True Personal Computing Pilot Project to Put Hand-Held Computers in Eighth-Graders' Grasps

Article excerpt

The quicker Oklahoma schools jump into the new wave of personal computing, the more benefits the state will reap, according to U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.

A three-year pilot program being implemented at Mayfield Middle School in the Putnam City School District takes a big step in that direction.

The PALS (Personal Access = Learning Success) project was funded through the STAR schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education last fall at Istook's request. The $250,000 grant represents a partnership between Putnam City Schools and the Oklahoma State Department of Education to bring hand-held computing technology to teaching and learning.

Before the program was implemented at Mayfield, Istook organized a group of education leaders, including State Superintendent of Schools Sandy Garrett, to tour an Illinois school district where students and teachers use personal hand-held computers for their daily schoolwork.

"Soon every school will have this technology, but those who jump in first will enjoy the most benefits. I believe Oklahoma can lead the way. It's the quickest and least expensive way to put computer technology in the hands of every single student," Istook said. "It means students better prepared for high-paying work, businesses attracted to a place on the cutting edge of technology, and an improved standard of living for all."

Earlier this month, Mayfield's eighth-grade teachers and staff received the first shipment of Palm m505s. Mayfield science teachers Katy Leffel and Kristina Hebertson are spearheading the school's initial training and implementation of the Palms, according to Linda Parsons, technology curriculum integration specialist for the Putnam City School District.

Student distribution is planned sometime after mid-March when teachers and staff attend an all-day seminar on ways to integrate the devices into the curriculum by Mike Curtis, a member of the education department at the University of Michigan and author of a soon-to-be-published textbook on hand-held computers in the classroom.

"Teachers, students and administrators will use the hand-held computers in numerous ways to enrich their learning experience such as writing and taking notes, gathering and analyzing scientific data, collaborating and communicating and conducting authentic research," Parsons said.

The hand-held technology also offers many cost-saving possibilities such as e-textbooks that can be updated easily without expensive printing and shipping, Istook said. Currently, he said, Oklahoma Public Schools have a ratio of 6-to-1 students to computers.

"The potential is so enormous that it can't be overstated. It's not just the advantage of size," Istook said. "We need our kids to have the computer skills they need in today's world. There is an enormous difference between sharing a desktop computer for one class period and having access to a hand-held computer 24 hours a day. …