Exciting new mobile computer technologies are moving into K-12 education on many fronts. Today, teachers can work with portable media players, audience response systems, smartphones, portable keyboards/small laptops, tablet PCs, laptops, and hand-held devices (personal digital assistants, or PDAs). All of these sport the latest in wireless and other technologies, and all vary widely—and wildly—in function, potential, and cost.
Some mobile computing options can offer outstanding functional and economical alternatives to time in a computer lab. A single computer lab in a school building can't provide enough daily or weekly computer time per student. Unfortunately, in many schools, computer lab time isn't available for specific projects.
With most mobile computing technologies, an extra computer room isn't needed and expensive wiring can be avoided. Cart-based mobile labs with recharging and wireless capabilities, for example, can be moved from room to room.
"One-to-one" computing offers another approach to providing adequate computer time. Putting a computer of some sort into every student's hands can provide learners with much more technology time. Of course, costs and durability concerns make it clear that some technologies will be more useful for this purpose than others.
This article takes a look at seven types of currently available mobile technologies. This is an opportunity to briefly consider what's out there. It's not a comprehensive survey of all available devices, a detailed review of the best, or an endorsement of any one product over another.
Portable Media Players
Basically, portable media players are any electronic device—such as an MP3 player—based on a flash memory or hard drive that can store and play files in one or more media formats. Some of these incorporate other technologies as well.
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