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StaffRobert Heiny“What’s in it for me to use a mobile PC in school?”

“What’s in it for me to use a mobile PC in school?”

This is the third in a series of excerpts from an manuscript soon to be released. It’s a follow-up on the excerpt Mobile PCs: A Case in a Nutshell for Schools.

Students ask, “What’s in it for me to use a mobile PC in school?” That’s a fair question.

Some students initiate use on their own. Others use them, because their schools require all students to use them.

Here are some reasons we’ve seen and heard students explain why they use Tablet PCs, Ultra-Mobile PCs, and other mobile PCs to complete their schooling.

In general, they say, mobile PCs provide more options for study and to demonstrate learning, add value to their schooling, and it makes common sense, because they can learn more in the same amount of time with the same effort.

More Options.
Students who use mobile PCs in schools have more options for testing their learning limits when completing assignments and non-assigned projects than students without electronic tools.

Example: Top 10 Benefits for Students: Microsoft (2005c) identifies these benefits for students with Tablet PCs to make school management of time, classes and homework, extra curricular activities, and personal entertainment more simple.

1. Get organized with your pen-based planner, take notes electronically in order to reorganize, highlight, search and save them later in one mobile place.

2. Take notes on the screen, not on paper, and share these with others.

3. Download textbooks, lectures, photos, music and then circle, snip, and mark them as with paper.

4. Convert handwritten notes to typed text, share notes and flash cards, and images via email.

5. Personalize the appearance of your notes, fonts, icons, and menus.

6. Record sound and video in order to replay lectures synchronized with your notes.

7. Draw scientific equations, insert handwriting or drawings into any document or presentation. Handwrite calculations, use motion simulator and Ink engineering programs.

8. Use Ink to draw, paint, animate, and compose music as well as organize and edit photos with your pen.

9. Use the tablet in notebook or slate modes as your setting determines.

10. Entertain yourself during study breaks with music, movies, and games activated with your tablet pen.

Example: Independent Learning – Eleven year old Sarah sits next to her father in a teachers’ meeting. She borrows his Tablet PC to make PowerPoint slides for a sixth grade class assignment. She marks up these slides with digital ink to highlight specific points. She initiated learning to use PowerPoint and pen-based computing at home through unsupervised trial and error (independent learning). Sarah’s classroom teacher will express surprise and curiosity about the technology used in for this assignment. (The teacher also gave Sarah a failing grade for not completing the assignment as other students completed it.)

Add value.
Mobile PCs add value to learning. These tools extend learning options beyond what any one teacher or situation can offer alone.

Tip: You may not realize this until you go out there and try and find a job. Then, you will see the respect currently afforded our graduates. Employers acknowledge that the level of student technology experience on this campus is second to none. That is a value added to your education (Knowlton, February 24, 2007).

Common sense.
Common sense, and an emerging body of anecdotes as well as objective empirical research, indicates that mobile PCs can increase students’ competitive advantage.

Lesson: Technology is no longer “nice to have.” Mandatory initiatives by schools for notebooks or Tablet PCs insure that everyone has the same quality of computer with the same programs. Tablet PCs in particular can be a competitive advantage. Digital native students bring high expectations for schools to meet their expectations for technology. Technology can’t be an afterthought. It’s the way to do education now (Mobility Initiatives on Campus: A ‘Virtual’ Roundtable, ND).

We hope you will create simple ways of learning with mobile PCs for yourself also.

Example: Extend options / Learning on demand – A senior girl wanted very badly to take Calculus. The only time it was offered was first period. She was constantly late or missed class all together. A teacher commented to her that she should be more disciplined and get out of bed earlier. She took the course online from an accredited source, then transferred credit to her school. The teacher learned later that the senior’s mother was a working single parent. The student was responsible for getting her younger sibling to school before she could start her day.

Example: Increased Learning Rate – Third grade nine year old Kimberly watches her aunt send emails and exchange Instant Messages with a Tablet PC on the couch in the living room. When Auntie set the machine down, Kim picked it up and immediately launched FractionPractice, a publisher authorized free downloaded software program. The first time she tried the program, she solved fraction problems with no instruction for the next 20 minutes, measurably increasing her skill level. Her school introduces fractions to students in fourth grade.

More efficient learning.
Most students find that mobile PCs make completing and submitting assignments more efficient. You can use a mobile PC for school work in many settings besides schools. The more you learn to control a mobile PC, the quicker assignments can be completed, checked, and submitted for evaluation and grading.

Students use mobile PCs to locate, read and annotate in margins (mark-up) documents and other manuscripts you locate online and use as references for reports. You may handwrite and save class and reading notes, edit and submit manuscripts electronically, record the voice of a speaker, convert handwriting and speech into text font, convert text into speech, and participate in group discussions and projects from remote locations.

In some cases when teachers design assignments with mobile PCs in mind, these tools allow remote communication between teacher and students as well as among students and among educators.

Thus, students complete group assignments more easily. Instead of students spending hours on the telephone trying to work through an assignment, they may use collaboration software to write, mark up and edit on a common text file, all at the same time from different locations.

Source of excerpt: Heiny, R., et al. (2007). Mobile PCs in Schools. (Released soon on TabletPCPost.com) (This is an unedited excerpt.)

Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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