Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Using your Palm handheld in the classroom


By Sam Kleinman

Palm OS handhelds are becoming more and more popular among students for use both in and out of the classroom. High school students have been drawn to Palm handhelds in recent times because they're cheaper, sexier, and lighter than some of the other options currently available. In addition, there are a large number of third party software applications that can make an already useful PDA even more helpful for a student. But simply having a wonderful organization and writing tool doesn't mean you're using it effectively. This articles attempts to teach you how to make the most of your Palm handheld at school.

There are essentially three things most students use their PDAs for: writing, task management, and appointment management. I know that students also use their Palm handhelds for gaming and mobile Internet applications, but these worthwhile tasks don't usually fall into the field of "classroom and related activates," (though I do suspect there may be a fair amount of this happening in the classroom). And of course, the Internet is a great research resource.

"High school students have been drawn to Palm handhelds in recent times because they're cheaper, sexier, and lighter."

In this article, I'd like to share a number of things I've learned about using a Palm handheld in the classroom, and I hope these pointers will help you work more effectively.

Buying the right handheld

Before you can even start using a Palm handheld in school, you have to have one. Those of you who already have a Palm OS handheld can probably skip over this. If you don't already have one, pay attention. Lower end handhelds will probably work out better in the long run for students. Getting a fancy Palm m500, Palm m505, or Sony CLIE might be fun, but there's no need for it. A simple Handspring Visor (a 2MB version with cradle) or a Palm m100 series handheld is more durable, in my experience. Also, having a cheaper handheld in school might contribute to your peace of mind.

Many handheld pundits preach that it's a necessity to have as much RAM as possible, and for some people they're right. However, for students who will only need two to four programs and a smattering of databases, 2MB will do quite nicely. Note: There's a big difference between need and want.

Right now I tend to lean towards the HandEra (Formerly TRG Products) handhelds, but Handspring and Palm make some great little machines that are well worth looking into.

When buying a handheld, look into what accessories you can get for it. I consider a keyboard of some sort a necessity. Check out both the Palm Portable Keyboard at and Landware's Go Type! Pro at With the amount of writing students tend to do, keyboards are just necessary. I'd also look into memory expansion, cases, styli, and other connectivity options before making a decision on your handheld.