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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2003

Handheld computers rate in Maumee class

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

This spring's hands-on, hands-down favorite school tool for some Maumee sixth-grade pupils might make its way into the hands of many more youngsters this fall.

Through a pilot program at Gateway Middle School, Palm Pilots - handheld computers - were issued to 50 pupils in two computer literacy classes several weeks ago, and the reaction from the staff and pupils was extremely positive, according to teacher Amy Stough.

She is planning to attend a three-day workshop this summer with Jan Metzger, director of district technology, to learn more about how to use the them in classrooms.

The district paid for the Palm Pilots from its technology budget for the school year. The amount was unavailable this week.

Sylvania schools recently spent about $30,000 of a $41,000 state grant to buy 142 Palm Pilots and extra equipment for them, including keyboards that attach to the devices. They are used in the three junior high schools.

“Handhelds can be beneficial to pupils in other classes besides computer literacy,” said Mrs. Stough. “I think all of the pupils liked using them, and the pilot program worked really well.”

If the board gives its approval to expand the program to all sixth-grade pupils in the coming school year, some fine tuning would need to be done during the summer, Mrs. Metzger said.

The district's technology budget is scheduled to be considered by the board on Monday, and the budget could allocate funding for additional handheld computers.

“The kids have been very excited about this,” Mrs. Metzger said.

Indeed, some pupils were reluctant to turn in the handheld computers before the school year ended last week.

“I think Palm Pilots are a good idea. It teaches responsibility, and it's fun,” said sixth-grade student Brandon Smith, who added that using the handheld computer helped him hone his organizational skills.

Handheld computers can motivate pupils to work independently, and the high-tech devices can also foster cooperative learning and enhance research skills, Mrs. Metzger said.

Pupils are expected to learn how to enter data using the portable keyboards available for the handhelds; synchronize their Palm Pilots to a computer; download pages from the Web, and keep track of assignments, quizzes, and tests with the planner feature, among other uses.

Sixth-grade teachers will be trained use the handheld computers in class if the program expands for the 2003-04 school year, Mrs. Stough said.



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