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During the past decade every area of education and training has been affected by the introduction and use of technology. Word processing packages, and the introduction of laser printers, significantly increased the quantity and print quality (not necessarily the quality of the content) of the written word and opened up a new world for those with learning difficulties. Simple presentation software has enhanced the delivery of information and, if used innovatively, stimulated different learning styles, enabling the individual to be fully involved in the learning process. The introduction of the CD-ROM/DVD provided a mechanism by which true ‘multi-media’ materials could be developed and used to deliver even the most complex, or boring, subjects to learners within a range of supported, and unsupported, learning environments. The technology then moved on, things became more sophisticated, compact and cheaper. The Internet, World Wide Web and e-mail have now become essential sources of information and communication, within all levels of education and training, throughout the world. The Internet in particular provides an ‘expert’ at the click of a mouse, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (although the quality of that ‘expert’ may need to be assured).
If we are to believe the advertising, and tentative research findings, the next revolution in technology to affect education and training will be mobile communication devices and palmtop/handheld computers. Are we really on the verge of a revolution in portable learning, or is this just another way to sell more technology? This paper looks at some of the research currently available, the claims made by the manufacturers for their products, and tries to open up the debate regarding the intelligent use of handheld devices for the delivery, management and assessment of education and training in the post 14 sector.
This paper will only touch briefly on existing or evolving technology, the debate regarding what constitutes a handheld and issues regarding different forms of connectivity. All of these issues have been researched, and reports produced and published by BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), LSDA (Learning and Skills Development Agency) and others (see references).
This paper will deal mainly with issues affecting education/training and how, handheld computers in particular, could be used to assist the 14-19 curriculum reforms and post 14 education and training in general.