Personal Universal Controller

Command Post





Featured in the
January 6, 2003,
Vol. 5, no. 15, issue of the
 Innovative Teaching Newsletter on
"PDAs in the Classroom".

Uses of Hand-Helds in the Classroom


The Pebbles project is investigating many uses of hand-held computers in classrooms. 

In one set of investigations, we are looking at how hand-helds may help instructors evaluate the students in a lecture. One semester (Spring, 2000) we collaborated with Prof. David Yaron of Chemistry using 120 Jornada hand-helds donated by Hewlett-Packard. Each student in Chem 107 received a hand-held and a Wireless Andrew Wavelan card, and Prof. Yaron gave them "concept tests" at multiple points during a lecture. Students answered on their hand-held, and a bar chart of all the answers was projected for the class to see. If students did not know the answer, the material could be discussed more thoroughly, whereas if students were correct, the lecture could move to new material. Student evaluations showed the hand-helds were popular. Results of this experiment were reported in a technical report.

We hope to expand on this research in the future.


Other Applications

Some of the Pebbles applications may be useful in an educational setting. In particular, the Slide Show Commander runs on a PDA while the PC is running PowerPoint. On the PDA, you can see the notes of the current slide and all the slide titles. There is also a timer and clock on the PDA. You can easily move forward and backward or jump to a specific slide. You can also use the PDA to scribble on the slides, and we are working on various ways to save the scribbles so the students can see the results later.

In the future, we want to investigate further uses of hand-helds in classrooms, possibly to support laboratory experiments, to support real testing and homework grading, and to enable lecturers to hand-write on the screen.

Publications about the Educational Uses of Pebbles

  • Franklin Chen, Brad Myers and David Yaron, Using Handheld Devices for Tests in Classes. Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science Technical Report, no. CMU-CS-00-152 and Human Computer Interaction Institute Technical Report CMU-HCII-00-101. July, 2000. pdf or postscript


We are making the software that runs the server used by this application available. It is written in Perl5. It has been quite awhile since anyone worked on this code, and the original author has since left CMU.

This software is provided AS IS, and is NOT supported by the Pebbles research group. You are welcome to ask questions about the software, but we cannot guarantee a quick or accurate response, especially about implementation details. Please send us any changes or improvements you make to the software.

See the README.txt file for more information. (This file is also included in the download).


Funding for the educational aspects of the Pebbles research is primarily supported by:

  • Partially funded by grants from MICROSOFT.
    This research is also partially funded by four generous grants from Microsoft (in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001), sponsored by Microsoft Research, and by the Windows CE development group.
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Hewlett Packard, under the University Grants Program of 10 Jornada 430se, 120 Jornada 680 and about 100 Jornada 720.
  • Thanks for a generous equipment grant from Lucent Technologies of about 300 Wavelan wireless network PCMCIA cards for the HP Jornadas.

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