Schoolwide Deployment of palmOne Handhelds

Avery Coonley School may be nearly 100 years old, but when it comes to endowing its teachers and students with handheld technology for the classroom, this private, independent school in Downers Grove, Ill., is one of the most forward-looking schools in the state.

After the rousing success of a fourth-grade pilot program last year, each student and teacher in grades four through eight now have their own Zire 72 handheld, as well as a wireless keyboard, from palmOne. It's the realization of the school's vision to provide a learning device for every student, and one that has earned full support and cooperation from students, teachers and parents.

"The pilot program gave us a chance to discover the possibilities that handhelds bring to teaching, learning and other aspects of school life," said Joe Janojak, technology director at Avery Coonley. "Once we articulated our vision, parents embraced the idea and were instrumental in helping us raise the funds. They see the benefits."

According to Jennifer Garetto and Laura Bojkovski, the fourth-grade teachers who ran the pilot program, the benefits are obvious -- students are more enthusiastic and motivated. They also require very little instruction. Within a few days they are scheduling appointments, writing memos, writing lists to keep themselves on task, filling in the calendar with homework assignments and due dates, and even setting the alarm to remind themselves of a deadline. But the benefits go beyond organization.

"The students write more often and more efficiently because they have keyboards and are no longer dependant upon going to the computer lab once a week," said Garetto. "They write essays, stories and vocabulary words, as well as print them using a wireless Bluetooth(R) printer. They also take their handhelds on field trips, use them to create animations and draw, and use them throughout the curriculum -- keeping everything they need together in one place."

Students fresh from the pilot program are ready and eager to show others the ropes. "They are mentors to other students and teachers. It's a very fun way for them to engage with each other," Garetto said.

The students also have enormous respect for the technology, thanks in part to a creative program that rewards student responsibility. Before they can take their handhelds home, students must earn a "palmOne Operating License" by mastering a set of skills and demonstrating them to their teachers. To get a license, students must be able to enter characters using the handheld's built-in Graffiti 2 software, beam, manage a To Do list, schedule tasks, operate the handheld's camera, change preferences, and sign a contract confirming their understanding of how to take care of their handheld and keep it safe. Most kids get their license in three weeks, and so far, not one handheld has been lost.

What impresses Headmaster Tom Kracht and the other administrators and teachers is how quickly the kids adapt to using the technology and how versatile they are.

"They work more independently, have more conversations, and share information by beaming notes to each other," he said. "Overall, they are more efficient and organized. Having a handheld to use is fun and exhilarating. It gives them a certain measure of independence. To these kids, handheld computers are indispensable tools."

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Good news

Foo Fighter @ 1/27/2005 12:47:19 PM # Q
It's nice to see PalmOne leadership isn't completely asleep at the wheel. A strong education push is badly needed and most welcome news.

Contributing Editor,
RE: Good news
dhibbitts @ 1/27/2005 1:34:48 PM # Q
It is even better news that there are school systems that are starting to understand that the TCO of a laptop in a K12 environment is a problem. The Palm devices will provide a great tool to enable learning without encumbering the school system with the nightmare of managing a fleet of laptops.

Daniel Hibbitts
Ann Arbor Palm OS Developers Group
Ann Arbor Palm OS Users Group

MAClike attack?
jpmierau @ 1/27/2005 2:08:14 PM # Q
Add this to the story about free support for educators/educated, and I get a good vibe... grab 'em while they're in school!

They should do more like this, much more, and they might find a niche market very much like Apple has. Hey, it couldn't hurt!
~ultramobile computing & tech for people on the Move~

RE: Good news
twalk @ 1/27/2005 2:42:44 PM # Q
I've been saying for years that P1 should be getting into schools. Right now, any school considering Palms must basically craft their own solution. That's stupid. There's a 5M+ device/year market here. (ie, more than double their current sales rate...)

P1 needs to make a PDA specifically for schools, with the right price, hardware, and software makeup. ($200, wifi, no BT or IR or graphiti for that matter, usb driver for KBs, optional $50 folding KB, WP, printing software, calculators, etc...)

RE: Good news
GrahamBM @ 1/27/2005 6:56:31 PM # Q
Sounds like another interesting handheld computer project in the education. They seem to be sprininging up all over and there are quite a number over here in the UK also. Especially check out the proposed pilot in Dudley, UK where approx 60,000 devices (one per child) are intended for the whole county. Here's a link:

The Handheld Learning Forum

RE: Good news
margerum @ 1/28/2005 10:23:03 AM # Q
"""P1 needs to make a PDA specifically for schools, with the right price, hardware, and software makeup. ($200, wifi, no BT or IR or graphiti for that matter, usb driver for KBs, optional $50 folding KB, WP, printing software, calculators, etc...)"""

Dana already has one. the alphaSmart

RE: Good news
twalk @ 1/28/2005 10:25:47 AM # Q
The Dana is huge and expensive. While the size isn't as critical for schoolwork, the price is. $399 for a non-standard low-res monochrome screen, wifi, and with PalmOS 4. And then they charge extra for every little thing you may want to add.

Even with the much, much lower TCO, at that price people are naturally going to look at full laptops.

Dell Inspiron 1000 for K-12: 2.2Ghz, 30G HD, 14.1" screen, CD/DVD, all for $549 right now.

A $400 Palm isn't going to beat that. A $200 Palm can, but only if it's easy plug and play for the things schools want to do.

RE: Good news
Wollombi @ 1/28/2005 1:42:09 PM # Q
>>"P1 needs to make a PDA specifically for schools, with the right price, hardware, and software makeup. ($200, wifi, no BT or IR or graphiti for that matter, usb driver for KBs, optional $50 folding KB, WP, printing software, calculators, etc...)"<<

I agree to some point, but I think that, at least in the US, you will not see a school oriented handheld that has WiFi in it. Not on the pre-university level at any rate. The lure of the internet during class is too great for most school age kids.

Of course, if we were truly educating them and challenging their minds to an acceptable degree, they wouldn't have time to surf, as they would need to actually learn something.


There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

RE: Good news
twalk @ 1/28/2005 2:31:03 PM # Q
You'll find some kind of wireless on the PDA. Either IR, BT, or wifi.

Both IR and BT have one big problem, that's already been run into with schools using PDAs. They make it easy to cheat. (Especially in math & science classes, where the PDA is replacing a calculator.) The other problem is IR is only 1-to-1, while BT allows 8 (?) connections. That's not good enough for a class of 25 students.

However you must have some kind of wireless, otherwise printing, downloading assignments & schedules, etc. become a nightmare. So therefore wifi. (Also many schools already have wifi, but very few are set up for IR/BT.)

RE: Good news
dhibbitts @ 1/28/2005 2:32:50 PM # Q
>Even with the much, much lower TCO, at that price people are >naturally going to look at full laptops.
>Dell Inspiron 1000 for K-12: 2.2Ghz, 30G HD, 14.1" screen, >CD/DVD, all for $549 right now.
>A $400 Palm isn't going to beat that. A $200 Palm can, but only >if it's easy plug and play for the things schools want to do.

The problem is not a $400 PalmOS device vs. a $549 laptop. TCO means T(otal) C(ost) (of) O(peration). You have to figure in the ongoing support of the platform and software. The Zire-72 comes with Documets to Go in the box and for $299 retail costs less than Microsoft Office. Don't get me wrong, I use a WinTel laptop but I run an antivirus and 2 different packages to help protect me from adware. But even with those efforts and proper habits I ***KNOW*** that I am not 100% safe from viruses, trojans and exploits.

So what does this mean in an educational environment? You need support people to take care of such things (install, repair, upgrades, replacement, general user support and recovery) along with software and processes. IS/IT people are expensive and unlike many positions in the educational system, IT folks have a fairly high turnover rate (compared to teachers who often will work for 20-30 years in a single school syste, how many IT/IS folks are going to stay at a single place for 20 years?). I've worked at several companies and there was usually between 30-to-1 to 50-to-1 IS support tech to end user ratio. Even quadrupling that saying that a single IS tech person is going to support 200 laptops is going to add a very large cost to the laptop TCO. There is also the issue of banned content appearing on the laptop be it software or data (images, MP3's, video, etc.). Some may point out that laptops can be "locked down" but do realize that passwords can be easily cracked. G4TechTV even ran a segment recently ( on just how to do it.

You can do a lot more with a laptop than you can with a PalmOS device but you pay a very high price for that ability. With the school budgets being what they are today schools just can't afford the total cost of laptops.

And I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that PalmOne does have an educational push, you can visit

Daniel Hibbitts
Ann Arbor Palm OS Developers Group
Ann Arbor Palm OS Users Group

RE: Good news
twalk @ 1/28/2005 3:36:08 PM # Q
(Actually, TCO = total cost of ownership.)

(Most of one side of my family is heavily involved in K-12 education. My mother was the head of a special ed. dept., and was responsible for many equipment purchases.)

I can say, in general, that TCO usually takes no part what-so-ever in the purchase decision. The school typically gets an equipment grant, needs to spend all of it, and any support is done from an entirely different fund. So product cost tends to be much more important for schools than it is to businesses, because that tells how many they can buy.

Then you're facing even a harder problem. Schools know that PCs can do the job. They don't know that Palms can. P1 has to actually show them that they can, instead of just reporting about the oddball school that worked hard to make Palms do what they want.

Problems with viruses, spyware, and banned content do cost $$$. However school administrators don't consider them in purchases. That's a support problem, not an administration problem...

If you want to replace PCs (and TI calcs) in most schools, you're going to need a drop dead easy, drop-in solution. If they have to roll their own solution (like now), then nearly all won't even consider Palms.

However this just points out again that P1 really doesn't have a clue about marketing PDAs. Vertical markets have always been the future for these devices. To grab these markets, you need to have as simple and easy to drop in solutions as possible. P1 has always seemed to think that they could just throw the devices out, and then customer's would find a use for them.

RE: Good news
GrahamBM @ 1/28/2005 7:00:06 PM # Q
Laptops even if they were as cheap as handheld computers aren't the solution for a number of reasons.

1) Kids move from class to class every 40-60 minutes - imagine the RSI problems!

2) Laptops using bloated operating systems like XP or Mac take 10 mins to startup & shut down

3) Battery life on laptops is less than 2 hours - how are you going to deal with 30 kids in a class all needing a charge?

4) The desktop metaphor is dead and we're moving to a mobile one (unless we're training children to work in call centres), the desktop computer is a hub and using a handheld means that we are taking the tools to the job.

5) Computer usage is a cross curriculum activity and yet most children only get access to a computer for less than 10% of their week - imagine if you had to wait in line to use a PC!

6) Handhelds aren't perfect yet but with good relevant software and better support for built in Wi-fi that doesn't zap the battery then it's on!

The Handheld Learning Forum

RE: Good news
GrahamBM @ 1/28/2005 7:08:26 PM # Q
with respects to Daniel Hibbitts I see an awful lot of kids with mobile electronics (from the Leapster to the Nintendo DS to the SMS addicts) without the kind of technical support problems he envisages.

I do however imagine significant technical issues if the education sector adopted a laptop or tablet pc policy.

Whether educators like it or not, kids are already using this technology - rather than keeping it out of schools we need to embrace it.

RE: Good news
dhibbitts @ 1/30/2005 10:12:56 PM # Q
Actually I agree with you GrahamBM, kids seem to adapt much more quickly to technology and have very few problems with it. The problems that I outlined aren't the kids problems, they are the problems schools will have to deal with when deploying laptops.

Daniel Hibbitts
Ann Arbor Palm OS Developers Group
Ann Arbor Palm OS Users Group
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