Various instructional uses for the Palm are illustrated here, not just the creation of on-line articles. In class, Palms were used for a variety of tasks, including concept-map making and note taking. Students used the Palms for other classes as well, as evidenced by Spanish vocabulary I was beamed in order to send via e-mail, and a geography class current event that somehow must have been beamed to me accidently. I tried to understand more about the impact of the Palm Project through several surveys as well.
Students used the Biology Project Internet site on their Palms to collect data about mitosis. We were able to create a simple chart that demonstrates how long a cell spends in each phase of mitosis. This chart was limited compared to a full featured Excel chart, but it suited our purposes nicely.
I was hoping to coin the term "PalmBlogging" and that blogging on the Palm would be a major activity. Unfortunately, while reading the blog on the Palm is easy, posting or commenting using a portable device is problematic. A freeware blogging program (u*Blog) just for the Palm could not be used in class due to security placed on the DeKalb network. One student and myself were able to blog from outside wireless systems, but it was nothing more substantial than "Wow! I'm blogging from my Palm."
I had hoped to create a debate on genetic engineering using the Palm and the blog. The students helped create three topics of interest (tissue engineering, designer babies, and genetically modified foods). It turned out to be technically daunting since most students actually had not been able to hot synch at home. Most of the students did research their topics in class using the Palms, but only two followed the rubric. Those two posts were very good and were the sort of positions I had hoped for but they were for totally different issues (tissue engineering and designer babies). Two other groups, both regarding genetic engineering (pro and con), beamed me bulleted lists that would not adequately support a position in a debate so they were never posted to the blog. The other two groups never posted anything; members cited technical difficulties in hot synching and locating enough information.
I did have a fair bit of success with the individual article projects. Students were allowed to choose between a first person story, an interview with a professional in the healthcare or biological sciences, or a web site review. One student did an excellent job of interviewing a podiatry medical student, while another student's interview was full of grammatical errors that made the entire project difficult to read. There were several excellent first person stories; I could tell that one student really involved herself in her story as a victim of the disease schistosomiasis, while another student had fun developing his story from the front lines of a viral attack within the body. Another student did not develop his story much and provided little in terms of factual information.
The web reviews were interesting; I was not sure what I was going to get. This student used her web research to help her better explain a difficult concept and she graded several web sites on their ability to get that message across to her. She was not pleased at all with the way the material was presented in the book, and it seems the activity increased her understanding. Another student had the audacity to review my own web site.
Overall, it is clear that technology will not automatically lead to increased achievement or higher quality products. In fact, some technological hurdles will hurt the quality of a project. The benefit of using technology comes in that some students who may not have been engaged before become hooked, and other students can expand their horizons by changing the way they learn. In addition, technology allows us to create lessons and learning outcomes that cannot be achieved through traditional pedagogy.