Thursday, May 26, 2005

Teaching Practices When Laptops are Required

This post is the third in a row utilizing links to papers in Learning Technology. This journal deserves a tip of the hat from me. It's published in Great Britain and covers a wide range of topics, including some of the more interesting papers I've seen on teaching with technology. The rather unwieldy title of the paper I'm posting about is Laptop use in teaching practice: Current research in the QuinnSchool of Business, UniversityCollegeDublin.

It's common in the U.S. for business schools and even entire universities to have a ubiquitous computing initiative in place. Some schools are changing their initiative to require Tablet PCs. Whatever the case, what are students and faculty to do with the machine once it's use is universal?

The paper brings up the significance of communities of practice:

Palincsar et al (1998: 17) suggest that learning is social in nature, reminding us that “sharing our (teaching) experiences in terms of (the) principles and practices” is important if we are to broadly understand the best use of laptops in teaching activities. Palincsar et al take “sharing further,” by creating an academic community of practitioners, in order to see how community based learning supports development amongst academics.

The paper continues:

The following summary points were abstracted from a series of exploratory interviews and focus groups with staff members from 4 courses over the academic year 2003/2004. Results from research presented key themes (obtained from data analysis and transcripts) in which is was identified that:
1. of the four courses studied, one course implemented a customised and content related “laptop policy” which was used to mediate interaction and use of laptops in class between lecturers and students engaged in learning.
2. all four courses had different implementation plans for the use of, and inclusion of, laptops in class and for assignments. In conversation all staff members mentioned the use of office tools extensively in assignments.
3. the use of small group teaching classrooms were conducive to a more intimate and “interactive learning environment.” Teaching staff also supported this trend and felt there was more interaction and communication in small group settings.
4. lecturers learned “through experience” when to use and when not to use laptops in class for teaching activities, reflecting instruction to use laptops at “appropriate” points in the curricula and learning process.

More research is needed on how teaching practices change once a ubiquitous computing initiative is implemented. For now, until we can prove it, we can only hope that learning is enhanced by these initiatives, which are costly for students.


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5:50 PM  
Blogger megan said...

I don't think I agree with requiring students to use laptops for certain classes. I can understand Harvard law classes but not just regular classes to inhance learing. I feel if they want to persue those requirements that all laptops or whatever electronics are mandatory, should be paid for in full and non returnable. Laptops are not cheap and tuition is going up. How do they expect students to purchase an 1000 dollar laptop when they have 30,000 dollars of loans to pay. Universities will never cease ripping students off.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Mohammad Khan said...

I'm kind of hesitant to be using my laptop for school. Especially when the UTHSCSA Dental school teaches everthing on lap top. Im going to eventually need bifocals! MAN! Why not the old fashioned way with Books with real pages?

4:05 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I don't think that using machines while lecturing is that much more helpful. Personally I get distracted by all the extra add ins and miss what I am suppose to be learning anyways. Not to mention that most students download other things and do other things on their computers during class time anyways. Duke put to use the Ipods so that class lectures could be used on there. Only a few Ipods are actually intergraded into the class and most kids just use them for music. Just like St. Mary's- all my friends use their laptops for extra music space. Waste of added tuition.

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