Tidbits from Lexington Handheld Conference

Dr. Elliot SolowayI'm at the Lexington One Second Annual Handheld Computer Conference in Lexington, South Carolina. I kicked off the conference with my keynote From Creative to Crazy. Cathie Norris & Elliot Soloway presented the luncheon speech, "Realizing the Benefits of Technology - Handheld Centric Classroom: What Are We Waiting For?" I've heard them speak numerous times, but this dynamic duo always offers me something new. Here are some tidbits I picked up after enjoying a delicious turkey sub:

  • Computers haven't had an impact because students don't have access.
  • 5 years ago the national computer to student ratio was 6:1. Today it's 5:1. It's going to take a while to get 1:1 at that rate.
  • There are 55,000,000 kids in the United States. The only way to fund one-to-one is through low cost devices.
  • Laptops and desktop computer have a 72 dots per inch resolution. Handhelds have 200 dots per inch, making for a very sharp screen.
  • Many one-to-one laptop initiatives end up using the expensive machines as simple word processors.
  • The problems with laptops are that they moving parts that can break and a large screen that sucks up battery life.
  • The Fourier Nova 5000 handheld (starting at $399) with a 7 inch screen and the Windows CE operating system is finally starting to ship. It's being distributed by Dell.
  • Cathie demonstrated GoKnow's Handheld Learning Environment (HLE for short). She showed how the software can contain all learning resources, including hyperlinks to web research, rubrics, documents, concept maps, eBooks, and animations. When a student syncs with PAAM, they receive all of their materials that the teacher selected for the project. When a students exits one of the resources on their handheld, they are taken back to HLE and the list of that project's resources.
  • Can 1:1 handheld access lead to increased student achievement? First, Elliot asks the audience if they share their computers with other people. The tool must be ready at hand to be truly useful. Elliot tells about a rigorous three year study (at a cost of $600,000) in Detroit Schools. Some classes of students had handhelds and some did not. There was no difference the first year. But the second year when the teachers began to figure out how to harness the power of handheld computing, and the students did statistically significantly better. That second year there was a water unit where there was no difference in the two groups, but that was the first time any of the teachers taught that unit. Now, because of this is scientifically based research, the curriculum and basic tasks were the same. For instance, when asked to do an animation, the control group would draw a cartoon on paper while the handheld users used Sketchy. Dr. Soloway says that there is not scientifically-based research on laptops showing this kind of data.
After Elliot and Cathie's energetic presentation, I presented a two-hour session on podcasting and differentiated instruction. I shared how to listen to podcasts on handhelds and important technical and instructional strategies. Participants listened to a collection of audio about planets from this sample RSS feed. Also, I demonstrated how to set up your own RSS feed that contains only the specific podcast episodes you want students to have. The conference was a great time and I look forward to next year's Lexington One Annual Handheld Computer Conference!