~e; Study: PDAs Good for Education 

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Tue, 12 Nov 2002 11:00:10 -0600

// having just written about this without knowledge of
// the study named below, it is interesting that the same
// technology that is said to be in mortal-threat in the
// marketplace, may be the best platform for student
// learning, in contrast to laptop programs where students
// learn how to use these, and not the basics of education...
// see URL below for story links and additional information...

Study: PDAs Good for Education 

By Katie Dean, 02:00 AM Nov. 12, 2002 PT

Handheld devices, once solely the province of CEOs needing a small 
electronic organizational device, are another step closer to being 
accepted as teaching aids in public schools.
Classroom technology proponents, always desperate for institutional 
proof that new gadgets can improve the learning process, can thank a 
study by nonprofit research and development firm SRI International.
The study showed PDAs not only help organize calendars and phone 
numbers, but are also useful to students. PDAs can help in collecting 
data, writing papers, checking facts, synching data with desktops and 
laptops, and collaborating on projects.
It may not seem like much at face value, but a study like the one 
released Monday can have a domino effect.
"I think it's great," said Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan 
professor who has developed educational software for the Palm. "This 
data will enable us to go forward with the next step in the agenda -- 
studying the impact of these handhelds on student learning."
The study observed that 89 percent of teachers found the handhelds to 
be an effective instructional tool for teachers, 93 percent believe the 
PDAs can have a positive effect on students' learning, and 90 percent 
plan to continue using the devices post-study.
Out of 1,200 applications, about 100 teachers in a variety of different 
subjects and grade levels across the country received Palm Education 
Pioneer technology grants for the 2001-2002 school year. Palm donated 
more than $2.3 million in equipment to participating schools.
Teachers themselves proposed ideas for how the Palms would be used in 
their classrooms.
"We were looking for truly innovative uses of the handhelds," said Phil 
Vahey, the principal investigator of the Palm program. "In general, we 
didn't tend to support projects where they would use them as 
organizational tools."
Study leaders used teacher evaluation surveys at the end of each 
semester as their main form of data collection. Researchers also 
surveyed students, asked teachers to fill out monthly status reports 
and popped in for site visits to get a clearer picture of how the PDAs 
were used.
"Because we examined handhelds across so many learning contexts and 
types of schools, our findings are robust," SRI research scientist 
Valerie Crawford said. "These findings speak to many different types of 
schools and classrooms."
The study also gave researchers practical information on best practices 
for implementing the handhelds in class, she said.
Rick Ayers received 30 Palms to use with Berkeley High School students 
on the production of their school newspaper, the Jacket.
"It was helpful because it allowed for more efficient information 
gathering, fact checking -- and for interfacing with the production 
computer," said Ayers, an English teacher and last year's adviser to 
the paper. "They could compare information with each other, compare 
quotes and use the dictionary."
Senior Gabriel Hurley-Ramstad is an editor at the Jacket and said that 
the PDAs were "definitely helpful to us."
Still, "in terms of general use, a public high school is not the best 
place for these devices," Hurley-Ramstad said. "Petty theft is the No. 
1 problem at Berkeley High."
None of the Palms was stolen, but graphing calculators and CD players 
are often swiped from students' backpacks, he said.
Researchers also discovered that sometimes a Palm is not enough on its 
According to the study, nearly all teachers reported that additional 
applications were essential to maximize the benefits of the handhelds. 
Using handhelds and scientific probes for data collection, like 
measuring water quality, turned out to be a successful use of the 
technology, Vahey said.
"Handhelds actually make the operational aspects such as collecting 
data much easier," Crawford said. "It's easier for students to focus on 
the data itself."
Researchers were surprised to find that teachers liked using the 
handhelds for writing assignments, provided that students could use a 
keyboard attachment. Students who struggle with their handwriting 
weren't as frustrated or discouraged.
Soloway said the devices support evolutionary change in the classroom.
"In previous technologies such as Logo (a programming language) and the 
Internet, we said to teachers, first you have to change, then you can 
use the technology," he said. "With handheld technologies, we say do 
what you're doing now, but you can get a little more."
"With these data, we get to first base. It's not the home run yet, but 
at least we're on first base."

copyright Wired News, 2002
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