Handheld technologies have progressed greatly from electronic calculators because of the continuing trend to miniaturization of computer chips. Handheld computers fit in the palm of the hand and enable students to take the power of a small laptop computer wherever they go. Cell phones are also handheld technology based on computer chips, and their functions have expanded to incorporate those of a digital camera. Today's personal digital assistants (PDAs) have evolved to combine the functions of all three, supporting multiple capabilities for teaching and learning. These tasks include word processing, photo capture, audio recording, and wireless communication. The continuing reduction in cost of handhelds is increasing access to computing capabilities.
A handheld computer can be connected to the Web with a wireless connection allowing students and educators the ability to synchronize data, send email, gather information, and edit documents. Handhelds can also function as a Global Positioning System, allowing students to understand geographic information systems in new ways. Companies are increasingly developing devices that attach to handheld computers, such as probes, facilitating data collection. Handheld capabilities and convenience support a wide range of learning strategies.
Handheld computers can expand the possibilities of integrating technology into your lessons. To do so effectively, keep in mind the following strategies:
The Concord Consortium has been conducting research on the use of small and alternative technologies (such as handhelds) in the classroom since 1995. http://www.concord.org/research/handhelds.html
The Northwest Handheld Project helps teachers explore the uses and benefits of handhelds in the classroom. http://www.nwhandheld.org/
The Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT) has contributed a variety of resources for handhelds. Their efforts include studying the use of probes in science classrooms, providing grants, and sharing educational software for handhelds. http://www.cilt.org/themes/ubiquitous.html
The Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education (Hi-CE) has free, downloadable software and research available for use on handhelds. http://hice.org/soft3.html
USIGHT, a collaboration of the Concord Consortium and Palm, Inc., contains information, lesson ideas, and more for using handhelds in the classroom. http://usight.concord.org/