Personal Digital Assistants – teachers prefer the personal
Wishart, Jocelyn M.
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This paper will present the results of a small-scale project, funded by the UK Teacher Development Agency, where 13 teachers and 3 trainee teachers in one secondary school science department were given handhelds (Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs) with cameras and internet access for the academic year. The aims were: • to build capacity - enabling trainee teachers to share their mlearning practice; • to enable school based associate tutors to join the elearning community linked to the initial teacher training course and • to encourage reflective practice amongst trainee teachers by enabling access anytime and anywhere to blogs for recording their teaching experiences. However, initial indications are that not all these aims succeeded. The handhelds were viewed as personal devices rather than enabling access to a community of practice. Nearly all participants praised the personal information management functions of the devices but the teachers did not use the handhelds to access the course virtual learning environment and students did so only rarely. Email and SMS (texting) for both personal reasons and work within the school related context were more popular. Most popular were the multiple methods of recording available on the handheld: video, audio and written notes. Teachers used them to record observations on each others’ lessons, students’ work, student behaviour and trainees’ progress in teaching. Whilst the concept of blogging did not appeal and was not used by the trainee teachers, they did record personal reflections on their teaching in Word. Finally, there were clear signs that the handhelds were taken out of the participants’ pockets or bags to be used only when relevant and then replaced. This was perceived as a distinct advantage compared to desktop or even laptop based computers in the classroom with handhelds affording technology at a teacher’s side and not in their face.