Power, Tom and Thomas, Rhodri
The classroom in your pocket?
Curriculum Journal, 18(3) pp. 373–388.
Research exploring the ways in which information communication technologies (ICTs) could improve access to, and the quality of, teacher education in the global south (Leach et al., 2006) showed that when teachers were given sustained training, support and access to laptop and handheld computers, they found the handheld and laptop computers equally useful, both as tools for their own professional development and as tools for supporting classroom practices. Those who expressed a preference for one device over the other identified the handheld computer as the best tool for supporting teacher professional development and practice, particularly in rural communities. This article reports the findings of a recent one-year project which built on the previous research, but which focused solely on the potential of handheld computers for teacher professional development. Many studies have investigated the use of handheld computers in classroom settings but most of these focus on pupil learning (e.g. Fung et al., 1998; Yarnall et al., 2003). There is not yet a substantial body of literature on the potential of handhelds for teacher education, although Soloway (2002) argues that handhelds provide an opportunity for making major changes in educational settings. In this study, the teachers themselves used the analytical framework for teacher professional knowledge developed by Banks et al. (1999) to consider their own experiences with the handheld computers. This study finds that handheld digital tools offer a number of pedagogic and pragmatic advantages over laptop or desktop computers for teachers, especially in rural communities. However, further technical development is required fully to orient the devices to classroom practices (as opposed to the 'office' or 'business' orientation).
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