CAMPBELL Students find tiny computers incredibly handy devices

Students can use the handheld computers to take classroom notes or monitor stock prices.
CAMPBELL -- Twenty Campbell Memorial High School seniors are being introduced to a hand-held contraption some of them see as just another modern convenience and others suddenly can't do without.
The school is one of only 15 nationwide to receive 30 personal digital assistants (PDAs), handheld computers used to store anything from addresses and phone numbers to classroom notes and calculator programs.
They received the PDAs, which retail for about $150, through the Palm Education Pioneer grant.
Virtual museum: Students in Tom Carney's social studies class were lent their own PDAs in February to help trace the history of Memorial's past valedictorians through a two-year process of interviews and research. Teachers hope to publish the "where are they now?" information on a Web site to construct a virtual museum.
Seniors such as Kalauna Will use a plastic stylus, which resembles a tiny pencil, to scribble questions for her valedictorian interviews onto a pad in the PDA. Her writing is transformed into computer type on the screen.
Will can also use the device to take notes in other classes, transfer those notes to her home computer or even zip them along to a friend's PDA by pointing the devices at each other and clicking a button -- a process known as beaming.
All of this, powered by only two AA batteries.
Of course Carney and other teachers have to be on guard for improper uses -- such as beaming test answers.
"The kids are smarter than we are," said Carney, who does not allow PDAs during tests.
Stock trading: Carney also injects economics into his course and runs a project in which students fictitiously buy, trade and sell stocks.
One of his students, Eric Camlin, downloaded a program into his PDA that automatically monitors stocks.
Camlin said he has also downloaded maps for trips and takes notes with it in other classes.
Both Camlin and Will are hooked and hope to purchase their own PDAs soon.
Marge Ford, the district's library/media specialist, said introducing the time-saving device to students could benefit them in the business world.
Carney said the technology is already benefiting his classroom: It keeps the students taking notes and allows them to be more organized.
In on the fun: He and Ford have even picked one up for themselves.
"It hasn't changed my life dramatically, but I use it," said Carney, who uses the device's calendar option to plan his schedule.
A second wave of 60 to 80 schools will be awarded PDAs through the Palm grant in June.

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