Colleges that Require Laptops Should Provide Them

As computers have became a common tool for students to function effectively in the classroom and to be productive in their personal lives, it should not be surprising that these students come to college with the expectation of anytime, anywhere computer access. Studies have found that most college students believe the computer to be an asset to their learning. (Lauricella, & Kay, 2010). There are some significant strengths to requiring laptops in the classroom. Access to laptops opens doors for designing more student centered and constructivist lessons, and less lectures. (Dunleavy, Dexter, & Heinecke, 2007) A study at MIT found laptops to be especially useful in large lecture halls where extended lectures are usually the norm. The study “examined the students’ perceptions of the studio classes, characterized their learning, and evaluated whether and how the studio style classes with the use of wireless laptop computers facilitate active learning in large lecture halls. “ (Barak, Lipson, & Lerman, 2006, p. 245). What they found was wireless laptop computers enabled the integration of lectures with hands on learning. Laptops used by students were superior to the traditional computer lab, and that their study was in line with other studies that support laptops in the classroom. (Barak et al., 2006) Like desktop computers, laptops have the educational advantages of facilitating student learning through problem solving, collaborating with other students, and researching. However, laptops have the added advantage of being portable so that coursework started in class can be finished at home, or in the library, or away from the university.

Therefore, many colleges have moved from computer labs to requiring laptops of all students. However, laptops should not only be used by students and faculty in universities, they should be purchased by the universities for the students and faculty, fully loaded with the appropriate software and hardware. Although the university may find it prudent to offer a couple of different packages (graphic design departments tend to utilize Macs) (Orr, Sherony, & Steinhaus, 2008), the laptop otherwise should be identical, loaded with standard software thereby meeting the requirements of the course, regardless of the major. This is beneficial because even if the student switches majors, he or she will still have access to programs required. In addition, a wide choice of computer applications gives students the opportunity to explore software they may not have purchased on their own.

An advantage of providing loaded laptops to every student is that it levels the playing field. Some studies suggest laptops provide students with more access to resources and learning opportunities. (Penue, 2006). Every student, regardless of their income will have the same opportunities to own and use a laptop without the inconveniences of checking one out of the library or working in a lab. Most universities that require laptops, like the University of North Carolina, provide grants for those in need (Carolina Computing Initiative). Other universities incorporate laptops as part of the tuition so that if financial aid is needed, it will be covered. However, for schools that do not offer assistance, laptops are expensive and without funds for the disadvantaged, some students may have problems purchasing a laptop and all necessary software.

Another reason the university should provide and purchase the laptops is that by purchasing in large quantities, universities are able to purchase laptops at substantial discounts. But a drawback of providing computers is the fact that 88% of all university students already own a laptop and 90% of these laptops are under a year old. (Lindquist & Powers, 2010) However, as more universities are requiring a loaded laptop purchased from the school, this statistic may be reduced as students may wait until college to purchase the new computer. Parents, at least, seem to appreciate the ease of purchasing a laptop that has already been chosen for the student. (Lindquist & Powers, 2010)

A further advantage of the laptop computer purchased for the students is that every student having the same computer and software means that there are less variables for support. For laptops to be successful in the classroom, technical support (and reliable internet connection) is imperative. It will be easier for the help desks to troubleshoot laptops as well as make it easier for students to help each other with technical problems if all the software and hardware is the same. Plus, faculty will more likely use the laptops if they are familiar with the same technologies the students are using. (Penue, 2006)

According to researchers, (Lindquist, et al., 2010 and Barak et al., 2006 ) there are disadvantages of using laptops in the class room. The MIT study found that 12% of the students used the laptops during classroom time to do social activities, such as checking e-mail and social networking sites. An article in the Washington Post interviewed David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown, who surveyed his classes after six weeks of lectures—laptop free. Eighty percent said they were more involved in the class discussion with the laptops put away, and 95% percent admitted using the laptop for activities other than class work. However other educators feel that it is up to the professor to engage the students. After all, if the class is not engaging, surfing the net is not much different than doodling or reading a book hidden from the teacher’s eyes. (deVise, 2010)

A bigger problem than laptops being utilized for activities other than class work, is laptops that are not effectively used at all. Students perceive that a requirement to purchase a laptop means that the laptops will be used in almost all classes. However, changing courses to accommodate technology takes time and commitment. Not only must there be professional development classes given by the university, but there has to be a willingness of the teacher to make the change. Many college professors are old enough not to have used technology as a tool for their own education and many use technologies offered by laptops and computers. Studies have shown that many teachers primarily use laptops for word processing, productivity, and research. (Dunleavy et al., 2007) North Michigan University surveyed students on using laptops in 2000 and 2005. Significant differences were found indicating that student perceptions of the usefulness, price, and quality of the computer increased from 2000 to 2005. However, if the laptops are not utilized in the classroom then the students do not see laptops as a justifiable expense. (Orr et al., 2008)

Important to the discussion of whether laptops should be required in universities is how well faculty will be trained to utilize the technology effectively. Studies have shown that many teachers primarily use laptops for word processing, productivity, and research. Therefore, teachers will need professional development to embrace the technology laptops have to offer. (Dunleavy et al., 2007) Beginning a laptop program without helping professors find a way to integrate the technology is not prudent. Teachers who see technology as an effective tool are more likely to use laptops. (And teachers who are concerned that students will use the equipment for unauthorized activity will use the laptops less often.) Therefore, universities must find ways to be sure the faculty is on board before embarking on a campus wide laptop program. “Some of the professional development that is targeted to help teachers become more “student-centered” in their teaching has been especially effective in transforming instruction in laptop classrooms.” (Penue, 2006, p. 338)

Teachers that believe that technology will support their curriculum are more likely to use it. (Penue, 2006). In addition, although professors may need help with the technology themselves, what was more critical was that they get help integrating the technology into their curriculum. In the past, most computer use has been to duplicate lecture styles with little change on how teacher’s teach. However, as teachers are trained and see what students are able to do, they are less reluctant to assign more complex projects.

A laptop is a tool, and like any tool, its effectiveness is contingent upon the how the tool is used. The presence of a technological tool is not sufficient for enhanced learning. Although difficult to measure, computer skills are imperative for the 21st century workplace. In order for technology to make a difference, however, students must be able to use the computers and programs at home or in the dorms (Penue, 2006). If they take the laptops with them to class, projects started in the classroom may be continued elsewhere. However, there must be adequate technical support and on-site repair, plus reliable internet connections available 224/7. Teachers must be trained not only in the technology itself, but understand how the technology integrates into their curriculum, with professional development classes that show the teachers how to utilize the laptops for active learning.


Barak, M., Lipson, A., & Lerman, S. (2006, Spring). Wireless laptops as means for promoting active learning in large lecture halls. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Vol 38(3). ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).

CCI, Carolina computing initiative. Retrieved from

Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S. & Heinecke, W.F. (2007). What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 440–452. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Lauricella, S., & Kay, R. (2010). Assessing laptop use in higher education classrooms: The laptop effectiveness scale (LES). Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. vol 26(2).

Lindquist, E. & Powers, P. (2010, May 23). Some UW-Stout students would prefer to buy own laptops. The Leader-Telegram (McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)
Retrieved from

Orr, C., Sherony, B., & Steinhaus, C. (2008, June). Student perceptions of the value of a university laptop program. College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal.vol 4,(6).

Penue, W. R. (2006). Implementation and effects of one-to-one computing initiatives: A research synthesis. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. vol 38(3). ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).

de Vise, D. (2010, March 9). Wide web of diversions gets laptops evicted from lecture halls. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Blogging, Constructivism: A Class Project, Part II

Well, my professor didn’t care much for my blogging idea either. His comments, in red.  “The two things that bother me a little are first, that it was hard to know the goal or the point to these. Why are kids blogging, for example?” Should I have to tell HIM that? It is in his book!

tenets are essentially to encourage pupils to initiate their own learning experiences, with an emphasis on their being able to ‘construct’ their own set of mental representations, topics, and issues,” (Tiene & Ingram, 2001, p. 76)

(or is he saying I didn’t explain my reasons well.)

This assignment, at its very core, is constructivism. This project on blogging, correctly executed, teaches the students that they can learn on their own and write about subjects that they have a passion about. To write a post on the BLOG, the students browse, read and think about what is most interesting to them and then write about it.

If they are to blog about almost anything, then that seems to put a lot of responsibility on them. Why?

because they learn better if they can construct their own topics and issues. He says so, in his book, So is his question that we didn’t explain why or is he really asking why?

I feel really bad on this point because the blog was my responsibility and my team members had all sorts of guidelines and rules they wanted to add to the blog section. But I wore them down because I thought that it took away from the spirit of constructivism, which is what we were writing about.

I never heard of constructivism before this class. I’m not an educator, but I do know that I learn when I am excited about learning, and I thought how exciting to begin 6th graders on constructivist activities.  I was so excited about what I learned in the textbook that I started a blog about my learning process. And that is where I got the idea about the blog. I had also read about blogs in Will Richardson’s book about Blog, Wikis, and Podcasts. He gave examples of some elementary classrooms that used blogs as a learning tool. I looked those blogs up and they were really cool.

Second, I’m not clear on how assessment will done for these.
Why must everything be assessed? Can’t learning be for fun, at least some of the time?  I’m not a teacher, how would I know if everything should be assessed, especially for 6th graders? Is there something I should know here?

Debate: Bill (alias) and I aren’t teachers, not sure about Kim (alias). So I don’t understand how we are supposed to think like teachers and write effective scenarios for elementary school students.



Jonassen, D.H. (1998). Computers as mind tools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43, 24–32.

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., (2011). Meaningful learning with technology (4th Edition) (Kindle Locations 595–596). Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Tiene, D. & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring current issues in educational technology.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

It’s Lonely at the Bottom

In the Computer Applications in Education class we are supposed to do a project that other people review. My project has been up for 5 days and no one has reviewed it yet. At first I thought it was because the subject was boring (reviewing software and showing what you know in a certain software program with before and after), but the other person who picked that subject didn’t get a review either.  I made sure I reviewed her project the other day. I deliberately didn’t want to review her project because it was about Word and Excel, and I don’t know either of those programs, but she looked so lonely at the bottom. Plus I know what it is like to have a project no one is interested in but me. It’s not like no one saw my thread. There were eight other views besides mine. So that is eight people that moved on. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I worked so hard on it.

Technology Integration & 21st Century Skills

I learned from the technology discussion in my Computer Applications Class that teachers in K-12 have a hard time integrating technology in their classrooms. Surprising to me was that the many of the software programs and websites are not allowed in the schools, which make it difficult for teachers to be creative. The students in this class are predisposed to technology. But it makes it easier for me to understand why so many of my non-geek peers are so against it–they don’t know enough to even have an opinion–except because it isn’t allowed in the schools, it must not be safe. What everyone at the school seems to forget that these same children go home and work on computers and are often on the same programs that are prohibited at school.

I also learned that this class as many inspiring and creative teachers. I would be honored to have any of them teach my child. Their schools are lucky to have them. They understand the importance of technology yet understand that technology is just the tool.

My background is publishing so my keyboard is practically glued to my fingers. I thought I was technology savvy, but what this discussion also taught me was that I don’t know hardly anything. I never even heard of a clicker, or a smart board, or a webquest, etc.

I picked up an idea from Theresa Mackanos about making movie trailers instead of book reports! I think that is a wonderful idea.

Since I’m not actually a teacher, I often didn’t have something to say. Had I been at a party, I probably would have slipped out, but because it isn’t awkward to stand quietly by and listen, I learned a lot from my classmates.

Blogging, Constructivism, and a Class Project

In my Researching Current Issues Class, we had to work in groups to write a proposal for a sixth grade teacher who wanted to integrate constructionist theories and technology. There were three of us in my group. The members were assigned. Our instructions: “propose two (2) ways that should could make good use of the technologies she [Janice, the teacher] has available in a constructivist way. Each proposal should describe what Janice should do (preparation, class activities, etc.), what the students will be doing, what you would expect students to get out of it, and the technologies used. Details are vital. For each proposed use of technology, explain why and how it fits the constructivist paradigm.”

Basically one of the group members, Bill (alias), had an idea about using a video camera to have student work in groups and research, write, and produce a 4 minute video to create interest in and awareness of a social issue that is important to the sixth graders. Good idea. Everyone agreed and Bill wrote out the proposal, etc.

I had been reading about blogs in the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom so my suggestion for the second proposal was for the teacher to utilize a BLOG in her class.  My proposal stated that “the students may write about whatever interests them as long as it can be used under the categories in the BLOG.  The categories are science, geography, health and fitness, math, social science, literature, language arts, and mathematics. Each student must make at least one post and two comments once a week. A post has minimum word count of 200 words. The students may use the available video camera to link video, audio, photos—anything as long as it relates to the content the class is studying (the word count may be removed in video instances).

The other two members didn’t care much for that idea unless there were a BUNCH of restrictions attached. (Quote “we need to incorporate some specific activities and expectations. For example, for each blog stating their opinions and research on a subject, the student has to cite at least one unique source and one unique blogger to back it up. I say “unique” meaning a different source or blogger for each of their blog entries. I think it is important to make the students responsible to do research and to collect a variety of perspectives.”) Bah Humbug. They missed the constructivist point! We learn what we are interested in! For instance, even though I am NOT interested in writing a paper for a sixth grade teacher that doesn’t even exist (my goal is to work in higher ed), I AM interested in blogging and constructivism. Therefore, I spent a lot of time looking at web sites of teachers who use blogs in the classroom. And I can tell you they were pretty neat. Not only that, a bunch of stinking rules is propably why smart people like Thomas Edison quit going to school. In the end, we are all selfish and want to learn what we want to learn.

Okay, Okay, I know we can’t run schools that way….too many lazy kids wouldn’t learn anything…I guess. And there are some things we just MUST know. But what would it hurt, for an hour a day for students to learn what they want to learn? Look at all the skills they would learn along the way!

  • Computer skills,
  • research skills,
  • writing skills, proofreading skills,
  • critical reading–bloggers read first, write second,
  • collaboration with their piers (for ideas, how the blog should look, comments, etc.)

The purpose of the blog is to show that exploration is as important as facts, that if the excitement comes first, the learning will naturally follow. Since the “tenets are essentially to encourage pupils to initiate their own learning experiences, with an emphasis on their being able to ‘construct’ their own set of mental representations, topics, and issues,” (Tiene & Ingram, 2001, p. 76), then this assignment, at its very core, is constructivism. This project on blogging, correctly executed, teaches the students that they can learn on their own and write about subjects that they have a passion about. To write a post on the BLOG, the students browse, read and think about what is most interesting to them and then write about it.

Students often write on subjects and topics based on their prior knowledge. Therefore the student is an active participant in the process of building knowledge and are able to expand on what they already know through exploration of multiple perspectives. As the blogger continues to write about their interests, the blogger becomes an “expert” in whatever they are writing about. These ideas combine to fit the criteria of constructivism.

Constructionists believe that learning is social. We become learners by testing our knowledge with other learners. (Tiene & Ingram, 2001) Blogging is social. The BLOG is on the internet, available for anyone to read; in fact, Janice has already recruited an audience. Readers are encouraged to comment which provides a back and forth dialogue. “Constructivism proposes that learning environments should support multiple perspectives or interpretations of reality, knowledge, construction, and context-rich experienced-based activities.”(Jonassen,1998). Blogging encourages different and diverse perspectives in a social environment. The posts in the blog connects readers and writers to real world experiences in a context which is meaningful and builds knowledge.

Another important facet of constructivism is collaboration. “[K]nowledge is constructed individually and socially based on students’ interactions with the world and each other.” (Jonassen & Marra, 2011, Kindle Locations 595–596). The students must work together on the BLOG. Together they decide the name of the BLOG, the artwork and general layout. They work together proofreading and commenting on each other’s posts. The students share leads and other writing pointers. They may work together to produce a video or slide show for the BLOG.

Sounds like learning is going on to me. Anyway, I wore the other members of the group down. I’m interested to see what the professor will say.


Jonassen, D.H. (1998). Computers as mind tools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43, 24–32.

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., (2011). Meaningful learning with technology (4th Edition) (Kindle Locations 595–596). Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Tiene, D. & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring current issues in educational technology.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

The Art of Blogging

This week as I was working on a project in my Researching Current Issues in Technology Class, I became more familiar with Blogging as a teaching tool. I am using this blog to teach myself. Learning by doing is a constructivist principle. “The key to understanding constructivism like in the belief that people learn by actively trying to make sense of information and experiences….They construct knowledge through their interactions with people and their activities in the physical world.” (Tiene, D., & Ingram, A., 2001) By writing this blog, I am learning by actively doing.

I’ve been reading some of my RSS feeds on the subject of blogging but the book I am enjoying most is called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (Richardson, W., 2010) I read the book back in August but I am re-reading it now, trying to get more out of it. Most of my material fro this blog comes from this powerful book.

“We write not just to communicate, but to connect to others who can potentially teach us more.” (Richardson, et al., p28) Blogging is by it’s very nature a constructivist tool. Another principle of constructivism is that people learn by interacting with other people. And blogging is nothing, if not a social tool. A blog isn’t a journal however. A blog is reflective and complex; it is written for a large audience, therefore must be written with the audience in mind. Readers have the opportunity to comment in a blog, which may create a dialogue and an opportunity for increased learning.

A blog is more like an editorial in a newspaper, where the writer is seeking relevance in the issue. The blogger is editor, writer, and researcher. It is natural to be more careful with thoughts and grammar when the writer knows it will be published for millions to see.

Blogging is much different than writing a paper that only a teacher will read, or a journal kept hidden away in a drawer. A journal leans more to personal thoughts and decisions. The authors put it this way. “Writing stops; blogging continues.”(Richardson, et al., p30)

A really good blogger is someone who reads as much as writes. By reading articles, a blogger is reading critically for ideas to write about.  Bloggers “must be able to find connections and articulate the relevance of those connections.”(Richardson, et al., p32) This is higher learning written down.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Tiene, D., & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring Current Issues in Educational Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill


This week I am learning a new software program called Adobe Captivate. I’m learning this software for two reasons.

  1. I see it as a skill listed in the “want ads” for instructional technologists.
  2. I am doing learning it so that I can do a project for my Computer Applications in Education Class, Student Choice 1.

For this project I am supposed to find and evaluate educational software that is available for purchase and convince my boss to purchase it. Then I am supposed to learn two techniques and show I know how to do them. Since I have never used or heard of this program before this week, showing two new techniques shouldn’t be too difficult.

What I plan to do is to make a slide show of projects I created in my Visual Design class (taken last summer). In my slide show I want to encourage those who have not taken the class to take it.

When this project is finished, I will provide a link so it can be viewed from here.