Dependability and acceptability of handheld computers in school-based data collection
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Given the increasing influence of technology and the explosion in data collection demands, the acceptance and assimilation of new paradigms and technologies require today?s educators, researchers, and evaluators to select appropriate tools and apply them effectively. One of these technologies?handheld computers?makes the benefits of computerized data collection more accessible to field-based researchers. Three related studies were conducted to evaluate handheld-based data collection system for use in special education settings and to highlight the acceptability factors to effectively use this emerging technology. The first study reviewed the recent literature on the dependability and willingness of teachers to adopt handheld data collection systems and emphasized five important factors: (1) perceived ease of use; (2) perceived usefulness; (3) intention to use; (4) dependability; and (5) subjective norms. The second study discussed the dependability of handheld computers used by special education teachers for collecting self-report data by addressing four dependability attributes: reliability, maintainability, availability, and safety. Data were collected from five sources: (1) self-reports of time use by 19 special education teachers using Pocket PC computers, (2) observations of time use from eight external data collectors, (3) teacher interviews, (4) technical reports prepared by the researcher, and (5) teacher satisfaction. Results indicated that data collection via handheld computers yielded accurate, complete, and timely data, and was appropriate for these four dependability attributes. The last study investigated teachers? acceptance of handheld computer use by testing the relationship among five factors that influence intention to use this technology which was based on a modified version of the technology acceptance model using the handheld computer acceptance survey responses from 45 special education teachers. The results showed that intention to use handheld computer was directly affected by the devices? perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. The issue of dependability had a direct and indirect statistically significant effect on perceived ease of use and usefulness, and intention to use a handheld computer, respectively. Overall, three studies demonstrated that handheld computers can be effectively used in the direct observation of behavior in a school environment, without requirements of any settings.