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Volume 19, Number 5
September/October 2003

How Handhelds Can Change the Classroom


Technology has long promised to have a significant impact on K-12 education. Each new wave of innovation—mainframes, timesharing, desktops, the Internet—rekindles those expectations. Sadly, K-12 schools are still waiting for the long-promised results. Indeed, while the Internet has brought about positive changes in many areas of everyday life, including in commerce and government, K-12 education has gotten precious little value from it.

The arrival of a new generation of technology—handheld computers—also raises skeptical questions about the potential impact of these powerful tools: given our poor track record, why should anyone believe the technology enthusiasts? What is so different about handheld computers?

Since 1999, we have worked with more than 1,000 students in K-12 classrooms around the country exploring the strengths and weaknesses of handheld computers for teaching and learning. As a result, we believe the promise of handheld computers will be realized because they effectively address the concerns of teachers. What follows are some of the reasons based on what we have identified in our research and in conversations with teachers.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education, University of Michigan, School of Education, 610 E. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259; tel: 734-647-4805; email:

    GoKnow. 912 N. Main St., Suite 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48104; tel: 800-203-3412; fax: 734-929-6622; email:

    C. Norris, J. Smolka, and E. Soloway. "Extracting Value from Research: A Guide for the Perplexed." Technology & Learning 20, no. 11 (June 2002), 45-48.

    U.S. Department of Commerce, Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: Author, 2000.