2004 Conference Proceedings

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PDA'S: AN ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TOOL

Presenter(s)
Paula Walser, MS/CCC, SLP, ATP
Statewide Consultant, WATI
PO Box 2568
Oshkosh, WI 54903

More powerful than the first Mac or Windows computer now propping open the supply closet door, more functionally agile than a graphing calculator, and less expensive than a laptop, the handheld computer may be the technology that revolutionizes the face of learning. Handheld devices are everywhere. Today's youth have grown accustomed to interacting with handheld technologies.

Handheld devices run an operating system, require connectivity to a PC for downloading data and are usually priced under $600. They are small sized, ultra-light weight, with long battery life and a small screen. The handhelds can be inputted by tapping onscreen or writing in graffiti section of handheld. Handhelds can be used to manage schedules/calendars and address book, run specialized applications and some have internet capabilities.

Handhelds differ from the typical PC in that they are disposable, are rarely connected to a network or supported by IT departments. Handhelds are lightweight and have instant-on function.

Educational research has linked strong organizational skills to academic success for students who are at risk, learning disabled, or emotional/behaviorally disabled. Self-management and organization have been identified as keys to academic achievement. The standard applications of the handhelds provide tools for management and organization. Students with mild disabilities have benefited from the use of the handheld to replace the traditional agenda or assignment notebook. Teachers are then able to literally beam assignments, spelling lists, notes to parents, etc. The handhelds of today also offer voice and auditory alerts for students.

Our students have all ready turned to handhelds for entertainment and are extremely comfortable with the technology. The article "I've Got a Palm in my Pocket" Using Handheld computers in an Inclusive Classroom by Anne Bauer and Mary Ulrich and published in Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol 35,No. 2., pp 18-22. 2002. found that the most frequent use of the handhelds was for recording homework assignments, accessing spelling lists, recording long-term assignments, checking math and spelling. Students with special needs were the strongest users of the handhelds.

Schools across the nation are taking radically different views of the use of handhelds in education. Some schools have banned handhelds because of the potential of electronically enabled cheating and use of applications which can interfere with education while others are providing a handheld for every student to create classrooms of a community of learners. 88% of teachers using handhelds within the classroom reported writing quality had improved with the use of the handhelds.

There are literally thousands and thousands of applications available for the handhelds. From word processing to spreadsheets, word prediction to slideshow programs, and voice recognition to concept mapping programs - all are available for handhelds. This workshop will demonstrate a variety of software applications for the handheld including: Palm eBook Studio, Remote Commander, Shortcutter, QuickWrite, PiCo Map, CopyWrite, etc.

Handheld computers have recently been used as portable and powerful augmentative communication devices. The Chat PC from Saltillo and the Handheld from Enkidu are two popular handheld AAC devices. These devices have provided a small, lightweight and portable AAC solution while providing students with a full functioning hand-held computing solution.

Handhelds also come with a variety of accessories that increase their functional use as assistive technology. Accessories include keyboards, scanners, magnetic strip readers, cell phones, digital cameras, screen magnifiers, scientific probes, printers and smartboards. A lengthy list of resources for handhelds, applications, educational integration and accessories will be provided to participants.


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