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Showcasing, Tony Vincent and "The Roving Reporter"

"Educators know that meaningful learning requires students to be engaged," says fifth-grade teacher Tony Vincent. "Activities using handheld computers are so very engaging for students. The technology is simple for students to use, which allows them to focus on the content and task, rather than on the technology."

That is certainly true in Vincent's favorite 'handheld' activity, the "Roving Reporter." Each school day, one student in his class at Willowdale Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska, acts as the day's reporter. The student uses his or her handheld computer and a digital camera to take photos and notes throughout the day. At home, the student uses a word processor to compose a well-written article describing the learning and activities of the day. The following day, the student transfers the article and photos from the handheld computer to a desktop computer. Vincent then accesses the material and publishes it on a Web page called The Daily Planet.

"Too many times I find myself developing good writing activities, but rarely repeating them," Vincent explained. "In the case of the Roving Reporter, students get to write five or six similar articles throughout the school year, improving each time they write. Students are conscious of their improvement and proud of their accomplishments. Friends, family, and visitors from around the world access the Web page, so students know they are writing for an important audience."

Vincent also saves sentences from the reports that need revision and uses them to practice students' editing skills. Because the writing is in digital format, it is easy to keep examples and help the students learn grammar in context.

"Students love to be the day's Roving Reporter because they get to take photos, rove around the room, and take their handheld home for the evening," Vincent explained. "They also like to look at the collection of articles. In fact, I burn the articles onto a CD-ROM for students to take home at the end of the school year. That means they have a narrative complete with photos for each day of fifth grade. It's a nice way to remember the year."

Vincent says simplicity is the key to creating handheld activities. "Adapt an activity you already do with paper and pencil and use handhelds instead," he recommends. "Once you're comfortable with using handhelds with students, incorporate activities that use higher level thinking and cooperative learning. Many applications for handhelds make it easy for a teacher to plan lessons that involve active learning."

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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