USD students receive technology that fits in the Palm of their hands Cheryl Tiahrt, USD's acting director of user services, demonstrates how information can be received by Palm handheld computers from one of the infrared user stations at the Coyote Student Center. Watching are USD President James Abbott and Jennifer Glynn, a freshman accounting student from Sisseton. by David Lias University of South Dakota President James Abbott greeted students back to campus Sunday with more than a handshake.
He gave them a bit of vital information about himself � not by speaking, writing or any other traditional way of communicating.
He opened his Palm(TM) handheld computer, punched up his telephone number, and beamed it � thanks to infrared technology � to a similar device that had just been issued to a student sitting nearby in the Coyote Student Center.
Soon, the hundreds of students who received Palm computers Sunday were getting the hang of sending, receiving and sharing information with this unique electronic tool.
More than 1,300 USD students became the first in the nation to receive the Palm handheld computers authorized by a university for all first-year undergraduates, law and medical students.
Palm, Inc. is a pioneer in the field of mobile and wireless Internet solutions and a leading provider of handheld computers.
USD worked with Enable Systems of Hoffman Estates, IL to equip the Palm m500 and m505 handhelds with a dozen education, productivity and communication software applications.
Besides placing the Palm computers in the hands of over 1,000 students, the university has taken steps to assure that those students will easily be able to access information and communicate with other individuals linked on the newly-created electronic network that has been built at USD.
Abbott noted that Clarinet Systems, Inc., a California firm, has established a wireless connectivity system throughout the campus.
The systems provide high speed infrared connectivity to the campus network for faster transfer of data to Palm handhelds.
The infrared ports are located in the Coyote Student Center, the I.D. Weeks Library, the university's medical and law libraries and several buildings housing undergraduate departments on campus, Abbott said.
"Students can receive e-mail, download web clips, schedule appointments with faculty, turn in assignments electronically, share lecture notes, research academic requirements and obtain class material," he said.
Educators on the USD campus also will find the new system beneficial.
"They can distribute syllabi, course calendars, resource materials and assignments," Abbott said.
Barry Vickrey, dean of the USD School of Law, said the handheld computers offer a great potential benefit to law students.
"We're going to use the computers in a variety of ways," he said. "Basically, what we're going to try to do is use this to introduce students to even more technology.
"We're educating lawyers for the future," Vickrey added, "and in the future and now, lawyers have to use technology effectively, because they are very busy people."
Better time management is just one of the outcomes USD students should experience from using the various software included with each Palm handheld.
"For a lawyer, that translates directly into a livelihood," Vickrey said. "Three years from now, our freshman law school students will be doing time management in order to make a living. Lawyers bill for their time, and lawyers make a living by keeping up with time, so this will be an introduction to that aspect of time management."
The Palm handhelds also will introduce students to information access, communication, and the use of new technology, Vickrey said.
Marie Ruettgers, a first year law student, could be a step or two ahead of her peers. She already owns a Palm handheld, and is putting it to good use.
"I'm building a database of the key concepts in each of my classes," she said. "In criminal law, which is a new area that I've never looked at before, I have the definitions and elements of such things as first degree murder and second degree murder, and it's a study aid."
Ruettgers said that when she has a few spare moments between classes, she can take out her Palm and review the data she's stored.
Her handheld is small enough to easily fit in a shirt pocket, meaning she and other USD students won't need to lug around large textbooks or notebook computers to review course materials.
Vickrey is convinced that both faculty and students at USD will find unique ways of using the handheld computers � ways that best suit them.
"Technology becomes the tool that people use themselves without having to be told how to use it, so Marie will build these databases on her own, because she knows what she needs in order to learn," he said.
"Palm handhelds will be an integral part of English, speech, biology, computer science, information technology, medical and law coursework," Abbott said. "Just as important, the technology will be used to share information, collaborate and communicate with faculty, administrators and other students."
"Universities are typically at the forefront of a new trend, and adopting Palm handheld technology is just one example," said Mike Lorion, Palm's vice president of education. "Other universities are watching with interest to see how USD puts this technology to work in class and throughout campus life."