Palm Pilot Project


March 30, 2007



Technology has often been cited as being the ‘answer’ for the problems of education. At the very least, people see technology as the future, as a skill that our children will have to have, or as a way to achieve some of the objectives laid out by legislature and government (No Child Left Behind, etc.). Unfortunately, even if technology were the answer, it is expensive. Providing $1500-2500 for a desktop or laptop for every student is just not conceivable for some schools. And that money does not include the software or the professional development training.

Trying a new approach, researchers at the University of Florida are putting Palm Pilots into an area Elementary school. Led by Dr. Rick Ferdig (Assistant Professor of Educational Technology) and supported by the UF Vice President of Research and the UF College of Education, a team implemented Palm Pilots into Trey Whiddon’s 5th Grade Elementary classroom at MK Rawlings Elementary in Gainesville. MK Rawlings is a Title 1, grade C school, with 91.7% of the students receiving free or reduced lunch.

Palm Pilots, and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) in general, have become important tools for business professionals. They are now finding their way into K-12 schools. However, most of the Palm work done in schools is done with teachers, giving them Palms for classroom management such as observing or tracking students. Some work is done with students, but most of the Palms are left at school. There are very few projects where the students are given the Palm Pilots and are allowed to keep the tools with them at all times, including taking them home at night and on the weekend. The cost of this project is close to $100 per device rather than the thousands of dollars for desktops or laptops. In addition, there are thousands of free applications online, and students in the classroom take charge of teaching each other new uses. Ferdig collaborates with the University of Michigan on the project, so researchers have access to a nation-wide database of software and teaching ideas.

The program is going on its second month at Rawlings. Even in its short tenure, research provides evidence of success behaviorally and academically. As highlighted on TV20 WCJB (click here to see the video), data suggests:

  • Students with behavior or motivation problems are motivated to learn and problem solve
  • Students with behavior problems use their Palms to shorten the amount of time off-task
  • Low achieving students have significantly improved in reading scores such as spelling (math is currently underway)
  • High achieving students stay on-task as they find additional activities to challenge themselves

For more information, please contact Dr. Ferdig (