Sunday, January 22, 2006

Students as Problem Solvers

One item that kept coming up while students were working on their handhelds is that the wireless keyboards wouldn’t work. I taught them different ways to problem solve when they weren’t able to type with their wireless keyboards.

STEP ONE: Go into the actual keyboard program and turn it on. They are given a small area to verify the keyboard is typing. Then they return to the program they are working in and try it out. In the majority of the cases, this solves the problem.

STEP TWO: Sometimes, they turn on their keyboard in step one and it works for a short period of time. I have them close their keyboards and reopen them. This actually causes them to turn their keyboards off and on with the keyboard itself. It also offers a self-check because when they fold the keyboard, keys are hit and you can see the typing of random letters on the screen.

STEP THREE: Sometimes the keyboard won’t stay on from Step One. Students might hit on, but it immediately defaults to off. At this point, if all other steps have been taken, I just delete their keyboard file and beam them it again.

So far, these are the only steps we’ve had to take to solve our keyboard problems. When a student has difficulty with their keyboard, they don’t visit me unless they need Step Three. I do hear students telling each other to “Troubleshoot your keyboard.”

There is one problem that one of my students experienced with the wireless keyboard that I am unable to correct. The key for the 1 on one student's keyboard became detached while he was opening it one day. I've tried to hook it back on, but I just don't have small enough tools or enough hands to help out. Luckily, we have extra keyboards so I was able to assign him another one. I'll have to contact the company and see if they repair keyboards or offer a help site.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

“Paul Palm” Comes Through

Ever since NECC in Philadelphia, I had been contacting various Palm representatives who told me to “contact them” while trying to locate neck holders for my students so they could actually be mobile with their handhelds. Up to this point, the handhelds were always placed in the charging station for safekeeping when we were working on assignments that didn’t involve the T5s. I sent numerous emails to representatives who gave me their cards only to receive email replies informing me that the emails were “NOT READ.” I admit to getting quite upset with the service I was receiving. Here I am with a class set of Palm OS handhelds and my basic emails, which these representatives told me to send them, weren’t even being read by them. I vented to my tech team and they understood my disappointment, along with my ranting and raving.

To our amazement, a man named Paul Musegades contacted us. He was very friendly, courteous, and amazing to work with. Paul got on the job and sent us a class set of Palm neck holders so my students could carry their T5s throughout the day. This enabled them to have them ready to use whenever they were ready to work on them. They became quite responsible about keeping their keyboards folded up on their desks. They also look adorable with their neck holders hanging around their necks and under one arm. We determined that this was the least restrictive way for them to wear the holders.

To make it more official, I designed student identification cards that mimicked my teacher identification badge for the county. The students LOVE their holders.

A week later, Paul sent up some pens. Now each student has his/her own pen sitting in a slot on the back of their holder. It’s always handy for them.

THANK YOU PAUL-PALM! That’s our nickname for him at our school. It just sounds right!

New Program Introduction

When my principal first wrote our technology needs list for the implementation of a set of handhelds in the classroom, she loaded it up! The district was funding the hardware while our school would pick up the cost of software. It doesn’t hurt to dream big. With our set of handhelds, we received wireless keyboards, Wi-Fi cards, a projector, a laptop computer, a Margi, a printer, and a document camera. Unfortunately the company that made the detachable cameras we requested went out of business so they were no longer available. While at NECC in Philadelphia I was informed that the Margi didn’t work with our Tungsten T5 model due to a discrepancy with a mirror component. Okay, so I had no idea what that meant except it wasn’t able to be used with the handhelds we purchased. I have utilized the document camera with the projector and laptop when I introduce programs to my students. I project my handheld onto our white board while students sit on the floor in front of it. I go step by step through the process of opening the program, starting a new file, and how to navigate through the program itself. After doing that, I have students tell me the steps and follow through with what they say.

I’ve never had to repeat the training more than once. After I model it and explain it, and students walk me through it, they then take the responsibility for helping each other. I’m always amazed at how few questions I get about how to use a new program. Most of the questions they ask me are about what to name their files.

Monday, January 16, 2006

“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

That might be a strong heading for this entry, but hey, when you get your first “FATAL ALERT” or “FATAL ERROR” screen, you feel like you are in grave danger of losing a handheld. Don’t worry though, if I got through it, so can you. We began to experience these messages on the first handheld at the start of August. Since then we’ve averaged about 5 per month. I took a three ring binder and made log sheets for each handheld so I could keep track of any errors or strange things that occurred. Most of the time, the errors could be offset by clicking the reset button that appeared at the bottom of the error message box. When that didn’t work, I would just do a ‘soft reset’ for that particular handheld. Knock on wood, but that’s all that’s been needed up to this point and the future.

The only other quirk I am still finding with the Tungsten T5 handhelds is that sometimes they don’t turn on. I can have a fully charged battery, but the device won’t turn on when I press the power button. I have to do a soft reset to get it turned on. This has happened many times to my handheld and it’s started happening with another one that an adult uses. I’m wondering if it’s a usage type thing, since both of us utilize our T5s a lot more than the students do. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

You can access my Error Logs on my classroom website at Preziosi's Pride.