Wireless Generation on Handheld Assessments

A follow up on the blog entry about FOSS Handheld App or Web-based App. The question in that entry was:
Wireless Generation announced today (03/05/2009) that their new handheld of choice--although they would continue to support the Palm and encourage purchasing of the Palm from two resellers--for their products would include the Nokia N810.

Should this vendor continue pushing a handheld device or switch to web-based version of its assessments, which can in turn be used on existing computers, netbooks, iPod Touch, and other devices?
Today, I received an email from Andrea Reibel (Vice President, Corporate Communications, Wireless Generation)...it includes a link to Tom Hoffman's blog entry on the subject. Andrea makes some points about netbooks after she mentions Tom's entry. Here is the press release with Andrea's follow-up on netbooks:

Beginning fall 2010, we are pleased to announce that our mCLASS®:TPRI®, mCLASS®:Tejas LEE® and mCLASS®:CIRCLE software will be available on new handhelds, such as the Linux-based Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, running on the Maemo platform. Linux-based devices such as the N810 offer mCLASS users the advantages characteristic of open-source technology, including the rapid development and release of updates, improvements, and additions to the software. We also anticipate that the growth of open-source platforms will provide you with greater choices and flexibility among mobile devices.

The N810 is not a phone; it is a Mobile Internet Device, similar to a Palm® handheld device but with additional features to support Internet browsing and communication. It has a touch screen, a slide-out keyboard, a larger screen than a Palm, Wi-Fi for Internet connection, a mini Web browser, and a camera. In addition to conducting mCLASS assessments, the Nokia N810 enables a new set of real-time instructional support and professional development activities in the classroom. It can be used to access FreeReading.net, a free, open-source literacy resource for K-3 educators; watch professional development videos; and browse professional books and articles, among other capabilities. The N810 is also adept at Internet communication, such as email and instant messaging.

The following formative assessment solutions will be available on the N810 or similar devices running on the Maemo platform for fall 2010:

  • mCLASS®:Tejas LEE®

The following formative assessment solutions will be available on the N810 for fall 2009:

  • mCLASS®:Reading 3D
  • mCLASS®:Math

The mCLASS software will also continue to operate on existing Palm handheld devices. Wireless Generation has ensured there will be no compatibility issues with using multiple devices within a school or across a district.

On netbooks:

· Netbooks do not yet use stylus or touch technology, which are required for the administration of formative assessments. Without a stylus or touch screen, assessors would be required to manually enter correct and incorrect results, make notes using a very small keyboard, and rely on a series of shortcuts or mouse maneuvers and tabs to view classes, select students, administer measures, and review scores.

· While netbooks are compact, they are still large enough to divert an assessor’s attention away from the student and toward the screen and small keyboard. Eye contact is lost, because the assessor must focus more on typing and moving the mouse, and a wall is created between the student and the assessor by the screen. These interferences take away from the ‘teaching moment’ that is created using handheld-based one-on-one assessments.

· Unlike handheld devices, netbooks require the full use of both hands to record assessment results. While a handheld requires one hand to hold the device and the other to use the stylus, it is much easier to work with manipulatives and remain engaged with the student through the use of hand gestures.

Actually, I just saw another blog post that discusses the Web-based app vs. handheld app choice; maybe you already know about it,since he references your post. I haven’t communicated with this blogger at all, it’s his own analysis.


Again, Wireless Generation shows its commitment to assessing students properly by pointing out how the netbook isn't the best tool. What do you think?

In the meantime, I find myself agreeing with this perspective at Web 2.0 and Beyond:

With school districts being so heavily invested in this techonlogy, they (we) will need some time to plan for a transition to another way of doing the things we do with handhelds. As it stands, we are scrambling to purchase Palms from any of our vendors in case we need extras over the course of the next year while we’re planning to transition to something new. And we’re being killed on the price.

Since the beginning of the school year, the price on a Palm Tungsten E2 has gone up $30 per unit for our school district. Since we’re so heavily invested in the technology, we’re willing to pay the premium for obsolete technology.

What we should start doing, as school districts, is demanding that the companies we do business with transition themselves to a more ubiquitous form of software that isn’t tied to a specific platform, and currently, web based would seem to be the way to go.
Emphasis is mine (bold/italics) in the quote above.

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Bill Kerr said…
hi miguel,

starting to do some more research on this again

great research by you and very interesting response from tom and WG

I've distributed the 3 articles to some others in oz (aus) for thinking through these issues

I get the impression that vendors in USA may be further down the track than here

thanks for this
Bill Kerr said…
Wirless Education is thinking about the issues but a better educational solution might be the one suggested through the xo - general purpose software combined with a Group view which enables collaboration (and also allows the teacher to keep track of who is doing what)
B_Fuqua said…
Thanks for the update. I have had several administrators ask about using notebooks. The information is very helpful.

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