How These Technologies Work
Handheld technologies can be used in education as both scaled-down portables and as unique tools for student inquiry. Thinking of handhelds as small computers inevitably casts them in a poor light, because they have less power, fewer options, and less screen space than their desktop and portable cousins. Of course, beginning learners seldom need a fraction of the power, speed and screen space of the latest computers. Handhelds are more appropriate for kids in terms of size, weight, complexity, and portability. The scaled-down capacity of handhelds together with their lower cost actually makes them an attractive alternative for many of the educational roles currently provided by desktop computers, especially for younger learners. They could be the "equity computers" needed to close the information gap.
But seeing handhelds only as low-cost version of full-sized computers misses some very exciting new educational opportunities. These technologies are exciting because they allow students to learn in new situations. They permit students to investigate, record, reflect, and communicate outside the classroom and teaching lab, in the cafeteria, at home, in the bus, and in the field. They make it possible for anyplace to provide a rich learning context.