Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are small handheld devices initially designed for use as personal organizers. They can store documents, spreadsheets, calendar entries, games, databases, and lots of other resources normally associated with a laptop or desktop computer. PDAs are relatively inexpensive and highly portable and are designed to utilize small, low-bandwidth files and applications. They are able to perform limited PC tasks such as word processing and spreadsheet analysis and newer PDAs are capable of Web browsing and e-mail functions via wire or wireless connected to networks. Also, they can synchronize with desktop computers and laptops to download Web sites via channels and work off-line. Furthermore, PDAs offer infrared communication, allowing data to be transferred across short distances between devices without the need for networks. The latest developments offer wireless connection via mobile phone networks or Bluetooth, and many combine phone and PDA functions in one unit (Aclear.net, n.d.). This article will provide an overview of PDA technology including advantages and limitations and the use of PDAs in teaching and learning, as well as the future trends. This will help educators assess the use of PDAs in teaching and learning environments and determine how PDAs can be integrated into the curriculum.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Hotspot: A hotspot is a Wi-Fi access point or area, in particular for connecting to the Internet. Hotspots are found near airports, train stations, convention centers, hotels, restaurants, cafes, libraries, and other public places.
Global Positioning System: ( GPS) : A satellite navigation system used for determining one’s precise location and providing a highly accurate reference almost anywhere on earth.
Synchronizing: PDAs have the ability to synchronize to a personal computer. This is done through synchronization software provided with the PDA such as the HotSync Manager, which comes with Palm OS handhelds, or Microsoft ActiveSync, which comes with Windows Mobile handhelds. Synchronization compares the data on the PDA with the personal computer and updates both devices with the most recent information.
Tablet PC: A computer that is approximately the size of a paper tablet. Users can write with a digital pen directly on the screen of the Tablet PC.
Beaming: Beaming allows PDA users to easily exchange important information using the infrared (IR) port.
Pocket PC: The successor to the Windows CE operating system developed by Microsoft. The Pocket PC operating system is used on PDAs such as the Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Toshiba.
Wireless Application Protocol (WAP): WAP is an international standard that allows users to connect to the Internet using WAP-enabled mobile phones. WAP is optimized for mobile networks with narrow bandwidths, mobile devices with small screens and limited keys for user entry, little memory storage, and limited processing and battery power.
PDA: PDA is a small, relatively inexpensive, handheld device that serves as an organizer for personal information. PDA generally includes electronic schedule, contact list, to-do list, note taker, handwriting recognition capabilities, and other productivity tools.
Smartphone: Smartphones are a hybrid of the functionality of PDAs and mobile phones. They usually provide a means of connecting to a desktop or laptop to perform the same functions as a PDA docking and synchronization cradle.
802.11: The official designation for the wireless protocol. Also known as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity). 802.11 is a set of wireless LAN standards developed by working group 11 of the IEEE LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). The 802.11 family uses the same wireless Internet protocol. 802.11b was the first widely accepted wireless networking standard, followed by 802.11a and 802.11g.
Palm OS: Palm OS is the type of operating system that Palm and Sony types of PDAs run on.
Bluetooth: A specification for wireless personal area networks using radio frequencies to link mobile devices.