Teaching children well

Companies debating the acceptance of self-service technology by customers or employees should meet Carol Brennan, 14. Brennan is a self-service wireless application user; she just doesn't know it.

To Brennan, having her Palm IIIc networked to those of 56 other freshmen at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco is cool and efficient. The concept of "self-service" never came up.

Every morning, Brennan points her Palm Inc. at one of three wall-mounted caching servers to get her class list, homework assignments and even classmates' birthday announcements. To Brennan and other students, such as Stephanie Gertz, 14, using the Palm with the wireless server is a no-brainer. It makes it possible to find out practice times for sports, as well as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of friends and teachers.

"It just makes everything easier," says Gertz, who received her PalmPilot in the beginning of August as part of a program initiated by Doug Grant, head of the school.

Benefits of the wireless system so far include easier communication, less paper, trackable assignments and general excitement and spontaneity regarding the self-service application, says Grant, who got the idea for the system while attending a San Francisco Giants baseball game last spring. At PacBell Park, seven caching servers wirelessly deliver game schedules, team lineups, news and a scorekeeping application to fans' PalmPilots for free.

At Sacred Heart, freshmen are responsible for getting the information they need to keep current with course work. For example, Kate Sylvia, 14, showed me the school's code of ethics and her latest history assignment. "There's no excuse for me to not do my homework," she says.

Teachers use the system to communicate with students throughout the day. Kate Jackson, the school's IT specialist and cross-country coach, says that as the gatekeeper for information going out from the caching server, she had to create some guidelines for teachers.

"I get daily updates from teachers but have to place limits on how many words they can write. [I] asked them to have all weekend homework assignments in to me by Friday noon," says Jackson, a refugee from two dot-com flameouts.

Jackson codes the communications in HTML and beams her PalmPilot toward the shoebox-size servers, and students are then able to get updates as they pass by. Indeed, Noel Pittman, 15, showed me a link to a Web site she got from a teacher after her morning download to her Palm unit.

While the freshman class and 20 teachers now use one server station, two others are planned one for the faculty room and a mobile unit to be used as needed.

The server is powered by a lithium battery pack and designed to beam information up to 15 feet in a 60-degree arc. Installation takes a couple of hours mainly for the wall mounting. The service costs $75 per unit, per month, with an initial cost of $200. Students' parents paid for the PalmPilots (they need to have a graphing calculator for math anyway), with volume discounts bringing the cost to $100 for each device.

But there's one thing the wireless network has yet to curtail: All of the students I spoke with said they still talk on the phone with their friends.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Pimm Fox

PC World
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2018

Roam freely in the digital world. Critically acclaimed performance and security at your fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?