SuccessLinkIt's the fourth annual SuccessLink Handheld Conference in Osage Beach, Missouri. We're at the Tan Tar A resort and everyone is excited for two days worth of learning, sharing, and networking. Stacey Franks opened the conference with a video by Stan Smith from Warrensburg, Missouri. The video was about a middle school student and her day using her handheld in each class. Stacey also explained to participants that there is a blog for the conference, where the presenters can post thoughts, reflections, notes, and documents. Conference-goers are encourages to leave comments on the posts.

Mark Yehle answered the question, "What is SuccessLink?" SuccessLink is funded by a grants from the Missouri Department of Education. Their job is to find best practices and disseminate them to teachers and schools. Their website has 2,500 lesson plans and has had over 10,000,000 hits on the site. SuccessLink knows that handhelds are great for students and wants to help Missouri students tap the power of handheld computing. I wish more states had an agency like SuccessLink

Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris took the stage and they have over 90 minutes to present their keynote presentation. That gives them time to talk and answer questions. Oftentimes keynote speeches are under 60 minutes, so it's nice to be able to have the time give their message justice.

Conference-GoersI've blogged about Elliot and Cathie's message before on June 28, 2006, February 5, 2006, July 21, 2005 , and June 29, 2005. So instead of recapping what I've already written, I'm including some tidbits of Elliot-and-Cathie-goodness that were new or interesting to me:

  • "It's inevitable that all computing will be mobile." That's a quote from 1991 by Jeff Hawkins, inventor of the Palm Pilot.
  • A former student of Elliot's works for Apple and invented the iPod. The former student actually worked on handheld software for the University of Michigan. He was always interested in mobile computing. Of course, because of politics at Apple, the former student (who Elliot says is still a "kid") doesn't get formal credit for his work on iPod and iTunes.
  • Although it's called a laptop, the technical specs for MIT's $100 laptop is much more like a handheld than a modern notebook computer.
  • Turning Technologies offers software (called vPad) to turn desktop, latptop, and Pocket PCs into student response clicking devices. This way you don't need to buy clicker hardware; educators can use the handhelds they already have.
  • It's much more powerful for students to make their own multimedia instead of simply viewing the media.
  • Cathie calls it "Animate and Annotate" when students explain what they are doing in an animation, like in this long division Sketchy animation. Not only is the math problem being solved, but the student is actually giving insight into her thinking. Jemey Roschelle from SRI calls the creative uses like this "So Simple, So Powerful." The software isn't overly complicated, but the learning is very evident.
  • According to research from Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow, it takes 3 to 5 years for teachers to integrate desktops and laptops into daily instnruction. Cathie and company are finding it takes half that time to integrate handhelds. Cathie explains that schools are buying handhelds with less functionality than laptops, but they are using 90% of the handheld's functionarity (instead of 10% of a laptop's functionality).
The conference features all hands-on breakout sessions that are 90 minutes each. I'm looking forward to presenting about quizzing software, spelling test preparation, podcasting, and spreadsheets. There are over 200 educators attending over 25 breakout sessions. I'll be interviewing participants for Soft Reset about what they have taken away from this year's SuccessLink Handheld Computer Conference over these two days.