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Handhelds for Students?

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the netris dept.

Education 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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i hope theyre really cheap (-1, Offtopic)

guest12 (248543) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742873)

how much will they really cost.


1-0 already! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742914)

Further proof of Aryan supremacy!

What is WRONG with you Pussy-Ass Americans? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742927)

For one thing, you still let muslims roam free in your country, when you should have rounded them up and put them in camps before the first shard of glass from the WTC hit the ground.

And NOW you're pussy footing around with not executing the mentally retarded! What the HELL are you doing? Clearly, mental retards are MORE of a threat to society than normal people. So if anything, they should be the FIRST into the chair.

How many good and decent men will die because retards are allowed to roam the streets, guns in hand?

America. To solve your problems you need to take affirmative action. Round up muslims and the mentally retarded. (You'll find them to be a shared demographic) Lock them away and then fake some 'breakout' attempts that thin the herd.

Please post your location... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742943)

That way we can start with you, you retarded fuckwit.

Re:1-0 already! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743058)

Germany didn't deserve the goal. They were badly outplayed by the USA. The game would be in extra time right now if the referee hadn't ignored the (correct) protest of the USA about that goal that wasn't. Germany is lucky to have escaped with a win.

Handheld speed of entry (2)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742883)

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.

Re:Handheld speed of entry (2, Insightful)

MarvinMouse (323641) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742908)

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.)

Re:Handheld speed of entry (3, Insightful)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742971)

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?

Re:Handheld speed of entry (1)

aonaran (15651) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743183)

...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)

Re:Handheld speed of entry (1)

imperator_mundi (527413) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742992)

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 takes notes on a laptop (3, Insightful)

mekkab (133181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742937)

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!

Re:Handheld speed of entry (2)

shyster (245228) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742948)

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????

Re:Handheld speed of entry (2)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742991)

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 ;-)

Re:Handheld speed of entry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743099)

Hmmm... coming to a Napster server near you soon... college textbookz ;-)

There is already a trade in underground ebooks. We OCR the books before we burn them.

Re:Handheld speed of entry (3, Insightful)

silicon_synapse (145470) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743094)

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?

Re:Handheld speed of entry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743413)

You definitely do practice what you preach, because the word is spelled "grammar," not "grammer."

Re:Handheld speed of entry (0, Offtopic)

grammar nazi (197303) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742964)

"I grafitti much slower than I type, but I type slower than I can take notes on paper."

'grafitti' is a noun, not a verb. Also, in your last sentence, s/would be/is/; to clear things up.

BTW, this is the grammar nazi's 500th grammar correcting post!! Everybody doublecheck his/her grammar before posting in honor of the grammar nazi.

Re:Handheld speed of entry (0, Offtopic)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743005)

'grafitti' is a noun, not a verb.
And a sentence begins with a capital letter...

Re:Handheld speed of entry (0, Offtopic)

SekretAsianMan (547098) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743107)

He doesn't have to capitalize because he was quoting the first word. Hence the '' 's.

Re:Handheld speed of entry (2)

spoonboy42 (146048) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743025)

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.

Re:Handheld speed of entry (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743271)

Kids should learn how to write on paper before they learn graffiti. When I was a kid......

a new idea? (4, Interesting)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742884)

doesn't anyone else recall the Apple eMate 300?

Re:a new idea? (1)

systmc (92469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743538)

I'm sure the schools that purchased them do!

In My Experience... (3, Insightful)

Fapestniegd (34586) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742886)

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

Re:In My Experience... hp to hp not passing (1)

mactom (515670) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743146)

I agree.

... but when you exchanged the ir send diode in the hp48 against a more powerful one, you could pass notes, results, formulas over 15 meters during exams.

Saved me more than one time.

Re:In My Experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743453)

Do you mean "use" rather than "program"?

Why would students need to learn to program these things just to take notes and etc?

Pubic Service Announcement (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742887)

Pubic Service Announcement

Your attention please.


I hereby declare anyone who is not a U.S.A. fan to be a dirty, stinking, sweaty eurotrash flamer. Please take a shower; your swampy armpits are polluting the atmosphere.

Thank you for attention. Please return to your normal business.

Palms and kids (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742888)

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.

Re:Palms and kids (1)

Rober7 Pauls0n (568815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742949)

This is already going on with the innovation of graphing calculators

Re:Palms and kids (2)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743445)

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?

Computers in the classroom (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742890)

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.

umm ... (1)

synshyne (585540) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743297)

"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

Hand Helds at schoool... retarted (1)

deadline2k (586856) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742899)

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

Re:Hand Helds at schoool... retarted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743138)

what is a linuxtop?

Already Tech-Savvy students... (4, Insightful)

Vengie (533896) | more than 12 years ago | (#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.

Re:Already Tech-Savvy students... (3, Insightful)

warpSpeed (67927) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743289)

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.

Well... (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742912)

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

In Short, NO. (5, Insightful)

mekkab (133181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742915)

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.

My thoughts exactly (5, Insightful)

Nomad7674 (453223) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743033)

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.

Re:In Short, NO. (2, Interesting)

cthrall (19889) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743087)

> 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.

OHMIGOD that is soo cool! (2)

mekkab (133181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743400)

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.

Re:In Short, NO. (2)

colmore (56499) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743209)

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"

Re:In Short, NO. (2)

0xA (71424) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743244)

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.

Re:In Short, NO. (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743323)

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 don't entirely agree with you (1)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743283)

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.
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.
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.
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.

Re:i don't entirely agree with you (2)

mekkab (133181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743486)

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.

Re:In Short, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743318)

My school system made an initiative to buy every science or math class a class set of TI-89 calculators and we use them ALL the time. Starting from first grade to twelvth, arithmetic, algebra, calculus, physics, and chemistry are all being taught using calculator. The only bad thing that has come of it is that it has made most kids dependent on using a TI to do any sort of math. Most kids have to use a calculator to do basic multiplication while kids like me get a ccused of cheating because we can do it mentally. Anyway, PDAs would be worse. If kids starting learning things by running programs off of a PDA then they will just become dependent on them. I think if things like calculators or PDAs are used for teaching, from my experience, kids should be taught how to do what they are applying the technology for WITHOUT a PDA, TI, or whatever it may be. After that they can learn how to apply it to their PDA application and do neat things. In conclusion, if teachers use PDAs the same way they are using TI-89s here, it will have some good benifits but if they don't teach it the right way it will just make the students dependent on using them.

An opportunity to use technology? (5, Insightful)

RobinH (124750) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742916)

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.

Re:An opportunity to use technology? (3, Interesting)

johnalex (147270) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742977)

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. :-).

Re:An opportunity to use technology? (1)

xyzzy-ladder (570782) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743160)

"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 (3, Insightful)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 12 years ago | (#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? (5, Interesting)

blueskies (525815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742934)

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 (5, Interesting)

benzapp (464105) | more than 12 years ago | (#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.

Re:Better than a TI-81 (2)

tftp (111690) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743086)

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

No way. Most math problems are N-dimensional. Try to visualize a Jacobian ;-)

Re:Better than a TI-81 (2)

colmore (56499) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743240)

you restrict yourself to finite dimensional inner-product spaces?


Re:Better than a TI-81 (2)

tftp (111690) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743296)

Thanks, your comment only strengthents my point ;-)

Expensive! (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742953)

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 :)

Re:Expensive! (1) (565364) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743527)

A new simple-laptop ($1000) cost atleast 2 times as much an new state-of-the-art-palmtop. ($400)

They will just break them (3, Interesting)

sklib (26440) | more than 12 years ago | (#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... (2, Interesting)

White Shade (57215) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742972)

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 ...

This is an awful idea (5, Insightful)

Markvs (17298) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742974)

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"?

Good God (1)

Retard Sevant (585201) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742979)

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

And for what? So they have another avenue to play Tetris.

Re:Good God (1)

Rober7 Pauls0n (568815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742989)

True dat!

Palm pilot and cheating .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742983)

I remember when I was in HS I had one ofthe early palm pilots (I worked at a store and got em cheap). I used to take it into exams as my calculator. The teachers had never seen one, so I showed them how I could just touch the screen on the calc and how great it was, so easy to use and had big numbers for my bad eyes ...

but really, once the exam started, I just flipped to my formula page so I didn't have to remember the damned things. I never had the patience to put more info than formulas ... but the opportuntity is there for some serious cheating on exams etc.

PDAs are the future! (1)

Darth Paul (447243) | more than 12 years ago | (#3742990)

... 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.

--dumb idea. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3742993)

--K-12 education should be home schooled by concerned parents. US public education is not only un constitutional, it's a dismal failure. And the more money they throw at it, the worse it has become. The kids need a computer at home, and these massively propogandaized institutions need to be shut down, and the tax money stolen at the point of a gun from people to fund them needs to be reimbursed. The NEA is one of the most destructive and mis informed organizations existing in the US, it is primarily a propoganda tool of global socialists. They don't "teach", they brainwash kids into acceptance of a political agenda that includes outright lies and distortions. Whether or not they use PDA's is a moot point considering the larger issues with "public elementary education".

OK-found a great reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743198)

--I found this famous reference. Note: questions apply to the year 1895, so take that into account. This is an 8th grade graduation final exam from 1895, but the complexity and thoroughness is still relevant, along with a lot of the questions.

first germany wins post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743019)

oh well. maybe in another 70 years. :/

what is wrong with books? (2)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743020)

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?

Re:what is wrong with books? (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743112)

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.

Re:what is wrong with books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743195)

My grandparents were better educated, and were more knowledgeable than most children that have been through k-12 in the last 20 years. Their school district didn't have money and they certainly didn't have computers.

Research is nice, but put them in the library where they belong.

Re:what is wrong with books? (2)

colmore (56499) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743281)

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.

Re:what is wrong with books? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743502)

I have a solution for American Public Education.

1. Hold teachers responsable for the performance of the students. All too many times teachers are either unwilling to learn new skills or incapable of learning new skills.

2. Make Science and Math a central part of a teacher's education in College. Math and Science teach one to think, and that's something missing in many teachers, the ability to think.

3. Eliminate the Department of Education at the Federal level.

4. Allow federal tax credits for sending kids to private school, up to 10,000 dollars a household.

5. Eliminate standardized testing across elementary and middle school. Prep students at 11th grade for ACT and SAT tests.

6. For each new house built in a sub division of 10 or more single family homes, tack on a School Expansion Fee of 1,000 dollars.

gateway behavior (4, Funny)

nanojath (265940) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743023)

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?!

Learn to read, write and do arithmetic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743049)

Try teaching kids how to learn without power. The old way. This push for non-needed techno-toys in the classroom will only cloud the issues. The main issue being that "teachers" do not know the subject they are teaching. They have degrees in
"Teaching", but do not know anything about any subject in particular. My son has had many teachers of this type, and it is painfully obvious in my parent/teacher conferences. These are lamoids pretending to teach. I would be willing to bet that I test better than 95 percent of these jokers. I have been out of school for over 40 years. Shazaam!

Why Not? (1)

2nesser (538763) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743066)

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 (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743068)

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.

Urks! (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743223)


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.

handhelds for students.... (0, Troll)

AssFace (118098) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743074)

(Forward, never backward,
upward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling...)

We had them in my HS... (2, Informative)

LordHunter317 (90225) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743085)

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.

Is /. Now a Samizdat Publisher? (1)

ishmalius (153450) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743092)

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.

I use a palm for a laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743104)

I am a 2nd year college student (or will be in a few months) and I bought a palm vx with the foldable keyboard. This is great for typing up letters and etc. Of course as an organizer it is also better than paper which I used to use. $299 is alot more affordable than $1299

While I believe you can make this an adequate and cheaper alternative to laptops, it should only be done on the high school level. As a first grader I would have beaten the thing to death.

However, if palm or someone makes a school version of lets say the m100, something sturdy, I bet the repl cost could be incredibly cheap.


We've done this, kind of (1)

dougery (198875) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743117)

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.

Extortion at it best (1)

lowjax (584753) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743137)

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) (3, Interesting)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 12 years ago | (#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.

Laptops etc. in schools (5, Interesting)

colmore (56499) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743155)

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...

PDAs improve productivity (2, Insightful)

andykuan (522434) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743175)

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.

Re:PDAs improve productivity (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743300)

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.

Re:PDAs improve productivity (1)

andykuan (522434) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743399)

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.

Tech programs in schools (1)

chacha (166659) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743201)

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.

Inexpensive Laptops/Tables not PDAs! (2)

Kefaa (76147) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743257)

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?

Some uses for tech in the classroom (2, Insightful)

MrRagu (212889) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743276)

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.

Re:Some uses for tech in the classroom (1)

futruss (587168) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743490)

You make a perfect argument for why we should spend the money on more teachers rather than on all of the immediately outdated hardware and software. When your fellow classmates are in the boardroom meeting, they won't be able to "IM" the chairman. They won't be able to "IM" the judge when they're in the courtroom. They won't be able to "IM" the rest of the group during a brainstorm session. Your classroom is producing students too embarrassed to ask questions in the workplace too. All they're good for is making anonymous postings to wastelands like Slashdot. The classroom is also a place where you learn to overcome the natural fear of embarrassment due to ignorance. Smaller classes, more teachers, and fewer computer help in that area of a person's education as well. Thank you for making that point so clear. (Oh, I'm so embarrassed!)

Develop tech that helps teachers (2)

deaddeng (63515) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743329)

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.

Reminds me of DDR in Gym Class... (1)

systmc (92469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743343)

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.

I've done this. (2)

dasmegabyte (267018) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743357)

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).

I cant reed whell... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3743409)

butt thancs to computers in the classroom, Im reelly good at Quake 3!

Art Class + Digital Cameras (1)

systmc (92469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743477)

I could see using digital cameras for art class. Benifits over 35mm, of course, are...
  • no continual film costs (ie, buying a roll of film for each student each class)
  • no photo development costs (unless they choose to do so)
  • encourages more picture taking (typically holds many more pictures than a roll of film, and a picture can be deleted to free up space)
The camera would have to be fairly rugged for grade/middle/high school students.

Books aren't the only resource (1)

Devlin-du-GEnie (512506) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743489)

Those saying "just use books" haven't been reading education research. People, not just kids, learn best when they can get at concepts through multiple modalities: type, graphics, animations, sounds, music. It's not just for fun, people. Take a look at the math and science tools near the bottom here [] .

And speaking of fun . . . everyone learns more when they're engaged and having fun. Surprise, surprise, kids are more likely to retain concepts and actually stay in school if they have enjoyable, relevant experiences. They see technology as relevant to their lives in ways that dry textbooks aren't.

For those concerned about price and durability, there are cheap, durable PDAs coming to market. Alphasmart's Dana was recently discussed here [] on Slashdot.

I Want Back To School!! (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 12 years ago | (#3743492)

Sounds like school might actually become interesting again. Now I can do my hacking without skipping class! I'm just imagining all the fun I would have stalking WinCE-lusers with my almighty Linux-handheld! And wait till they introduce voice recognition as a solution to the crappy input systems!
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