Florida School Participates in Tablet PC Pilot Program

The versatile tablet PC made its way into the hands and backpacks of seventh-graders at Oc'ee Middle School in Orange County, Fla., this fall in a first-ever pilot program designed to test the effectiveness of the tablet PC combined with a Web-based curriculum, one-to-one computing and full-time Internet access.

The yearlong project is a joint effort between Hewlett-Packard, which provided the tablet PCs; Microsoft, which contributed its Class Server 3.0; and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, which provided electronic textbook resources. This program is remarkable because, according to George Warren, director of K-12 education marketing at HP, "the tablet PC has the potential to replace the desktop and the notebook in the future."

OMS was chosen for this program because of its well-known reputation as the technologically advanced Florida demonstration school. As part of the SMART Schools Initiative, OMS has had the opportunity to test different technology innovations in the past, but never to the extent of this pilot program.

With each seventh-grader equipped with the HP TC1000 tablet PC, learning at OMS has reached a whole new level. When students enter the classroom, they log on to their tablets and are able to access assignments, worksheets and quizzes. This allows OMS's students to be self-directed and work at their own pace. Teachers can monitor students' progress, collect homework, grade quizzes and give personalized feedback. In addition, students' results and scores are automatically recorded, making state and federal reporting requirements simpler to facilitate.

Results of the pilot program will be evaluated based on a number of points - ranging from improvement in student learning, teacher reactions and the students' levels of engagement.

While the full benefits of tablets in education may take some time to realize, OMS has proved that the process is undoubtedly underway. "The tablet PC is still a relatively new technology," says Warren. "As a result, the best applications and uses of that technology are in the process of being realized. It will be innovative teachers and students like those at Oc'ee Middle School who will discover the real impact the tablet PC can have on education."

-Annamaria DiGiorgio

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.