Since the very popular handheld computers from Palm and others were phased out, I have often been asked what to replace them with in classrooms.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a great answer. I really like mini-laptops (aka netbooks), but they are not the same as handhelds. A more comparable device in terms of form factor and functionality is the smartphone, but those have their own challenges for schools. Many people asked me about iPods, to which I replied that they didn’t have the features or functionality of a handheld computer. They were basically pretty static multimedia players without much ability to interact.
Now with the iPod Touch 4th Generation (iOS 4), the iPod now qualifies as a handheld computer in my book. (Yes, I realize that I may be the last person to concede this point.:) This device does everything that the high end Palms did and more. And at under $300, the price is right.
One of the key components of a “handheld computer” for me is the ability to produce word processed documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. With Google Docs recent release of a mobile version for both iOS and Android, the package is complete.
I am anxious to see some Android handheld devices come out that have similar functionality. (The early entries in Android have been smartphones.) Stay tuned as more true handhelds come on the market.