Schools and Handhelds: Lessons Learned and Shared

Recently, my school district provided administrators with palmOne handhelds. I regarded the innovation as I do most such things, i.e. cautiously. Today, most educators are bombarded with “the next greatest innovation to manage schools†as often as there are school holidays. Those who have been around for a while sometimes are hesitant to stop doing things one way and try something new, especially when it took several months to become proficient with the last greatest innovation. However, palmOne handhelds are worthy of your time and consideration if you are looking for ways to improve how you manage yourself and your school. The school in which I work in is located in a major metropolitan area. Like many inner-city schools, student attendance is a constant struggle. Monitoring student movement in and around campus is a full time job in itself. The program I use, ePrincipal™, has the student schedule, a demographic database, and the student attendance all in one. It is amazing how quick I can stop a “lost†student or student in need, look at grades and attendance, and call home in a matter of seconds versus the old way. It was always difficult to stop what I was doing and take a student back to my office in order to redirect or help the student by calling home or contacting another campus office. Now, I can keep doing what I need to and advise on the run. Teacher and student documentation is another concern for many administrators. The palmOne allows me to record MS Word™ documents on the spot. It was not enough just to jot a few facts in a notebook and try to type a document later. Now, I am able to keep better and more precise documents. I even have a miniature keyboard to help speed up the recording process. I can store or print the documents weekly and keep records organized and at the tips of my fingers. Texas administrators use a very precise teacher appraisal document annually to assess and record teacher performance and growth. The program I use, MVAL™, allows me to record data and keep teacher information clear and easily available. The forms are preset and I merely need to fill in the observation data for the record. This saves the many hours of time in which I had to sit in my office and type these reports after the fact. Now, I do them real-time during the time of observation and print them once I finish. The cost of the handhelds and programs vary by performance and function. It is well worth any amount of money to get data and information in your hands. Students and teachers expect immediate and quick decisions. Information and data must be available in order to make responsible and accurate decisions and maintain documentation all day long. There’s no more fumbling with files, folders, or running around trying to find records to make a decision. Time is precious for you, your students, and staff, and it all could be right in the palm - or palmOne - of your hand.

Email:John Jenkins