Teaching with Laptops in the Classroom

Portable laptops are powerful devices which can enhance content delivery, student learning, and collaborative interaction. Utilizing laptops in the face-to-face classroom allow students to instantly access and integrate information, including library resources, course materials, and research sites. Most importantly, using laptops in classrooms provide opportunities for peer teaching and group work. Email, chat and other synchronous or asynchronous communication systems open up new realms of possibilities for collaboration and interaction – even in the physical classroom. Furthermore, with advanced tools like CD-ROM and DVD, there are greater opportunities for large amounts of reference and instructional material (including digital video and interactive exercises) to be shared by students and faculty in order to enhance learning objectives. There are several teaching and learning strategies which can be enhanced with the active use of laptops in the face-to-face classroom. Some include:

Sharing Library Resources
The Pace University library has extensive online databases and resources which allow research from any remote location. Having laptops on hand in the classroom will allow Faculty and students to do “on the fly” searches and thus share access to large banks of data and programs for further learning.

E-portfolios and Group Projects
Facilitate the creation of student digital e-portfolios and the publishing of materials online. Laptops will allow opportunities to foster a student-centered environment where students can showcase and share their work with peers.  In-class group or individual projects can be undertaken concurrently, allowing the Faculty member to observe student approaches, provide timely guidance and input, and instantly select and share examples with the whole group.

New York Times Partnership
With our partnership with The New York Times, students can download and review an interactive copy of the paper online from within the classroom. Students have access to The New York Times digital archive and can use any material without copyright permission.  Faculty members can easily use current events and other news resources to illustrate concepts within their courses, lending immediacy to the relevance of the material.

Internet Access
Laptops will allow immediate access to Internet sites from within the classroom by any given student.  This allows each to take individual paths through the same resources, which can be used to enhance and influence lessons in real time. It also allows greater and closer access to primary sources -- such as original texts, quotes, speeches, digital images, official organization sites and policies, and financial or other databases.  Students access an infinite amount of visual information from an abundance of sources worldwide which can enhance and reinforce their learning experiences. 

Access Various Internal Server-based Software Programs
Critical thinking skills can be enhanced and reinforced by the use of specific software applications which, for copyright restrictions, can only be accessed internally through Pace.  BioQuest, which can be interactively used to explore biology materials, is an example of one such internal software application.

Content Development
The use of laptops by each student opens the door for Faculty to develop interactive instructional materials that can be used during class.  It opens the door to think about in-class activities in a new way.  Simulations, role-play exercises, interactive timelines are among the many possibilities in creating new resources for teaching.  Even something as simple as a class collaboratively completing a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet template – created by the Faculty member – as they learn about economics, budgeting processes or complex formula, can make the presence of individual student laptops a powerful learning tool.

Faculty and students can use various Blackboard tools to enhance classroom interaction.  For example, a Faculty member might ask students to use their laptops to turn to a course discussion thread within the Blackboard course in which students had posted their comments to a question posted for homework.  The teacher might spotlight one comment in particular, and ask the student author to elaborate verbally and defend their viewpoint. 

A similar instructional technique, but one that takes place completely in-class, might include Faculty asking students to turn to a new discussion board forum -- or even Blackboard’s virtual classroom -- and requesting brief, real-time responses from students.  The Faculty member will receive multiple responses at once – something not readily possible without the laptops – and then discuss each or selected student perspectives.   An approach like this allows more student voices and opinions to be heard while also increasing the communication modes available for student input.  This can also increase the course’s appeal and effectiveness to students with different learning styles.

Content Delivery
The ability for Faculty to reference resources within a course site as the students look on with a screen directly in front of them can make students feel as though they are in the “driver’s seat” – or the “student driver’s seat” – taking charge of their own learning. 

Bringing in Guest Experts for Q&A Sessions
The presence of a laptop in front of each student together with the use of any one of a large number of free or commercial synchronous software applications can allow Faculty to bring people from the outside world into the classroom.  Subject matter experts might login in during scheduled class times to the course’s web site from a remote location (i.e. their office or home).  Using internet audio, video or text-based messaging, students can ask questions of the expert in real-time, as he or she speaks naturally to students, supplementing Faculty instruction and allowing student to benefit from access to primary sources.  In these scenarios, assigning one laptop to each student ensures that each has a “voice” in these experiences.

Archiving of Classroom Processes
One side benefit of using laptops in the course of classroom instruction are the archives that often result of the experiences.  In the case of an in-class discussion board (described above), much of the interaction between students and Faculty is captured and available for students to review or build upon for homework assignments, and for Faculty to use in subsequent class sessions or future courses.

Ways to incorporate laptops into classroom instruction:

  • Warm up activities -- brainstorming
  • Provide notes, announcements before class
  • Administer online quizzes
  • Organize and facilitate group work
  • Have students gather and share research -- evaluate relevant websites
  • Facilitate asynchronous or synchronous discussions
  • Use Assingment tool for graded assignments
  • Make grades available online
  • Create PowerPoint slides or web pages for presentations
  • Create e-portfolios
  • Conduct weekly assessments to check student progress and understanding of materials
  • Use email to enhance class communication
  • Use video and sound clips to add multimedia dimensions to class
  • Email links to NY Times and other relevant current news as relates to course topics
  • Share drafts electronically for peer editing and for models of excellence
  • Provide additional readings through library's e-reserves.