PDAs for Law Students

Today’s law students have keener eyesight than fogies, but I had to wonder about an experiment being conducted at the University of Melbourne. Students are using hand-held computers in a trial to evaluate the effect of mobile technologies on student learning.

Today’s students, the article claims, “combine work with study, they have competing demands on their time, they are multi-tasking by nature, and they have been dealing with technology since they were born – they shop on-line, research on-line, date online and expect to study on-line.”

“As part of a trial of mobile learning technologies, the students were given HP 5550 iPAQ PDAs from Hewlett Packard. The PDAs support wireless networking and include fold-out keyboards and extra storage capacity.”

“The law school building supports wireless mobile technologies to enrich learning and research”, Peter Jones of the faculty says. “Technology is changing ideas about traditional teaching spaces. As a result, the law building design attempts to incorporate education, research, student services, computers and socialising into a seamless environment. With more than 4000 data connection points and wireless networking throughout the building, students can now access resources from any location.”

Students also used their PDAs to wirelessly search the law library catalogue while walking among the stacks of library books. Some students took notes at the Supreme Court with the fold-out keyboard, which they found was less intrusive than using a laptop. Others used text-to-speech facilities to have documents read back to them when travelling on public transport.

The feedback from students has been positive, with the PDAs being viewed as easy to use and convenient,” he says. “Access to mobile technology has introduced new ways for students to seek, store and share ideas and information. Increased access to webbased legal databases and on-line course material has the potential to enhance classroom discussion and increase student satisfaction with the learning process.” However, for all the convenience a small wireless mobile device brings, for some students, having to carry yet another device in their pockets and backpacks was a drawback. There were also limitations with the small screen size, low resolution and limited battery life.”

The limited availability of e-book content was another problem encountered during the trial. While cases and legislation are readily available on-line, other secondary sources such as text books are not well supported by publishers.”

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

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