What are Handhelds?

A handheld device is a computer that can conveniently be stored in a pocket (of sufficient size) and used while you're holding it (1). The most commonly used handheld device is a PDA. PDA is short for Personal Digital Assistant (4) and comes with a processor, memory card and many of the same components found in a computer. Some of the functions of the PDA include the ability to manipulate spreadsheets, edit Word, and access the internet (3). Please refer to the following YouTube video for the history of PDAs.
The first PDA is considered to be the Casio PF-15115-36 released in May 1983. On January 7, 1992, Apple Computer CEO John Sculley introduced the term PDA and what was known as the Apple Newton. In 1996, the computer company Nokia introduced the first mobile phone with full PDA functionality, the 9000 Communicator. Therefore, today the most used PDA's are mobile phone devices called smartphones (4). The most common smartphones used for business are the BlackBerry and Palm Treo, which have full keyboards and scroll wheels or thumb wheels to facilitate data entry and navigation, in addition to supporting touch-screen input. There are also full-size foldable keyboards available that plug directly, or use wireless technology to interface with the PDA and allow for normal typing. BlackBerry has additional functionality, such as push-based email and applications. What has become a very popular for both business and personal use is Apple iPhone or iPod Touch provided through phone carrier service AT&T (5). What's great about today's smartphones are its helpful applications such as GPS Navigation, games, and communication applications such as aol's instant messenger. PDAs have evolved over the years with improved technology that has allowed humans to access information with its device in our hand.

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of Handhelds?

Handhelds, if compared to the human brain proccessor, would resemble cognitve learning theory. Cognitivism involves "intellectual activity," encoding or storing information into memory, and recalling that information at a later time. The handheld computer has memory cards that stores information for the "human" to access later (7).

Constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts based upon current and past knowledge or experience, therefore; the "human" who operates the handheld would resemble constructivism when he or she learns from experience how to use the device and its applications (7). For example, a student can learn how to use the word proccessor on their handheld. From experience the student would know how to access the keys or symbols needed in order to compose a message on the handheld. After time the student may learn how to use shortcut keys or hot keysin order to access information. Therefore, the learner is building on information already learned.

What are the Benefits of Using Handhelds?

According to an article by Daniel J. Gulchak, a special education teacher and the Webmaster of the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, handhelds use in the classroom helps take a workload off of teachers. He suggests that handhelds can be another alternative to having to wipe off chalk boards, using chalk, and having to carry heavy computers around. Handhelds appeal to digital learners. For the students, he offers four ways handhelds built in features and applications can help students: the alarm can notify a student to go to special classes or to take their meds, record homework assignments and due dates, use a word processor to take notes or complete assignments as an alternative to writing out assignments, and using applications for remembering multiplication tables, periodic tables and various math formulas (6). Even though Gulchak gives reasons of how the handheld can be used effectivly for students and teachers within special education these reasons can apply to all students.

What are the Challenges of Using Handhelds?

Handhelds are of a small size. Therefore, users need to realize that although extremely convenient to carry,handheld computers have not replaced notebook computers due to their small keyboards and screens. Some manufacturers are trying to solve the small keyboard problem by replacing the keyboard with an electronic pen. However, these pen-based devices rely on handwriting technologies. Due to the variance in handwriting styles this technology is still being developed (2). Another set back is that the PDA battery life is much shorter than an actual laptop and last depending on the product up to 8 hours, therefore; the PDA may require constant recharging of its battery life. In the classroom, a challenge for teachers when allowing students to use handhelds is not being able to monitor students use of their handheld. Students may use the handheld at inappropiate times such as sending text messages to other classmates during class, which will caue a distraction in the classroom creating an unfit learning enviornment. Another problem that can occur with the use of handhelds is cheating. Because teachers are unable to monitor what is being transfered from student to another, cheating can become a major problem more so then what it already is today.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of Handhelds?

Learning how to operate a handheld can be very challenging for first time users. Therefore, some people learn how to use the handheld by trial and error and "playing" with the functions of the handheld. However, other users read the instructions on how to operate their handheld. Please refer to the video to see some ways on how to use one kind of handheld- the ever so popular iphone.

What is the Current State of the Research on Handhelds?

The University of Noth Dakota department of research has developed a webpage entitiled, "Handheld Computing Research," which in a neatly formed chart offers that offers information about handhelds such as smartphones, the developers of such devices, and the names of conferences that are held in regards to PDAs and smartphones.

Today, some people use the PDA to listen to music, as a speech recognition tool to help students with disabilities, aid in pre-flight planning and to assist navigation in cross-country competitions for glider pilots, and as an educational teaching tool used by teachers to promote learning (8). Due to the widespread use of PDAs, as stated above, manufactures of PDAs and other such devices are currently in the process of perfecting handwriting technologies so that people can use a pen to write on their pda.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using Handhelds?

Technology has changed the classroom environment in a major way. Some educational institutions are turning to mobile learning, or "mLearning" to aid in order to promote educational growth. Please refer and click on the following link for some lesson ideas. Another lesson idea not noted on the webpage is that by using the PDA teachers can teach students time managment and organization. Teachers can show students how to track and monitor due dates of assignments and put them into their PDA for safe storage. Students can all access other applications on the PDA such as spelling programs, math programs, and fun games to stimulate and help when solving such academic problems.

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using Handhelds?

Lesson starter ideas for handhelds
[[@http://itt.resa.net/mayerc/hhresources.htm#General Resources|Handheld resources that include instructions and lesson ideas]]
A list of books, articles and reviews for classroom handheld computer use

Resources (1) http://searchmobilecomputing.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid40_gci212223,00.html (2) http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/H/hand_held_computer.html (3) http://www.life123.com/technology/home-electronics/smart-phones/definition-of-a-handheld-computer.shtml#STS=g0wue4z5.164d (4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_digital_assistant (5) http://pda.is/ (6) http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1639&p=2 (7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_theory_(education) (8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_digital_assistant