. A few of my friends went ahead a took the high school "Computers" class, IIRC they spent a month on Word Perfect in addition to the comprehensive overview of QBASIC. Sure worth the 3k per XT I'm sure the school doled out.

      God even 5 or 6 years ago I remember helping my friend study for her college "Intro to Computers" course, it was worse. I learned a lot of stuff from helping her with that, did you know that Hypercard was the precursor to the WWW? Funny I thought SGML would have fit in there somewhere.

      I can see places in schools where you can put PCs to good use, web access in the library for example. I just don't see any point at all to buying labs full of PCs and teaching nothing with them.

      • From what I remember of Hypercard, it would be more like the precursor to Flash than the WWW. Then again some people don't consider a website complete (or "professional") if it isn't done in Flash. Go figure.

        Ironically, Hypercard is considerably more feature rich than Flash, with a sophisticated programming language (Hypertalk) and a very handy extension system (you could load modules into the resource fork of the stack, very cool).
    • i live in a school district where, by the end of the decade, every student at every school will be issued a laptop computer and every school will have wifi access. i did some observations at the one school where it has already been set up this past semester. here, in brief, are my observations.
      THE GOOD:
      1) no more handouts--i always disliked the fact that about 3 or 4 trees a day die to supply a school with enough paper for handouts. teachers can just email documents or have students retrieve them from a shared folder on the network.
      2) speeds up the grading/correcting process--i saw one teacher in particular who would have her students e-mail her their essays. she would open them in word, type her comments in parentheses, in bold face, in red, and email them back to the students. this also helps with the reduction in wasted paper.
      3) allows a greater flexibility in projects--one teacher assigned a mock-newspaper assignment, so they used a desktop publishing program. in another class, some students who were doing projects on commercials as propaganda used powerpoint to create a parody nike commercial. sure you could have done these projects before the computers, but the computers helped to facillitate those projects.
      4) puts the internet right there for research--this might not be such a great thing, considering some of the crap that is on the web, but over all, i think this is a good thing.
      THE BAD:
      1) new forms of note passing--i saw lots of kids chatting with each other on MSN, AIM, trillian, etc. there are obvious ways to stop this (disallowing access to certain ports leaps to mind) but for some reason they had not done anything to prevent it.
      2) games--i also saw on one or two occasions kids playing games on the computers, not that i have a problem with games qua games, just games when they ought to be studying.
      3) just simply playing with technology--i saw one particular occasion where these two guys were downloading pictures of various celebs off the web and were mutilating them in some very humorous ways using photoshop when they should have been working on something else (though i have to admit, i did laugh at what they did to britney spears).
      4) file sharing--the school, as i heard from several teachers and administrators, is worried about being attacked by the RIAA/MPAA/whatever in the form of DMCA violations.
      5) misc. illegal activities--though i didn't see any kids looking at pr0n or w4r3z sites, i imagine that at least a handful do when they're at lunch or something.
      THE UGLY:
      1)cost--it's not cheap to keep all those laptops running, and as M$ pushes out new "upgrades" the district will have to buy new software and new hardware to run it on. fortunately, the school district has a pretty strong source of revenue in lots of businesses paying property taxes, despite being a majority-minority school district.

      overall, i think the pros outweigh the cons here. to properly implement a program like this takes lots of staff development, so that the teachers know how to properly integrate the technology into the classroom, as opposed to being overwhelmed by it.
      • Okay in reponse to some of your Goods-

        Reasons 1, 2, and 4 are done for a great number of college courses, both traditional and distance learning. This has been a natural evolution from having a department/school wide network with internet access and computer labs. The emphasis is that this evolved out of circumstances, this has not been pushed by some technology vendor.

        This can also be done without laptops as well- though more and more most colleges are saying the average freshman needs a computer, with fairly reasonable access to a computer lab or a library. (SIDENOTE: the one in my high school was locked up tighter than a chastity belt. That makes sense, lets NOT let the kids use computers! We literally had a LOTUS 1-2-3 class as a lecture!)
        Now the difference is that Sunday night 3 am our freshman can go into the computer labs and type away. High schools are usually closed by then.
        But this can all be acheived without getting "ultra fancy" and losing sight of the goal- get kids to use computers as tools, not simply as toys.

    • The vast majority of the handheld devices today are based on underpowered yesterday tech that require special software and is way overpriced.
      For instance if they went with a StrongArm110 processor and 64Megs with GPRS wireless they'd probably be running CE. Dear God! I doubt most /.ers have played with these yet, but I have and it is a fact in my experience that if you write script at even a moderate pace on those little pieces of shit you will crash CE in no time. Total hang and all you have to do is write a few sentences, that's lame. If you treat it gingerly it works great, but if the user is supposed to treat it like a precious little toy that means it's not there yet. At the moment, these things are little more than expensive toys. Sure you can tell me that Palm is so stable but speaking of yesterday's tech. Adding names to a list is really important for certain people, but for most people it's not a huge sell. Expensive toys are great for expensive spoiled brats, but not for mandating in public schools.
      Depite being fragile and nearly worthless for real world tasks like note taking, handhelds are mega bucks. The model I have sitting in front of me that runs CE with the GPRS built-in is about $600. Wow! That's like a fifth of per head ADA. (Average Daily Attendance, the rate by which schools are compensated by the government which has to be leveraged over all expenses including teacher salaries)
      Now when we see them coming with CF modules over 512MB and running more intriguing software like that we see at perhaps it will beome more adviseable as a recommendation for students, but I doubt it even then. By the time they have WiFi and big memory, they'll be victims of their own success for classroom purposes.
      Once they become powerful enough to be worthwhile and useful tools, they will also become full-fledged entertaniment devices. Can you possibly imagine a conflict if groups of students decided they'd rather play QuakeIII tournament instead of participate in class? Or how about DIY porn, little Joey is using the camera on his PDA to look up little Cindy's skirt and is broadcasting the action to little Timmy in the third row. The class is quiet, but nobody seems to be concentrating on the assignments. What could possibly be occupying everyone's attention?
      I have one of the latest version of one of these babies sitting right in front of me and I'm sure that it's a great, though fragile, toy and little else. Everyone I've let play with it agrees. The people that make them are going to be failing consistantly until they start marketing them as toys and entertainment devices. There is no way I buy this khaki pants, blue work shirt mentality that these things are essential tools that are the Next Big Thing(TM) in the here and now. If jotting down names and phone numbers is the essence of your life you already have a Palm. If you're looking for something more get a laptop. If you want a toy, get a handheld. But if you want an entertaining toy then wait a few years and get a handheld when you can stream videos and MP3s off your home server. Then they'll be rocking toys, but you aint going to be doing that with GPRS.
      • If they would stop seeing how fucking small and light they could make them maybe it would help a little? I mean really, is 1.5lbs TOO FUCKING HEAVY for you lazy bastards?!

        I want a PDA that has a screen that is 6 inches wide and 3 inches tall. That's enough for me to write fairly comfortably on. I want an additional 3/4inch of rubber and plastic all over the thing to keep it from snapping in half whenever I bump it against the table. For crying out loud, some of these things are not much bigger than a good sized pocket watch and I still hear people bitching about how heavy they are!

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:08AM (#3742916) Homepage
    From the article: "It gives all kids an opportunity to use technology," he said.

    That's a pretty pointless statement to make. When the kids ride a schoolbus to school, they're using technology. When they use a toaster to toast their pop-tarts in the morning, they're using technology. When they change the channel on their TV with a remote control, they're using technology. If they have a wristwatch, they're using technology!

    It sounds to me like whoever wrote this article is getting kickbacks from the handheld manufacturers.
    • Kids may be using technology to do these things, but I still wonder about the push to implement IT at the school level.

      My daughter was fascinated by my Handspring Visor at 5 years old, but I told her I wouldn't teach her Graffiti until she mastered writing English. She writes very well for a student entering first grade, but I don't think her writing skills are good enough yet for Graffiti. I know she could learn it, but I don't want her writing her assignments in Graffiti by mistake.

      Her kindergarten room had an old Windows box in it for the students to use. The students were required to use it for around 30 minutes or so each week. We once noticed on my daughter's weekly contract the teacher noted she was having difficulty using the machine. My wife was concerned, but I said, "Hey, why worry? She's reading on a 3rd grade level in kindergarten. If she can read, she can learn anything."

      Besides, she knows how to log in and work on my OS X-running Mac. :-).

    • "It sounds to me like whoever wrote this article is getting kickbacks from the handheld manufacturers."

      If you click on the banner ad next to the article, you get a page titled "Gifts for Grads" from CNet, selling, among other things, handhelds.

      Hey, Steve Jobs, I've been thinking about writing an article on why kids need a iPod for Music class. I'll need sponsorship, of course!

  • Chrimany (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:10AM (#3742925)
    I'm glad a don't live in San Antonio and have to fund this with my tax dollars. It is a stupid and clueless waste, and a cop out for real education. A computer lab should be enough. We have such a freaking gadget fetish, and now we're shoving it onto kids? So they are not allowed to carry cell phones and pages, but handhelds are now mandatory? These will largely just be used for games and various other bullshit and time wasting. The most valuable part of education will come from teachers and books - not the technological gadget of the day. Imagine a teacher having to compete for attention with the handhelds of each student. Hey, I have a really cool handheld: a notepad and a freakin pencil.

    The conveniences you demanded are now mandatory.
  • Phase in support? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blueskies ( 525815 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:11AM (#3742934) Journal
    Why don't they phase in support for handhelds and see how effective they are? The kids that have enought money to get handhelds can be the testers of the system. If it catches on and teachers and kids seem to benefit, they can progress from there. We can discuss what we think are pros and cons all day, but until they actually do a study or run a pilot program no one really knows the impact handhelds will have on learning.
  • Better than a TI-81 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benzapp ( 464105 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:12AM (#3742936)
    While the use of a PDA for note taking can be a waste of time, I imagine the possibilities of mathematics software is limitless. Considering many parents are still shelling out $100 for the same TI-81 I purchased 10 years ago in high school, this may relieve them of that burden.

    Perhaps our future math students will be able to better understand more complex complex systems when they can see them rendered in a more realistic fashion (how about 3-D graphs???) Not only that, modern programming languages can be utilized on PDA, where the TI-81 crew is stuck with basic.

    Perhaps good old Steve Wolfram can port Mathematica to the PocketPC platform.

    I have no doubt PDAs are useless for anything not science related, and I would guess that if a kid was diligently poking away during english class his professor would be rightly dismayed.
  • This would cost a small fortune, those lil' computers ain't cheap. Not to mention, they are very easy to loose! It's hard to loose a laptop down the back of a sofa :)
  • by sklib ( 26440 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:16AM (#3742967)
    Being a grown-up, and being as careful as you are with YOUR hand-held that you care deeply about, how much attention do you pay to where you put it? Ever put it in your pocket and walk into the corner of a desk, thusly crushing the screen? Ever put it in your bookbag and then plop the bag down on the floor? I've broken the touch-sensitive surface of my IIIxe at least twice in the years I've had it, and although it's easy to replace, it's still a hassle. I got a bumper case for it, but it's a pain to take out to dock...

    Anyway does anybody really think a bunch of school kids (given some of them are tech-saavy, but...) are going to be able to keep their expensive (it's still more than a bottom of the line TI graphing calculator) PDA's in one piece? I think that has always been part of the argument against giving students laptops too.

    I think it's fine and dandy to have a centralized system where a kid can go to a computer in the library and see when his homework is due and look at notes from class, but anything else is just fodder for either breakage or game-playing.
  • theft... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by White Shade ( 57215 )
    Ok, we know how frequently Laptop computers get stolen in schools... Can you imagine how many of these things could, nay, WILL, get stolen? All you gotta do is shove it in your pocket.. a laptop at least requires a *little* bit of planning ...

    The schools had better have good replacement policies, otherwise there's going to be a lot of kids that are SOL when their PDA gets stolen on the 2nd day of school... And I'm sure that it's going to cost a pretty penny to replace all these things.

    Maybe each of the PDA's should have the owners name inscribed in them in such a way that to remove the name would require a very noticable degree of damage to the device... that might serve as a deterrent.

    In any case, I'm not saying that giving all the kids PDA's is necessarily a bad thing, just that there's going to be lots of social and financial implications for the schools and students involved ...

  • by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:18AM (#3742974) Journal
    I work (as a contractor) at a Board of Ed. We've had three different laptop programs, and the first two were dismal failures. Now with the 3rd one, kids won't be taking them home. The problem with laptops and kids is the same as palmtops and kids.

    The problem is that children aren't adults, and are (generally) less responsible and tend to throw their bags/coats etc. In short, things get broken. Never mind "I left it at home" excuse derailing a project and wasting time in the classroom. Wired workstations are still the way to go, not only for speed, but also for reliability.

    Before asking "can we", the question is "should we"?

  • Yet another expensive item kids can lose, steal, beat to death.

    And for what? So they have another avenue to play Tetris.
  • ... or what we currently call PDAs anyway.

    I believe handhelds deserve to become ubiquitous more than PCs do. Most people use their desktop PCs for appointment and contact books, email and web - getting this functionality off their desk and into their pocket would be incredible. A widespread accessible wireless network will be the killer-app that move handhelds off shelves and into pockets in droves.

    We're beginning to see a convergence of handheld computers and mobile phones. Nokia tried it a few years back before the technology was capable, Handspring is now trying to do the same thing and having a little more success. But I don't think the (expensive) mobile network will endear itself to customers as a means of sending data. We really need a ubiquitous accessible wireless network, and it so happens that right about now we have several wireless networks starting to gather steam. In fact, this might lead to an interesting clash between mobile networks and VoIP ... but I'm digresing ...

    By the time the network is up and commercial grade, handhelds will acceptably cheap (they're still too expensive right now for most people). Cheap and functional is always a winning combination.

    The idea which began with the Newton has waited a long time to come to fruition.

  • why must we spend all this money? I didnt have computers when I went to school.

    with the exception of computer class they arent needed.

    children need to learn math in their heads they need to know why math works the way it does.

    history is history, the events of 1776 will not change, so a nice hard copy book that will last 5 years will be cheaper than a computer that is obsolite in 2.

    english/writing classes, have you seen the hand writing of people lately?

    computers are just a waste of taxpayers money, how about giving "good" teachers a raise instead?
    • Computers are a waste.

      So is the Internet as a learning and research tool.

      "history is history, the events of 1776 will not change"

      Nope it won't except in history books used in Education. With a computer, a student can read things written by Samual Adams, diaries by soldiers at Valley Forge or Jamestown.

      Instead of reading the paragraph in the text book about the Atomic Bombings of Japan, a student could go up and read raw materials about IJA weapons stockpiles, or the planned Commonwealth invasion of Singapore or the Joint Allied invasions of southern Japan and understand why the Americans were willing to nuke two cites, beyond the vauge and inaccurate stock answers in a text book.

      At the school I work at, the kids are into German tactics of the Eastern Front, advanced Math, the Reformation, the evolution of the Catholic Church and digital video production.

      Your attitude, while it might be in jest, is the attitude of someone that wants the students to fail.
      • Yes they can do all of these things, but they can also play snood without the teacher knowing.

        If computers were used the way their starry-eyed promotors claim, I'd have no problem with them in the school.

        But with 30 students infront of an overworked teacher, it'll probably just be a powerpoint presentation or other waste of time.

        It sickens me to see students who don't know how to write a half decent essay putting together a webpage for a class.

        Technology is not the solution to America's failing educational system. A budget that keeps pace with growth and an end to local funding (rich schools for rich kids, poor schools for poor kids) is.
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:27AM (#3743023) Homepage Journal
    All I can say is this is just the slippery slope. They start out getting their hands held, and the next thing you know they're pregnant. When will you people learn that an abstinence based sex education program that promotes ZERO PHYSICAL CONTACT before marriage is the only valid response to the creeping moral decline in this country?!
  • Everyone seems so worried about kids having these little devices and not harnessing the power within them.

    I currently use my PDA all the time (PalmIII, cauze that's all my OSAP poor ass can afford). It holds contact info, appointments, SCHEDULES MY CLASSES (its really important not to forget to go to a class). Now that's what it was ment for. Nothing too fancy, we aren't talking about 2 Gig's of data and an on board compiler (I couldn't imagine programing on one of those, a compile would take for ever).

    I do keep the prof's lecture notes (PDF), but I don't take notes on it.

    Palm has a little keyboard attachemnt that folds up. It seems pretty quiet, a classmate has one, but you have to be a fast typer. =)

  • Laptops for all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )
    At my work, this summer we will require all High School students to buy a Thinkpad, iBook or Powerbook G4.

    Already, the English department requires everything to be done on a computer, we offer classes on photography without a darkroom (Photoshop/Gimp) and there is a huge amount of digital photography and video.

    Our campus is 90% covered in 802.11b and we have a flexable attitude towards study locations and learning, so we think that laptops will be a great boon to education at this level.

    • Sickening....

      Didn't you try to talk reason to the people who decided this? I know I would have tried.

      Back when I was at school we didn't have computers at school and it was perfectly reasonable to return your assignment written by hand. Of course, I didn't do that for I had a computer... but that were the good old days when Macs, Amiga's and DOS-based PC's roamed the world.

    • At my work, this summer we will require all High School students to buy a Thinkpad, iBook or Powerbook G4.

      Christ on a pony. Where do you live, Beverly Hills? This may be a shock to you, but there are still lots of people out there who CAN'T AFFORD to buy a computer. At least, not if they want to have food on the table.
  • I just graduated from a high school where we had a good 450 of those iPaq things floating around. I went to River Hill High School in Clarksville, MD (AKA Rich White Boy School).

    The handheld program has been nothing but a failure.

    First year, they tried giving them all to the 9th graders. All they did was download porn over the 802.11b (I'm not kidding), and play games. Forget actually using them for anything. The 'school' software we had never worked, and was served off crappy Compaq Armada laptops that never stayed on for very long. Not to mention how often the kids broke them and refused to pay.

    After that mess, they tried making 5 or 6 classrooms digital. The most we ever used it for was to browse the web, except when we were showing off for the newspapers and TV. Given the fact that a full unit cost $700 (color IPaq, expansion sleeve, keyboard, case, Cisco 802.11b card), I'd just as soon see the money into buying eMacs or Dells instead of this. Then at least, we could see what we're browsing on the web.
  • Just a lighthearted observation.

    I have seen it more common recently for people to use Slashdot as a vehicle for self-publishing (which is the actual Russian definition of 'samizdat', by the way, no connotation implied). The usual quote is: "I posted my {article/white paper/dissertation/legal brief} here, what do people think about it?" Thus advertised, it begins generating web hits. Don't first-person posts lose a little bit of objectivity? I'm not being disdainful, just wondering.

    I do agree with the idea, though, that all students should have ready access to the data world. I hate to see such a potent tool of empowerment not being available to the disadvantaged.

  • Here at the University of South Dakota (yes we have a university) all incomming freshmen get a palm m500, which they pay for over a few semesters. This was a huge publicity opportunity for the university, but all in all, I don't think the students have found the devices all that useful. They refer to them as $400 gameboys. Some have even sold theirs. I would say that very few students use them for school. Having said that, I have a palm and I use it all the time, but more for work than school. that is all.
  • This is a sad state of affair. This is just the beginning with no end in sight. When I was in school I had just one Computer class. Most of that time was spent me hacking the system because I had a computer at home and no one else had a clue what it did besides play Duke Nuke'em. Now we are going to give these kids something that will allow them to hack other kids PDAs while the teacher is not looking? Is this a new for of bullying? Now the nerds will have the upperhand in school when they can steal everyone's home work and make the school bully give them there lunch money for it back.
  • USD PALM Program(me) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:49AM (#3743143)
    At USD, thats University of South Dakota for those who live outside the Mt. Rushmore State, the administration has completed the first year of a 3 year "pilot" program where all incomming students receive a PALM M500, assorted software, USB cradle (That I still cannot get to work with linux) and access to Infrared ports scattered through most of the buildings on campus. These provide access to the internet for email, news, upgrades, assignments, and anything else you might want.

    After the first year, adoption or use by the student population runs around 50%. The other half either collect dust or sell them on E-bay. Professors like them, because it makes producing a handout or study guide easier, beaming to a few students who then "pass it on" and saving paper. The biggest problem has been classes where only 1/2 to 1/3 of students have either been issued a PALM (freshmen only) or have bothered to bring it. The next plan is to have certain sections of popular classes be listed "PALM Only" so professors and students so inclined actually CAN take advantage of the devicecs.

    Students who use them most often take advantage of the handheld news options, email, and the like. My personal favorite was to transfer my notes to the PALM so I could study for finals while I'm out fishing.
  • by colmore ( 56499 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @09:51AM (#3743155) Journal
    Frankly I just don't get it. There are two good ways to learn about something: do it or discuss it. Hands-on learning is really only useful in some subjects (chemistry, CS, etc.) so that leaves discussion for most school subjects. The best discussions occur in small classrooms where everyone has done the reading. I don't see where computers fit in here. Sure, it's nice to have access for online articles etc. but usually computer projects in highschool involve making a webpage or powerpoint presentation, neither of which have *anything to do with the subject at hand* I dislike the idea that schools are corporate training. I don't want my tax dollars teaching tenth graders to be entry level HTML authors.

    Don't get me wrong. I love computers. But I've yet to see an application in the classroom beyond simple word-processing and document search that makes them anything more that $1000 time wasting devices. Computers are the worksheets and posters of a new generation, a busywork tool for lazy teachers. I'd rather see that money going to increased teacher salaries, building new schools, or buying more textbooks.

    My highschool started purchasing laptops for the students (and increasing tuition by fifteen hundred dollars) the year after I graduated. My sister's still there though and she tells me the laptops do nothing but help students not pay attention. The class sits, computers open, not listening because they're talking on AIM and someone will post the notes online anyway. Every once in a while they'll do a "research" project online that involves little more than cutting and pasting from online encyclopedias.

    I do approve of Computer Science (if taught well and not just as job training) in the schools, and I do think that computers can be useful in the classroom, even if they aren't often put to good use. But with the sad state of American education being as it is, I think we're a *long* way away from the point that a laptop is the best way to spend $1500 of the education budget (not to mention additional hires and resources)

    I've no experience with Pocket PC devices in the classroom, but I'd imagine it would be worse. The Pocket PC fails in the two areas that school computers are actually worthwhile - word processing and internet search. They're totally inadequate for word processing and not quite there on internet search (small (lo-res) screen doesn't support many pages, awkward interface, wireless concerns). So this initiative seems to only make classroom technology more useless.

    I guess they make school more fun, but unless you're the type of student for whom learning really is a pleasure, in which case you'll do just fine regardless, school being more fun probably means you're learning less.

    in 1900 you weren't considered educated without fluency in Greek, Latin, French and German...

  • I find it strange that everyone is obsessing about how laptops, PDAs, and computers are used as learning devices in school when that's not what they're really good for (unless you're learning about computers). If you use the business world as a model -- since that's where most computers are used -- you find that people do four things with their computers: organize their lives, create documents, surf the web, and send/receive email. If putting a PDA into a kids hands will help them with just ONE of those tasks -- organizing their lives -- it'll make the kids more productive in school. That's the argument used in the business world for adopting these devices so it stands to reason one can make the same argument in education.

    How the PDAs are handled by these kids (including being broken, stolen, etc.) is besides the point. If we know PDAs will help them manage the information that they're bombarded with daily then they should be used. Working out the logisitics is really secondary.

    • The point is, hopefully, to enhance the teaching/learning experience.

      If introducing PDA's does help in one area --organizing their lives-- but brings along detriments (beam cheating, stolen/broken PDA's, goofing off playing games), has the teaching/learning experience really been enhanced?
      Using the business model as a starting place is not really valid. Kids are not office workers, they are kids. And kids like toys. Which is what these PDA's will become. Expensive toys that the taxpayer funds. To the detriment of other things like teacher salaries, books, regular supplies.

      1 step forward and 2 steps back is not a good way to progress.
      • Having been a public high school teacher, I can tell you that kids do all those things already. Those two steps back were already taken before computers ever entered a classroom. Handing out or permitting handhelds in school does not absolve teachers of the basic classroom management responsibilities they've always had. Yes, teachers will need help coming up with new ways to manage these technologies in their classrooms, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. Heck, I've been in business meetings where the person chairing the meeting would refuse to start speaking until everyone had closed the lid on their laptops -- adults are just as guilty as kids of playing with their toys.

        As far as a business model being invalid, we need to consider what the purpose of education is in our country. Up until the past few decades, schools were meant to acclimate children to factory life. One could argue that the modern spin on that view is that schools should be acclimating children to life in the information age.

  • The school system in the county where I live implemented a huge technology program last year. They signed a deal with Apple, and now every high school and middle school student in the district has an iBook loaned to them for their years in school. It has turned out to be somewhat nightmarish. The school system was in such a rush to be the first to do a tech initiative on this scale that they didn't consider a lot of the logistic problems that would come up:

    1) They didn't upgrade the network before adding 30,000 or so new people to it, which led to a lot of connection problems.

    2) A lot of the teachers weren't tech-minded enough to be able to use the iBooks effectively in the classroom.

    3) The students tended to use the iBooks for things like IM, IRC, and online games while in class. Some more industrious kids downloaded full-length porn movies. The amount of firewalling and filtering that the district had to put in place to counteract "unauthorized usage" is unreal.

    4) Because of the pressure from the district to have paper-free classrooms, a lot of teachers had to switch to different texts solely because they were offered on CD-ROM. In most cases, the CD-ROM texts have either been not as well-written as the actual books, or are filled with errors.

    Now, I like computers. However, I don't think an all-encompassing program like either the above-mentioned iBook fiasco or the PDA program in the article is appropriate. If the schools want to teach kids how to use computers, that's wonderful. The place for doing that, however, shouldn't be a math class. The main focus in any academic class should be the subject, NOT the nifty gadgets the school has. Our county school district here has made it quite clear that the technology being used is FAR more important than the subjects that the students are supposed to be learning, and I have to have a problem with that.

    You want to teach computer skills to students in high school? Have a computer skills class. You feel that computer skills should be as important as other main subjects like English and math? Heck, make computers a part of the main curriculum. Just leave it out of the other classes, and let those teachers teach what they need to teach without wondering if they're effectively using the district-mandated tech stuff.
  • Laptops or tablets are a better option. I am an avid Palm fan/user however I also take a tablet (paper kind) to meetings. The limitations of writing and size are too great given the current level of technology. I read ebooks on my palm but I don't think a set of textbooks would be practical.

    On the other hand, many people are going too high end. Forget gaming or graphics, etc. This is school. Text editing, note taking, paper writing, math solving (3 R's type work). How about new "older" versions of machines. Under-powered for today's executives but more than enough for this type of work. Even a "skinny" Linux capable of running KDE/GNOME and Open Office would give them a heck of a boost. (I said Linux because of the legal issues of attempting to outfit them with win98 and cost)

    Too often I see these fail because everyone wants to supply a machine for the minority (1ghz+ processor, 256meg of ram and 40 gig hard drive. If the kids want to learn to code, or extend the power of what they are doing, that is fine, but we need a product for the masses. How about a 333mhx, 128 meg of memory, 4 gig hard drive, and modem/Ethernet card running at 800x600. It would seem someone could produce such a laptop that was shock resistant for under $500 a piece and still make money. This is so far off bleeding edge, offices are probably using them for door stops.

    By the way, I used my laptop as this example(IBM 1400I) which does 80% of what I need to do as a developer (mail, documentation, notes, etc). I even manage a couple of games. These kids would be hard pressed to use this to its potential.

    Come on laptop producers. Step up and take the challenge. How about making $12 on 10,000 machines instead of $100 on a 1000?
  • I had one class in a classroom that had a laptop bolted to every desk. During lecture the professor encouraged us to use the web to find further information on questions he couldn't fully answer. I remember during a lecture on Huffman coding some students found a great Java animation of the algorithm that they sent to the professor who then displayed it on the projector.

    But beyond just providing an instant reference the laptops provided a way to communicate with the professor during lecture without disrupting class and without fear of embarrasment. The professor set up an IM account that he left logged on during lecture. Anyone at any time could IM the prof questions, comments, or links to reference material anonymously and the professor could then answer them at a convenient point in the lecture. Some might argue that anonymity may not allow the professor to get to know about their students, but I feel that in large lectures, alot of questions go unasked because people feel too embarrassed to ask them. In our class the professor knew exactly when something he said needed clarification. I think the students benefitted greatly from what the technology allowed.

  • Handing out technology is pretty much the mindset that has prevailed in the schools up to now, and it doesn't work. Teachers don't have the time or resources to effectively use the Macs/PCs they have, and most schools have no competent SysAdmin--they usually draft a teacher and they grudgingly do it for a year.

    Talk to your local elem. school teachers, esp. ones with diverse classrooms, and get a feel for their challenges. Then tailor a technology approach that meets their needs; if you can find ways to improve the effectiveness of teaching, you will help more kids.

    I think that the ideal device would be a PDA that is so ubiquitous and inexpensive that it is not worth stealing, and no great loss if damaged or misplaced. Now, design a classroom around that device-- the child carriers the PDA home or to school, but at either place it can be plugged into the desktop and become part of a more capable, flexible learning system, with a keyboard, mouse, or other input device depending on the child's need. No more text books-- all instructional media is electronic and licensed to the school system.

    The main initial benefit of the EDA (let's call it) is to provide local storage of homework assignments, calandar, contact, basic reference information, and statistics on use. This ensures that kids can't forget their textbook, or homework assignment, or spelling list, or worksheet, because the teacher can synch every EDA in the class at the end of the day.

    Unplugged, the EDA stores key imformation for homework, reading, and studies-- much like a handspring or palmpilot. Plugged into class net or a home PC, it is the front-end of a more powerful networked information device.

    More ambitiously, use the EDA and the wired classroom to give teachers instantaneous feedback on student interaction, learning, participation. No more night spent grading papers, other than writing assignments. Basic skills tests are graded instantaneously, proving the teacher with immediate feedback on instructional effectiveness. Each kid can advance at his/her own pace--"leave no kid behind" would become a reality.

    The Teacher's workstation would enable them to scan the entire class during a writing or reading assignment, enable or disable instant messaging or polling, and even measure the time use and interaction on a class assignment, realtime, or record statistics that can be analyzed later. This would also make standardized testing much more consistent across classrooms, schools, and school districts.

    Stop with the "Apples for the Students" already. It is having little positive impact on learning, burdens teachers that are already overloaded, and amounts to little more than a toy that teachers use to distract students while they provide individual attention on handle admin duties.
  • This reminds me of the article posted just a few days ago:

    Video Games in Gym Class - DDR 101? []

    I think that is a more pratical application of technology being introduced in schools.
  • Actually, I just completed doing this. I took a sociolinguistics class as a postgrad, and took all my notes on my palmtop pc, a cassiopeia, because I was too lazy to . I found out a couple things:

    1) The urge to play games was immense, because nobody (save the folks behind you) can tell what you're really doing on there.

    2) Input is not that bad. I use the Fitaly keypad and was getting upwards of 20 wpm after a few days. Character recognition was terrible in the basic setup. But what really helps after a while is the word suggestion -- especially since a lot of the class was learning and applying new terms.

    3) I didn't feel out of place or nerdy, except that I was taking notes and many others weren't. I was regarded as more of an outcast for not having a cell phone.

    4) When my stylus broke, I was sort of fucked. Same with power outages -- once I played games for three hours before class and missed a day's worth of notes. I was late with a paper because I had totally drained the batteries and couldn't charge it fast enough to print.

    5) The incompatibility with PalmOS made it impossilbe to "note pass" digitally. I understand there's a $30 program that lets you interchange, but it seems costly just to send "Prof's a goober" to another techno loser. I have seen people swap notes via palm to palm connections, but it often took so long to negociate that I wonder if copying by hand might be easier.

    6) Because nobody knew how to use my pc, when I passed it around to get people's email addresses I would usually have to enter them myself. Everybody understands a pen.

    For what it's worth, the palm made it so nice to study up for tonight's big test, post my notes online and print out flash cards (word macro to search for bolded text, copy out the text after it, repeat for each card).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    butt thancs to computers in the classroom, Im reelly good at Quake 3!
  • I was about to respond with a flame about poor spending and a diatribe on how money is frequently allocated solely based on a pervasive technology fetish in the US school system, but then I actually stopped and thought about what access to computers has meant in the last several years. See, like many of you, the schools I attended purchased their computers primarily because they were somehow supposed to magically transform the classroom and "make learning fun" or whatever. Largely that was a failure, however the hidden benefit of such wanton tech spending is increased familiarity with technology. In the long run, this is beneficial to students.

    To give you an example, when I began working at the computer lab in college in '95, a majority of the problems I dealt with involved the students being unfamiliar with PCs in general, rather than an issue of the computer being broken. "How do I turn it on?", "How do I type a paper?", "What's the 'any' key?", and so forth were the main problems. Gradually, however, as more students entered college having used computers in high school to type papers and do research, my job has become less of "How do I use this infernal contraption?" to "Is the network broken?"

    My point is that use of computer technology in grade and high schools is beneficial less for the overt "Kids will have new ways to learn" and more for the side effect of increased familiarity and comfort with technology in general. It's been years since I had to assist a student who was so afraid of breaking the computer that he or she wouldn't even touch the mouse.

    So, while practically the PDA thing seems kind of like throwing technology at (what appears to be) a non-existent problem, the side benefit is wonderful. Kids become familiar with tech in general and lose some of their fear for it, which in my humble opinion is a good thing.

  • Want good eductation? All you need is a student who wants to learn and a teacher who wants to teach. If you have those two things everything else is irrelevant.

    The problem is the one that has always plagued education, the prevelence of "students" who are not there to learn, and "teachers" who are glorified babysitters. Introducing a new tool into this situation isn't a solution to this problem, because there is no solution to this problem. You can hire better teachers, assuming you can find them, but that doesn't solve the problem of the "students" who aren't there to learn.

    The reason I'm bringing this up is that for a very long time people have been bitching and moaning about how our schools are sub-par. Gadgets are for some strange reason seen as a solution to this problem. The truth is that the "problem" of poor schools is largely manufactured by political pundits in order to stir the emotions of the sheeple. There are areas where the schools are sub par. There are two reasons for this that are interrelated. First, the local culture of these areas is barbaric. The "students" are criminals in training, many of which won't live to see their 21st birthday, and even more of which will spend that birthday behind bars. Good teacher's are not going to want to work in such an environment. Needless to say computers and palm pilots aren't going to solve the problem.

    A computer or any other information tool in the hands of an interested student will of course be of value. That same tool in the hands of someone who doesn't give a rat's ass is just going to be a waste of money.

    If you want a better education for your children, teach them at home starting at the youngest age you possibly can. Send them off to first grade or kindergarten already knowing how to read. If you can afford to home school them, do so. If not then try your dead level best to ensure that they are in a school district where their fellow students are not going to be a bunch of thugs and where the teachers have faith in the future of the students they teach.

  • by afflatus_com ( 121694 ) on Friday June 21, 2002 @11:20AM (#3743815) Homepage

    ...actually the handheld's killer app in education, once the notes can be passed globally.

    I curate [] which is a non-profit database of mnemonics for medical students, which includes a port to the PalmOS.

    In the pre-handheld days, you could dream something up, and share it with someone nearby. Now a button click on the handheld shares your new studying technique to about 40,000 other students trying to learn the same thing as you are.

    The implementation has received good feedback from the pretty much all the students who use it. Some buy their handhelds, others get them provided by the school. Laptops aren't nearly as popular as handhelds, since walking around all day on the wards in the clinical years--never really sitting down to be able to open up a laptop.

    Since slashdot is a technology site, the mechanism of global sharing, used in the application, might prove interesting too: To avoid custom HotSync conduit problems on Linux and other platforms:

    1. Button click on the PalmOS application makes an XML record of the new entry to be shared.
    2. Place the XML record in the email application's outbox (including a b64 text version of any picture that was drawn).
    3. Now are automatically piggy-backing on the existing online email, or desktop email conduit, to email the XML record off to the server.
    4. Server checks the addition's email address every few minutes, and parses any XML records it finds, adding new entries to the server database, and queuing modifications to existing entries for later inspection.
    5. Every few weeks, server builds an update pack of new records to download, which patches the existing database on the handheld.
  • Students can no longer prepare bark to calculate problems. They depend instead on expensive slates. What will they do when the slate is dropped and breaks?
    --Teacher's Conference, 1703.
  • I got a Palm m100 a couple of months ago, and I am 100% pleased with it. It's a refurb, it cost me $50 at the Bad Place, (otherwise known as Fry's) and it hasn't disappointed me yet.

    Yeah, it's slow, yeah it's got a black-and-white screen. No does what I need it to. I've got my addresses and phone numbers in it, I take notes with it (tap, tap, tap that onscreen keyboard...faster than Graffiti for me)and I have a few free-as-in-beer timesink games that are great for killing time. (Look for Mahjongg at ... it is just like KMahjongg and GNOME Mahjongg and just as addictive)

    Basically the low-end Palm is like an old Mac Classic. Except this is a Mac Classic you can put in your pocket or your purse. Think Retro and you are in the right mindset to use a Palm.

    One of these days when I'm in the chips I'll get a Zaurus, but until then my little Chibi-Palm-chan will do just fine for me.
  • We advocate computers in the schools, but nobody advocates manditory keyboarding. I'm 24, and I never even owned a computer until my last 2 years of highschool, and that was an obsolete 286. However, I did decide to take typing (on old IBM typewriters) in about 8th grade. The typing has served me well for my entire life. They delay in using computers hasn't seemed to hurt me, I'm currently employed as a computer technician, having been entirely self-taught in computers, which came from a lot of reading, and from upgrading that 286 to (eventually) a K7-1133mhz machine (going to a 386, 486, p100, k6-2 300, etc along the way).

    The only technical skill you need is keyboarding. The only general skill you need is problem solving. That's it.

  • I'd rather my tax dollars go to paying better salaries to good teachers.

    Other than a lab for writing/printing papers, what, exactly, is the benefit of having computers in school? Maybe a compsci lab, but any kid interested in that type of thing will learn more at home on his own (I certainly did).

    If you want to give them computers, give them old TRS-80's and have them learn how to write stuff on them. Or better yet, an introductory analog, followed by digital electronics course.

    Using computers for simulations doesn't do much good if the kids don't know how the computer performs its magic in the first place. Hell, even in college we would have to do numerical methods by hand with a calculator, even though in the real world, that stuff is done by computers. We had to know what the computer was doing (this was an engineering course, btw, not a compsci course).

  • A year or two ago somebody wrote in to Ask Slashdot to get ideas for a project that involved giving handhelds to hundreds or maybe thousands of kids all over the world, and seeing what they did with them. Anybody know what happened to that?
    Did it happen yet?

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire