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Idea Bank

Science Projects in your Palm

Concord Consortium's Probesite offers a wealth of ideas on how teachers can use handhelds with sensors to enrich science learning. For example, using software and probes from ImagiWorks, students can use sensors to measure their environment, and immediately see data graphed on their Palm handheld. Data gathered in the field can be moved to a desktop computer later for further analysis in a spreadsheet or other program. Another interesting example is Expedition ES, which enables students to make maps in the field, with only a handheld and string.

Handheld Design Awards for Education

In 1999, the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies hosted "Handheld Design Awards for Education." The grand prize winner, Geney, simulates the results of cross-breeding different fish. The second prize winner, Due Yesterday, allows students to manage their assignments and classes, keeping all of their school information in one easy-to-access place. More awardees...

Graphing Calculator

With the right software, your Palm can become a powerful graphing calculator. Graphing calculators have become increasingly important in mathematics learning, because they allow students to investigate mathematical ideas more rapidly and more thoroughly. A wide range of graphing calculator software is available, including the Design Award winner iGraph, the pedagogically sophisticated ImagiMath, the full-featured powerOne Graph, and the powerful CplxCalPro.

Software Applications/Directories

The Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education at the University of Michigan is developing a suite of educational software applications for the Palm platform. Led by Elliot Soloway, they are on their way to developing the cool dozen education applications.

While planning your Palm project, be sure to look over the large collection of freeware, shareware, and commercial educational software, categorized at sites such as:

NSF Projects

The National Science Foundation has awarded grants to a number of researchers who are exploring learning with handhelds. In addition to hosting design awards, The Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT) awarded seed grants to a series of innovative handheld projects. The SimCalc Project has produced a free prototype version of its software for introducing middle school students to calculus concepts, called MathCars. San Diego State University's "Integrating Math and Pedagogy" project has produced an interesting collection of fraction visualization applications for the PalmOS.


Palms will become an important tool for assessing student learning. Palm-based assessment could make it easier for teachers to grade quizzes and for students to practice at home. Applications for the PalmOS are currently being developed, for example: Andrew Eiler, a computer science student at Lehigh University, has built a Palm-based quizzer application, and is looking for collaborators or users; Review Master is a commercially available product for testing; Scantron has developed assessment tools on its Classroom Wizard site, a teacher can develop tests on the Classroom Wizard site and have the students take assessments on Palm handhelds; Kaplan provides self assessment tools like flashcards for its Kaplan to GO! downloads.


As technology develops further, connectivity with other peripherals is becoming more of a viable undertaking. EFI has made sharing notes easier by developing the eBeam ImagePort, a portable electronic whiteboard that is able to beam what is captured on a whiteboard directly into a Palm handheld. Bachmann Software has developed a software suite called Printboy Deluxe for creating and printing documents or scribbled notes for the PalmOS. It uses the Palm handheld’s infrared capabilities to communicate with an infrared capable printer.

Grading Software

Software has been developed for the task of grading and sharing grades as well. Gradebook2 Integrated allows both teachers and administrators access to information on a school's student information system from their Palm handhelds.

Research Findings

In the last few years there has been a significant amount of research conducted on the use of handheld computers in the classroom. The CILT Ubiquitous Computing Theme held a workshop in February 2002 on the use of handheld computers in the classroom. One result of this workshop was the following listing of some of the important research carried out in this area:

Beaming Notes

In 6 ways to use a PDA in the classroom, Joel Heffner suggests that teachers could "beam" notes to their students using the infrared communications capability built into every Palm handheld. This could save time, and make sure students have accurate notes.

Language Arts

The PalmOS supports reading electronic texts, as well as writing and notetaking, which could support a wide variety of educational applications in the language arts. For example, CopyWrite, a Design Awards winner, helps students to form letters correctly. In addition, the availability of Palm-based dictionaries and thesauri could make PalmOS computers an important resource in English and foreign language classes.

Finding Content

A broad array of text can be read on Palm by using software. At Memoware you can get their ebook reader along with various texts. Qvadis also provides ebook content and a reader for download. Another source for downloading reading material is AvantGo. This web site is a portal for downloading news and information off the internet.

Participatory Simulations

Although we are not yet aware of any participatory simulation software specifically for PalmOS yet, this is a promising category. Participatory Simulations allow students to experience a dynamic process from a personal perspective, and learn from taking a role in a complex chain of events. Pioneering work on Participatory Simulations is under way at the MIT Media Lab and a project shared between Tufts and Northwestern Universities.


National organizations are supporting curriculum reform efforts through documents that set broad principles and objectives. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics declares technology to be "essential" and their Illuminations Web site provides a wealth of examples. The National Academy of Sciences publishes National Science Education Standards. The International Society for Technology in Education has established National Educational Technology Standards.

The Wireless Handheld Future

Although not supported in the PEP grants, an important future direction for the PalmOS is towards wireless connectivity to the Internet; your handheld will become your anytime/anywhere on-ramp to the Internet. Symbol technologies has brought this vision to pilot classrooms, and has an interesting white paper. Another company exploring this area is MindSurf.

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Idea Bank Policy: We highlight pedagogically inspired uses of handheld devices, with example products that support those uses, as well as informational resources that can guide teachers in appropriate uses of this technology. We do not intend to list every product that might be used in a classroom setting; only innovative USES. For an educational product directory see Education@Palm.

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