Alaskan educators pair with Palm
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 08, 2002
By next year, Alaskan school officials want every public and private school
principal, superintendent, and administrator statewide to have a handheld
device so they could spend more time with students, faculty and colleagues.
Through a partnership with Palm Inc., educators can purchase the company's
m500 Handheld at a reduced price and get free training. So far, about 300
people have been trained in using the devices. In some places, all teachers
and administrators, such as the 150 educators at Lower Kuskokwim School
District, are using handheld devices.
"It's going like wildfire," said Roxy Kohler, program manager for the
Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN), a 20-year-old statewide, nonprofit
partnership among the state's 53 school districts, its state education department,
its universities and colleges and other education associations.
The handheld devices integrate documents, conference and meeting notes
and minutes, student databases, medical data, and student and teacher assessments,
"The search feature allows the user to look up a student or parent by
name, date, miscellaneous notes they may have made, etc., to allow fast
access to the information, without having to dig through piles of papers
that may be six months or more old," she said. "It organizes information
as well as makes information accessible instantly."
A year ago, ASDN (www.asdn.org) and University
of Alaska Anchorage informally convened a 20-person "brainstorming team"
to see what technologies worked and come up with new ideas. They said handheld
devices might be a way for school administrators to maximize their time
with students and colleagues without being bogged down in the office.
ASDN approached Palm about a collaboration and the company jumped at
the chance, Kohler said. Palm donated a three-day intensive workshop to
train "certified Palm trainers" 20 Alaskan educators who travel throughout
the state to train others. Users get two levels of training: one to get
them started and another to show how they can integrate the device with
their school systems.
"[Palm's] staff has given us numerous hours of assistance with setting
up new deals, helping with ideas of other training, and solving problems
with training educators in Alaska," she said. A separate Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation grant helps pay for some educators to get training, she
Technology plays a huge role in Alaska, she said adding that a majority
of the state's 480 schools are located in rural areas, but most have computers.
"This alone has saved our leaders time and energy and allowed them more
time in the classroom, halls, and other places to be with students and teacher,
to be more effective," Kohler said.