Handheld Computers in the USVI

I've spent much of my time lately on the island of St. Thomas. The Palm handhelds we're using are a suitable educational tool for schools in the Virgin Islands because:

  • Many teachers are not tech savvy. Handhelds are easy to begin integrating into the curriculum. Having a simple device is a great way to hook them into using technology.
  • The schools I'm working with do not have a technician on staff. Handhelds are easy to troubleshoot. Teachers are capable of dealing with most problems with handhelds--little technical expertise is required.
  • School buildings are multilevel with no ramps or elevators. Getting a cart of technology from class to class is impossible because of the stairs. A class set of handhelds can be transported in a small tub.
  • School building do not have much storage space. Handheld can easily be stored in a filing cabinet.
  • The buildings are not air conditioned. Handhelds have no hard drive nor heat-sensitive components. The island's heat and humidity is not a issue for handheld computers.
  • Shipping broken laptops off to the mainland to be repaired can take many days and comes at a very high price. Handhelds are relatively cheap. Broken ones are just replaced with a substitute handheld.
  • School building have a very limited number of power outlets. Handhelds can charge quickly. It just takes 20 minutes to get a useable charge from a handheld.
  • The island encounters many electrical surges and outages. All electrical equipment is plugged into line conditioners, but electronics can still be affected. Handhelds and their chargers are inexpensive to replace.
  • Theft can be a problem. Handhelds are concealable and ultra portable, helping to detour theft when transported away from school.

Handheld Computing in St. Thomas is the website for the 2007-2008 project in the Virgin Islands. It details some of the activities and projects students have been doing this school year. There's also plenty of photos so you can see the handhelds in action. The site will of course be updated as the school year progresses.