Handheld Training for Automotive Instructors

On March 12, 2004, automotive instructors of the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas, Nevada saw an innovative use of palmOneâ„¢ Zire 71 handhelds. As a Certified Palm Education Training Coordinator, I began the staff development training with two hours of introduction to the use of palmOne handhelds. The training then focused on the use of EZ Grade Pro for handhelds. Two auto instructors from CCSD had previously been using the program on a trial basis. Obvious advantages of using palmOne handhelds in the automotive technology environment are portability and compact size. A traditional problem for auto instructors has been the laboratory environment activity and the ability to provide accurate grading that reflects the multitude of tasks occurring within a class session. palmOne handhelds offer the instructor a compact means to quickly provide grades for all students without trying to recall all the activities that have occurred and/or carrying stacks of papers, a duplication of effort which wastes valuable time.

The third hour of training introduced the instructors to “Documents to Go†and the use of Word and Excel on a palmOne handheld. David McElwain, Project Facilitator for the CCSD automotive programs, developed task lists in an Excel format for the instructors. The task lists reflect the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) proficiency requirements for brakes and electrical/electronics. NATEF is the educational division of ASE (Automotive Service Excellence), which itself is the national foundation providing certification for automotive industry technicians. NATEF certifies the training institutions and provides guidelines for learning activities. The automotive instructors now have an efficient method of accurate recordkeeping for the multitude of tasks required for NATEF certification.

The final session of the day saw the introduction of "AutoTap" for the palmOne. AutoTap is an interface device and software program that enables the palmOne handheld to become an automotive diagnostic tool. Plugging the interface into the diagnostic connector of the vehicle enables the technician to retrieve trouble codes recorded in the ECM (Electronic Control Module). AutoTap allows the palmOne to record real time data input from sensors located in the various automobile systems. Users can analyze the data, present it in a graph format, and store it for future reference.

By the end of the day, everyone agreed that this was a revolutionary method of classroom management. Each instructor received a palmOne Zire 71, with built-in digital camera, the AutoTap unit, Documents to Go, and NATEF Excel task list. The goal is to incorporate the concepts throughout the remainder of this school year with full implementation during the 2004-2005 school year

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Preliminary feedback has been extremely positive from every teacher. The instructors report that they enjoy the ease of use, portability, and flexibility of the palmOne. Every instructor involved in the training gave the training sessions the highest ratings on their evaluation forms. This is further evidence that palmOne handhelds can revolutionize the way teachers manage classrooms and develop activities.

Email:Connie M. Meek

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