Exploring the Potential of Handheld Technology for Preservice Education

August 1, 2001

In 2000, CCT, in collaboration with Wireless Generation and the Mamaroneck Public Schools, undertook two exploratory studies on using handheld technology to support teaching practices. We were most interested in considering the potential of handheld technologies for preservice teacher education and for supporting new teachers. Both studies were formative in design, and although small and exploratory, they furnished us with a glimpse of the possibilities handheld technologies hold for supporting preservice education.

The single most powerful affordance of these flexible and highly portable technologies is their ability to make certain aspects of teachers' thinking visible. It became clear that handhelds have the potential to support a broad range of teacher practices. They promise to facilitate some elements of both classroom management and assessment practices that have proved particularly difficult to master. Even in these two short studies, we can discern that by rendering the process of organizing or recording more visible, handhelds can support the following:
As tools for organizing work (by teachers and students), they can:

    Individualize instruction by allowing teachers to customize assignments and learning plans
  • Facilitate accurate recording of assignments and work plans by students with organizational problems
  • Help special education teachers keep track of their students' assignments in inclusive classrooms
  • Help parents supervise homework and communicate with teachers
  • Help students with organizational problems manage time by integrating work plans in the form of "To Do" lists with timed alerts in the calendar
  • Allow students with special needs to take increased responsibility for their work and thus feel more autonomous.

As a tool for keeping diagnostic records of children's reading, they can:

  • Standardize a method of data gathering
  • Facilitate systematic diagnostic activities through specialized applications
  • Support frequent informal record keeping through notes attached to individual student's records
  • Encourage a more holistic approach to data gathering by supporting the collection of different types of information, from test results to impressions of student's frame of mind
  • Provide analytic tools for comparing student performance over time and with other students
  • Suggest instructional strategies in real time, based on an analysis of individual student performance and normative data or benchmarks.


Margaret Honey