May 08, 2003


The Clemson University Laptop Program was originally started three years ago (1998) as a Pilot program as part of an evolution of teaching methods. Though the program has been in existence for these three years, it still exists in a Pilot state. Because of this, an investigation of the Laptop Program was conducted, and that investigation's findings have become the subject of this research.

Clemson University English 101 and 102, 102-H classes conducted the task of researching the laptop program to aid the stakeholders in their determining of the vitality of the program. Though this investigation was not conducted by professional researchers per se, the researchers gained their credibility on this subject by their intensive work concentration on this subject throughout the Fall 2000 semester. In addition, the research was conducted by those with an inside perspective on the curriculum, being part of the Pilot program themselves.

From the beginning, this research has been designed to aid the Clemson University Pilot Laptop Program's stakeholders to provide them with a different, and potentially helpful, perspective of the program's existence. It was intended to be an unbiased, open-ended evaluation of the program. Though it is understood that there are many areas for consideration in the determining of the continuation of the program, it is our goal to present this paper to help the stakeholders with their decision.

This research is not meant to be the end of a process, but rather the beginning of one. We hope the ideas and insight gained from this venture will open the doors in a quest for the future of Clemson University's marriage to the Information Technology of the future. This research paper is not an attempt to predict the future, rather it is intended to serve as a tool for the benefit of those examining this future, and for the benefit of those affecting it.

Without the help of Dr. Christine Boese, Dr. Cynthia L. Selfe, Dean Janice Schach, Dr. Bernadette Longo, Dr. Elisa Sparks, Laurie Sherrod, concerned Laptop Students, and the Cooper Library; this project would never have made it off the ground. For this reason, deepest gratitude is expressed for their willingness, helpfulness, and desire to contribute to this research. They have been the drive behind this undertaking.

The research of the Pilot Laptop Program is not complete, and there are many facets to it beside the one presented here. Because this research is about the future of the program, it will be up to those in this future to act based on this information as well as other research to determine the best path for Clemson University.

The Authors

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Chapter 1: Introduction: Studying Laptop Technology at Clemson University

From IBM to Macintosh, the race to produce faster, more efficient computers has become one of the nation’s largest enterprises, and has spurred the country into a new computer era. Among those on the forefront of using computer technology are college universities, including Clemson University. Through a pilot program at Clemson, known as the Laptop Program, students carry a laptop computer with them to their classes. It is hoped that the use of computers will promote learning by improving communication between students and professors, and creating a more student-centered learning environment; however, since this method of teaching is so new, there are few studies on its effectiveness. To determine how the computers affect student learning here at Clemson University, several laptop English classes conducted an independent research study.

How is the Pilot Laptop Program affecting Clemson University? English 101, and English 102 with regular and honors combined spent an entire semester on an extended research project to attempt to answer this question. English 102 divided into four separate groups so as to get more specific answers to the different aspects of this study. Each group investigated histories, conducted interviews, collected surveys, evaluated classes, and brainstormed in order to come to their own conclusions regarding the worth of the Laptop Program. English 101 explored the Engineering Laptop Program, the one that has been around the longest, in depth, closely examining and testing claims made about laptop pedagogies. Each chapter in this book discusses the different aspects and effects of the program, the contributions of each research group.

Chapter Two’s group examines the impact the Laptop Program on Clemson University’s culture by analyzing histories, surveys, observations, and interviews conducted with professors and students culture of Clemson. It is titled "From Gun-Toting to Computer-Toting: The Changing Culture of Clemson University." Their research focused on the effects of the program on the culture, politics, and social structure of Clemson as well as hypothesizing on how it will affect these aspects in the future.

The second English 102 Group researched different teaching and learning styles at the university level and evaluated how beneficial the Laptop Program is to students’ education. In Chapter Three, entitled "Teaching Tech and Loving Learning: Theory and Practice in the Clemson University Laptop Program," this group examines the studies of several behavioral scientists, including Howard Gardner, William Perry and Paulo Friere. Using the scientists’ studies as a foundation, researchers then examine how laptop computers affect students’ learning abilities, and how they affect professors’ teaching methods.

Chapters Four and Five examine the short-term and the long-term costs of the Laptop Program. Researchers in these groups used interviews and surveys of students and professors and examined this data to weigh the program’s benefits against the costs. Group Three investigated the short-term consequences of the program by researching where the funding of the program originated from, who was concerned in the creation of the program, and short-term costs and benefits. Their chapter is titled "Conducting Cost/Benefits Analyses: Short-term Effects of the Laptop Program."

Group four examined the long-term effects of the Laptop Program. This group sought out the economic costs of the program for the next 15 to 20 years in order to determine whether the benefits are worth the costs of continuing the program. This chapter is titled "Our Crystal Ball: Long-term Effects of the Laptop Program."

The last chapter, Chapter Six, examines the effects the Laptop Program has had specifically on the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson University. Researchers in this group use interviews and surveys as well to closely focus on problems and benefits of the program.

We hope the conclusions drawn from this combined research will help the reader see the positive and negative effects of from this program. We hope it will also assist the stakeholders in deciding whether or not the program itself is worth the investments of time, money, and energy. Although not without its initial problems, the Laptop Program does have promise for redesigning how professors teach and how students learn. With cooperation from both the students and professors, perhaps it can overcome any initial problems with the program and create a teaching method both parties can agree upon. Through this book, the reader will discover how the future of Clemson University will be increasingly affected by technology.

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Chapter 2: From Gun-toting to Computer-Toting: The Changing Culture of Clemson University

By Matthew Ables, Jim Breitmeier, Anne Hosey, James Mullinnix


Clemson University has a long history of staying at the forefront of the technological race as electronics of all kinds have advanced. This tradition has had many effects on the culture of the University. The Pilot Laptop Program is one of the most recent steps in the effort to keep up with the times. This program will most assuredly have various affects on the culture of Clemson University. Through interviews, surveys, ethnographical methods of participant observation, and analysis of information, our group has considered the consequences of this program and has presented the positive and negative effects that may come about as a result of this Laptop program so that the reader can see how this program is changing Clemson University’s culture.


New programs are introduced and discontinued quite frequently on Clemson’s campus. Whether a program stays and is built upon or whether the program is stopped and allowed to fade into the past depends on how worthwhile and helpful it is. It also depends upon how well it performs the job for which it was created. Almost always, the programs that are accepted are the ones that fit in well with people and have a positive influence on society in general around Clemson. While the chapters that follow this one may speak on the economic issues surrounding the laptop program, or the way in which it benefits and hinders the learning process, this chapter will discuss how the program is shaping Clemson’s culture. How does the Laptop Program affect the way that the students interact? How much time do students now spend in front of a computer, and does that affect the students’ priorities or activities on campus? How does the program draw students into the learning environment, or how does it distract from the class? All of these questions and more concern the shape of Clemson’s culture. Is it shaping it for the better, or for the worse? This is the question that we will attempt to answer. Whether this new program is worth its expenses, and whether this program satisfies the purpose of why it was introduced will decide whether this program will stick around or simply fade away like many others before it.


The goal of our research group was to find what effect the Laptop Program is having on the culture of Clemson. By discovering the effect that the program has on Clemson culture, we hope to help the stakeholders make an educated decision regarding the future of the program. The members of the culture group are Matthew Ables, Anne Hosey, Jim Breitmeier, and James Mullinnix. In order to discover the effects that the Laptop Program is having on the culture of Clemson, we used several methods of research. Members of our research team investigated histories, conducted interviews, sent out surveys, and used ethnographical methods of participant observation for both laptop and non-laptop classes in order to assess the effects of the program.

Group member Anne Hosey researched the history of Clemson University, from its founder to its most recent programs. Through historical research, the culture group was able to determine the basis for Clemson's culture, and the ways in which the laptop program might change that culture.

Matthew Ables conducted the interviews for the culture group. Ables devised questions pertaining to the culture of the University and how the Laptop Program is changing that culture. Some sample questions that he asked were "What effect has the laptop program had on the culture of Clemson?", "Do you see the program dividing people socially?", "How has the change in technology changed Clemson over the years?" and "What underlying politics are involved with a program like this?" He conducted interviews with Dr. Jeffrey Appling, Ms. Carla Rathbone, and Mr. John Kelly. Dr. Appling is a Chemistry Professor at Clemson University. Ables interviewed him because he rarely uses the laptop in his laptop classes. We hypothesized that his lack of laptop use signified that he was dissatisfied in some way with the program. Carla Rathbone is the head of the Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE) at Clemson University; so her interview focused mainly on the technical aspect of the Clemson culture. Mr. John Kelly is the Vice President of Public Services and Agriculture. That interview focused on how the Laptop Program is changing Clemson from an Agricultural school to a University that is more focused on technology. Ables conducted the three interviews, and then picked out some common themes that hesaw in each interview. He used their responses to generate several ideas of how the University has changed as a result of the increased use of technology and to speculate on what role the Laptop Program will play in the future of Clemson’s culture.

James Mullinnix created a survey question about the Laptop Program, and distributed them via email to all current laptop students (see appendix). The survey consisted of eight open ended questions that were worded not to lead the survey participants in one direction or another. The questions concentrated primarily on the cultural aspects of the Laptop Program. Mullinnix compiled the results of the surveys and used them to draw conclusions about the affect of the Laptop Program on the current Clemson culture.

Jim Breitmeier conducted participant observation sessions in both laptop and non-laptop classes in order to see the ways that students in both types of classes interacted with each other. In some cases, Breitmeier talked with students outside of class in a conversational manner in order to glean information about their classes. He did this without directly stating his goals, so not to bias the responses. After the conversations, Breitmeier informed the students of his motives, and at the students requests, has kept their identities confidential. Breitmeier visited the laptop sections of Chemistry 101 section 100, Engineering 101 section 100, English 102 section 100, and Math Science 106 section 101, and the non-laptop sections of Chemistry 101 section 2, Engineering 101 section 3, English 192 section 4, and Math Science 108 section 5 in order to gain information about the teaching and learning techniques employed, and the participation of students in the classes. After the information was collected, Breitmeier reviewed it and compiled his findings.


The interviews, surveys, and observations provided the culture group with information regarding the way that members of the Clemson community view the Laptop Program.


The historical information that follows is based on the works of several authors; Getting to Know Clemson University is Quite an Education, by Joseph C. Ellers, Tales of Tigertown, written by Mary Katherine Littlejohn, and Visions, written by Alan Schaffer. This section will offer an extensive history of Clemson University so that we may see how Clemson’s culture has changed over the passage of time, starting at the beginning.

The year is 1883. The South is in ruins, both physically and economically, as a result of the Civil War. Thomas Green Clemson sits at his desk in the house he has inherited from his late father-in-law, John C. Calhoun, a house that rests on a plantation known as Fort Hill (Ellers 6). Clemson's face is lined with sadness. The last ten years of his life have been tragic; he has endured the death of his wife and two children (Ellers, 9). The Jeffersonian farmers of the south are in poverty, outsold by the larger plantations that can grow massive amounts of cotton (Ellers 9). Clemson is writing out his will by candlelight; leaving the Fort Hill Plantation to the State of South Carolina in the hopes that an agricultural college will be established and built on his father-in-law's land (Ellers, 9). Through his own work with the Plantation throughout the 1840's and 1850's, Clemson has come to realize that the uneducated farmer is fighting a losing battle (Ellers, 6).

Throughout his life, Clemson has fought for the development of schools of scientific learning. The Morrill Act, introduced to congress under the name of the Agricultural College Act in 1857, established that each state would receive 30,000 acres of federal land per congressional representative for the purpose of education (Ellers 7).

Clemson hopes that the Morrill Act will allow for the formation of a school in South Carolina. That this will be a school that will educate the state's farmers, allowing them to break free of the endless cycle of poverty plaguing the yeomen class.

In 1893, five years after the death of Thomas Green Clemson, the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina opens its doors to an all male, all white, military, student body (Ellers 1). Prisoners from the South Carolina Penitentiary are working to construct the campus's first buildings (Littlejohn 1). Many of the prisoners that help to build the Clemson campus will become employees at the college after receiving their parole (Littlejohn 1). Tillman Hall, the most prominent landmark on the Clemson campus, is standing when the first class to enter Clemson arrives. The boys are given identical gray uniforms and told to stand in military formation. They have their heads shaved and are assigned to living quarters. The bells from Tillman Hall signify class and mealtime.

The first years at the Agricultural College of South Carolina, Clemson’s former name, are anything but peaceful. In the early 1900's, frustrated students protest the poor quality of the food and living conditions and the stringency of the military policy by walking off of the campus, an act prohibited by the administration (Schaffer 2). The students are severely punished; over 300 of them are expelled in 1908 as a result of the "walkouts" (Schaffer 2). "Free thinking" is not a phrase that is in the vocabulary of the college's administration. The Agricultural College of South Carolina provides a strict, conservative environment that encourages discipline.

Despite setbacks, the college continues to grow. In 1907, Clemson takes its first steps in the communication world by installing the ifirst campus telephone in Tillman Hall (Littlejohn 32). The installation of the telephone extends Clemson's communication to the "outside world," mainly Pendleton and Seneca. The campus newspaper, The Tiger, is also founded in 1907 (Littlejohn 31). The Tiger can be thought of as the beginning of communication across the curriculum, since it gives students a chance to explore campus wide issues.

In 1914, the First World War begins. Most of the students and professors leave Clemson to fight in the War. The War, while emptying the Clemson campus, gives women a chance to be employed as professors at the college. The first woman professor at Clemson, Mary Evans, begins teaching botany in 1918 (Littlejohn 41). The women are no longer thought of as being out of place on the Clemson campus.

The Great Depression hits the United States, affecting everything from businesses to colleges. Clemson professors face severe pay cuts, but continue to teach at the college (Ellers 18). Graduates have trouble finding good paying jobs; many of them end up working for free (Ellers 18-19). The professors and students continue to work despite adversity. The start of World War II in 1939 ends the Great Depression, and once again empties the Clemson campus. The government uses Clemson as a training ground during the war for the U.S. Army Air corps and engineers (Ellers 19).

Post World War II reveals the relationship between the State of South Carolina and Clemson. Many soldiers come to Clemson by means of the GI bill in order to prepare to serve the growing textile industry in the south (Ellers 19). The college responds by instructing the students in the field of textiles and industrialized farming (Ellers 19).

In the 1950's, the Honors Program begins at the college, creating an elite group of students with special privileges (Ellers 51). Another social grouping occurs in 1955 when women are admitted to the college, and the school becomes a non-military institution with ROTC offered as an option, not a mandatory requirement (Ellers 23).

By the 1960's, records are kept on IBM computers in the basement of Tillman instead of being written out by hand (Ellers 60). In 1960, local fraternities and sororities are authorized by the Clemson board of directors (Ellers 31). The first African American student, Harvey Bernard Gantt, is admitted to Clemson in 1963 (Ellers 45). Clemson is expanding socially, encompassing many different types of people and organizations. In 1964, Clemson changes its name from the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina to Clemson University (Ellers 59).

In the 1960's and 1970's, as unrest and anger plagues campuses across the United States, President Edwards decides to limit the growth of Clemson University to an ideal of 10,000 students (Ellers 125). In Edwards's mind, limiting the growth of the University will allow for a more controlled environment, and diffuse the potential for major problems, such as violent protests, that are occurring at other universities (Ellers 125)

Always ahead in the technology race, Clemson uses computers from their earliest form to the Pentium III’s of today. Between the years of 1984 and 1985, DCIT starts making computer labs available to students and begins using "mainframe mail" as the earliest form of email. In 1995, Clemson forms a contract with the Novell networking system, which allows every student to have his or her own individual hard-drive space on the network and to have his or her own personal email address.

Students without their own personal computer in their rooms had access to these resources from computer labs located all over the campus. By simply signing onto a PC with his or her own user name and password, a student could access their personal files and retrieve their email, as well as surf the World Wide Web and use many other resources.

In 1998, the College of Engineering and Science begins offering a Laptop Program to its students. The College of Agriculture, Arts, and Humanities follows the lead of CES, offering the program to incoming freshmen in the year 2000. The students in the program take their personal laptops to special Laptop Classes in "smart classrooms.

According to Joseph C. Ellers in his book, Getting to Know Clemson University is Quite an Education, "as a building must rest on a firm foundation, Clemson University rests on the labors of the past" (Ellers 3). Clemson's past, and the people and events that make up that past, define the culture of the University. As time passes, Clemson culture continues to change. The Laptop Program is the newest addition to the Clemson culture. The program creates an elite group of students who are involved with technology everyday through their laptop classes. Through our research, we discovered how the Laptop Program is affecting the culture of Clemson University. How will Clemson's story continue?


The interviews with Mr. John Kelly, Ms. Carla Rathbone, and Dr. Jeffrey Appling yielded a generally positive response regarding the effects of the Laptop Program on Clemson Culture.

John Kelly, Vice President of Public Services and Agriculture, said that the increased use of technology at Clemson has had both positive and negative effects on the University. According to Kelly, email is one of the positive aspects of the increased use of technology on the Clemson campus. Kelly feels that email has changed the Clemson atmosphere and the way that things are done at the University.

Email allows information to travel to more people in a much shorter amount of time then ever before. The speed of communication improves the productivity of both the staff members and the students at
Clemson. Kelly spoke briefly on how computers have changed the way presentations are delivered as a result of PowerPoint and other graphic tools. Despite email's positive qualities, Kelly stressed the impersonal nature of emails and how easily they are misunderstood. Kelly feels that restrictions need to be placed on the things that the computer user can do in order to protect Clemson’s reputation. He did not propose any ideas for what kinds of restrictions, but we believe he meant restrictions with what can be said in emails so as not to offend people or ruin the reputation of Clemson University.

Kelly's opinion of the Laptop Program is very positive. He enjoys the fact that the laptop students hold classes in the Botanical Gardens, and stresses the importance of having the flexibility to take the computers everywhere. Kelly also thinks it is important for the students to combine learning activities such as writing papers with technological skills, like designing web sites for those papers. He feels that the Laptop Program brings students and faculty together through their common love for computers.

Carla Rathbone, director of the Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE) at Clemson, spoke about the history of the network on the Clemson campus. She stressed how advanced Clemson’s labs are compared to labs at other Universities. Among those advances is the quality of computers (every lab computer is a Pentium II or higher), abundance of computers, availability of labs over all of the campus, and the user-friendliness. Rathbone said that Clemson is unique because every student has access to a computer (through public labs), their own email accounts, and their own storage space on the network. The concept of every student having his or her own place on the University lab computers is termed a "virtual laptop". Rathbone felt that laptops could be used for some activities that lab computers could not, such as holding class outside of the classroom or conducting projects out of doors. However, she did not feel that these things were a necessity.

Dr. Jeffrey Appling, a Chemistry Professor and the co-author of the Chemistry CD-ROM used by students at Clemson spoke extensively about the use of computers on campus. Appling favors email because he dislikes the constant interruption that telephones cause. He believes that email eases the communication process by allowing him to get information to his students faster and all at once. However, he did not like the fact that his students can use email as a way to send him hate mail, criticizing his teaching or just simply being offensive, as he has had experience with in the past.

Although we thought that Appling would have a negative view of the Laptop Program, his interview proved otherwise. Appling believes that the Laptop Program is useful for some classes, but not for others, and that it is not useful for his Chemistry classes because computers were being used in the Chemistry classes before the Laptop Program came along. He believes that the way that the Laptop Program works has taken time away from the things the Chemistry classes have done in the past. He feels that the Laptop Program is designed to encourage the use of computers, which he considers a good idea, but just not for all classes.Appling stated that laptops distract the less disciplined students very easily, so he makes his students close their laptops until they are ready to use them. He has found that some students can’t discipline themselves enough to not play games or surf the web during class. This could cause a major problem in students’ grades and interrupt the learning process. Therefore, he tells his students to keep the tops down on the laptops until they are working on a project that uses them. He liked that the Laptop Program makes his classes smaller because it allows him to get to know his students better. However, he fears that the smaller classes aspect of the program will disappear as the program expands because of the higher number of students that are enrolling in the classes. Appling reported no difference between the grades in his regular classes and the grades in his laptop classes. He also stated that the Laptop Program seems to bring his students together.

Many of the laptop students have the same classes, and they share a common interest in computer related areas like MP3's, computer games, and web sites. He feels that laptop students have more control over their learning environment than non-laptop students. If students can take their computer anywhere, they are much more likely to use it. One problem that Appling is finding with the Laptop Program is thestudent's dependency on the machine. This provides students with excuses such as "my computer crashed" or "WebCT is not working", when it is time for assignments to be turned in.


Although 374 surveys were sent out to students in the Laptop Program (see appendix), only forty-four of the students responded. The students that did respond seemed to have a positive opinion of the Laptop Program. This could be an example of voluntary response bias, since people with strong opinions are usually the ones to respond to surveys.

The first question asked the laptop students whether they noticed a change in their interaction with other students in the Laptop Program. In response to this question, there were twenty-seven "yes" answers and fourteen "not really" answers. The rest of the questions in the survey were designed to discover more information regarding the interaction between students in the laptop classes, and how it differs from students in non-laptop classes. The second question asked students if they spent more or less time meeting outside of class with students in the Laptop Program for school assignments. The results on the second question yielded fifteen "yes, more" responses and twelve "no" responses.

Question Three asked whether or not the student's laptop classes ever meet in online environments. Most students answered "yes" to this question.

Question Four through Question Six attempted to determine whether or not the Laptop P rogram has an effect on the time the students in the program spend online.

Twenty-five survey participants said that their amount of online activity stayed about the same upon entering the laptop program. Eleven students said that their online activity increased upon entering the program, while five students reported a considerable decrease in online activity. The last question in the survey asked, "Do you find it easier, harder, or the same to interact with people in your laptop classes as opposed to non-laptop classes?" Twenty-six people found that it was easier to interact with people in the Laptop Program, eight people saw no difference, and only three found it harder to interact with people in their laptop classes.


Breitmeier's observations revealed information about the differences between laptop classes and non-laptop classes. In classes like English and Calculus, the Laptop Program has little effect on class size and a strong effect on content. Conversely in both the Engineering and Chemistry courses, the laptops reduced the size of the classes, but held little advantage in the educational experience received. Of the laptop courses, the Calculus, Chemistry, and Engineering courses were comprised primarily of CES students, while their non-laptop counterparts consisted of a mixture of students studying a wide range of fields. The laptop sections had only minimal loss of students, and relatively high attendance compared to the non-laptop sections of these courses. This could be a result of the innovativeness of the professors teaching in the Laptop Program; their classes are more interesting and therefore their students are have a positive attitude regarding attendance.


Clemson's culture is revealed through the history, social structure, and technological development of the University, starting from the day it opened its doors. The Laptop Program, the latest development here at Clemson, has effects on the Clemson culture. The effect of the Laptop Program, however, can be likened to any change on the Clemson campus. The installation of the first telephone, the admission of different races and genders to the University, and the development of the Honors Program all served to change the culture of Clemson.

The admission of women and African Americans allowed for the formation of different social groups around campus. The acceptance of fraternities and sororities and the creation of the Honors Program allowed for elite groups of students to form. These changes in the Clemson culture have had many positive effects on the University; positive affects that arguably outweigh the negative ones. The Honors Program and the Greek system do create elite groups of students. The Honors program, however, gives students an incentive to work hard and also offers programs like tutoring that serve the rest of the community. Fraternities and sororities also serve the University through community service. Hopefully, the students in the Laptop Program will use their knowledge to help other students at the University as well.

Based on the results of the histories, surveys, interviews, and observations, it is evident that the Laptop Program is affecting the culture of Clemson. In general, students in the Laptop Program find it easier to interact with their classmates, spend more time out of class on projects and assignments, and share a common bond with their classmates through their interest in computers. Laptop classes seem to have a higher rate of attendance than non-laptop classes. The Laptop Program seems to facilitate a learning environment that involves not only the students in the program but the professors as well.

The interviews support the theory that the Laptop Program is increasing student interaction and creating a learning environment, since the people interviewed praised email's ability to increase communication between the students and the professors. Although the laptop computer sometimes serves as a distraction to students in the program, it is in general viewed as a positive learning tool.

The Laptop Program is creating an elite group of students. However, this group is elite in name only. Since every student on campus has access to a "virtual laptop" through the University labs, the "elite group" of students in the Laptop Program is only elite because the students have laptop computers that they can take to class. Since the CLE is accessible to all students, it is possible for any class to meet in an online environment. Each student has a space for a personal web page, so the Laptop Program
is not elite in that aspect either. There are many students at Clemson who are technologically skilled but choose not to participate in the Laptop Program. The laptop students, therefore, are really no different from students in non-laptop classes. We have merely been given a title. As the Laptop Program expands, the "program" itself will become obsolete in a way because it will become so large and broad over the entire university. The program will begin to include more colleges, and the diversity of the laptop classes will increase. In the future, every student at Clemson will probably have a laptop, and it will be used in class much like we in the Laptop Program use ours.


The culture of Clemson is changing. The increased use of technology is bringing the campus closer together, allowing for easier communication, and preparing students for the future. Clemson culture has come a long way from its birth in the secluded, militaristic environment of the University. Clemson University has the ability to communicate not only across the curriculum but also with the rest of the world. The Clemson culture will continue to expand, most likely becoming more liberal as Clemson students become globally aware. The changes in the culture of Clemson are probably inevitable, and the University does have the responsibility to stay at the top of the wave of progress, lest they be left behind and drowned by more technology-oriented schools.

The Laptop Program is the next logical step in the technological evolution of the campus. The program will allow Clemson to keep up with developments in technology world wide, and will allow South Carolina to stay on the cutting edge of technology as well. The program, however, will soon become obsolete. In the future, there will be continued integration of technology and learning. If the laptop program expands to include the entire university, then there will be no real need for a specific Laptop Program. It will be absorbed into the culture of the university, just like changes throughout Clemson's history.

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Chapter 3: Teaching Tech and Loving Learning: Theory and Practice in the Clemson University Laptop Program

By Christa Benton, Vikki Garner, Clarice Green, Joe Hecker, Cristy White


In the current information age, technology has been in the foreground of education. Teachers on many levels, from elementary through postdoctoral, have found the use of technology helpful in creating and implementing lesson plans. The use of laptops at the university level has gained much support in recent years and is now a well sought-after tool in teaching. Hundreds of colleges and universities have begun to utilize laptops in departments ranging from the most liberal of arts to the most technical of the sciences. The growth of laptops in the classrooms has developed hand-in-hand with electronic classrooms, studios of learning that provide students network access and teachers with electronic teaching devices such as digital projectors. Since such a radical change in teaching styles is relatively new, the implications are not yet known. This report on teaching and learning styles on the university level is intended to provide insight as to the advantages and disadvantages of a laptop program from the point of view of both teachers and students.


As society becomes technologically driven, the incorporation of computers into the classroom seems inevitable. As a result, the question then becomes, "What are the benefits of using laptops in the classroom?"


Beginning in the BCE era, humans have had a desire to understand the world around them. This desire is what has driven the human race forward for centuries and enabled it to progress intellectually. Exactly how humans learn is a subject many scientists have been trying to understand for decades.

According to Susan Setly, in analyzing the physical structure of the brain, biologists have found it consists of neurons- electrically charged tissue that routes and reroutes electrical pathways. These pathways are highways for transferring information throughout the brain and enable humans to retain knowledge. As humans mature from infants to adults, these pathways grow and reshape themselves based upon an individual’s genetic structure and the environment in which he or she lives. In an educationally stimulating environment, scientists believe the number of pathways is greatly increased. The more these pathways are used, the more permanent they become and the longer information can be retained (Setley 7).

In schools the challenge presented to teachers is creating teaching methods that will optimize the greatest retention of information. This is difficult since humans learn and think in different manners. Creating a lesson plan to appeal to every student’s individual learning ability is impossible; however, based upon Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, humans are capable of seven independent means of information processing, and any number of those will fall into one or more of the categories. Creating lesson plans according to these categories enables a teacher to appeal to at least a couple of the students’ learning styles. The learning styles are grouped into the following categories: verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, music/rhythmic, body/kinetic, and intrapersonal.

In the verbal/linguistic category information is best absorbed through listening and discussing. Students in this category are good at remembering names, dates and places and enjoy telling stories (Gardner 23). In the logical/mathematical category information is best absorbed when students have opportunities to classify, categorize, and work with abstractions and peers. A student in this category likes to discover things by asking questions, exploring, and doing experiments (Gardner 23). A student in the visual/spatial category learns best through visualization, using the 'mind's eye', and working with pictures and colors. They are often good at drawing, imagining puzzles, and reading charts and maps (Gardner 23). In the next category, music/rhythmic, students usually excel at remembering melody, noticing the rhythms of life, and keeping perfect time. They learn best when information is presented in the form of melodies, musical notation, or rhythm (Gardner 24). Students who are good at playing sports, dancing, and using their hands is grouped into the body/kinetic category. They learn best by doing hands-on activities (Gardner 24). The last two categories are interpersonal and intrapersonal. While students in the former category learn best through working with others and discussing information, students in the later category learn best by working and thinking through difficult problems alone (Gardner 25).

Although these learning styles are different in their nature, students in every category follow the same progression of understanding, meaning that as they mature from children to adults, their brains develop in similar patterns. In two different studies both Susan Setley and William Perry analyze these stages and organize them into categories. In Setley’s study she has broken learning stages into four categories: Exposure Stage, Guided Learning Stage, Independence Stage and Mastery Stage (Setley 9).

In the Exposure Stage students are introduced to new information and concepts for the first time, usually by teachers and parents. Since their knowledge is so limited students at this stage do not question these concepts but accept them as truths (Setley 10). Following the Exposure Stage is the Guided Learning Stage. In this stage, students begin to question concepts and develop original ideas; however, they still depend greatly upon teachers and parents for guidance and direction (Setley10).

With review, guidance, and hard work, a student reaches the third stage called the Independence Stage. At this stage a student learns and performs independently which provides him or her with a greater understanding of information and a sense of accomplishment. With further independent study, a student can master his subjects in the final Mastery Stage. In this stage students have required such a thorough knowledge of certain information is permanently retained (Setley 10).

Anyone who has ever been around a young child has probably at one point or another been bombarded with a million ‘why’s. This is because in the first developmental stage, children are curious to absorb as much information about the new and unfamiliar world as possible. Most information children are taught is factual information, such as historical dates, and multiplication tables. At such a young age, they are not required to give logical reasons to support their answers. Because children are also so innocent, they have an unquestioning faith in their teachers and parents as "the bearers of truth... [M]orality and personal responsibility consists of simple obedience" (Perry 59).

As children mature, they begin to discover that behind events, ideas and facts there are reasons. At some point they also realize that their teachers and parents do not have all the "right answers," and that some "right answers" are debatable, such as in philosophy or literary criticism. This causes students frustration because they are accustomed to having teachers guide them towards finding the right answers. Without definitive answers and clear guidance, students feel lost. The question they ask becomes, "How do I find the right answer when I don’t even know where to start?" At this stage students are most vulnerable. Perry notes that when faced with uncertainty, many students, for a given period of time, "pause…quite unaware of the step that lies ahead of him, as if waiting or gathering his forces"(117). This "temporizing" can occur at any stage of progression, and can lead to other progression obstacles known as "retreating" and "escaping"(Perry 183). Students that retreat use anger, hate, indifference or denial as defense to the now complex and ambiguous world. They recognize that there can be more than one right answer; however, he refuses to accept them and instead views them as "bad". Students who "escape" become dissociated, alienated and relinquish responsibility to fate (Perry 191). Often times this leads them to feel guilty, believing themselves to be "failing…his own life" or to see society "as having failed" (Perry 198, 200).

In the passage to adulthood, temporizing, retreating, and escaping are natural parts of progression and in most cases are not permanent. Although the journey may be difficult, it is not impossible. And because students may feel lonely or lost, it becomes important for teachers and parents to support them in their journey. Perry notes that it is also beneficial for students to know they are not alone. He says that, "A sense that everyone is in the same boat will be of comfort as the student allows himself to see the full implications of this recent learning"(108). To enable students to express their frustration and feelings of uncertainty, it is necessary to create a relaxed community where they feel confident. To do this teachers must become less authoritative. They must help to promote a mutual community where students are not afraid of being wrong or expressing their opinions.

As our society changes, a school’s curriculum must also change in order to prepare students into the technological era. The Pilot Laptop Program provides a great example of how technology is integrated into the classrooms to prepare the students for the technological workforce ahead. By providing such a program, the teachers must decide if they are willing to implement technology into the classroom. In doing this, the traditional role will change from the "sage on the stage to the guide on the side," and these roles are found to be quite different.
The traditional role as the "sage on the stage" portrays the teacher delivering a lecture to an audience using notes, in an oral manner. A "sage" teaches from long-term knowledge. They follow an outline in which they lecture, test, and grade students by using a one-way form of communication. The "sage" approach forces the students to work rationally. Unlike the "sage", the "guide on the side" trains the students by using immediate skills. Instead of following an outline, the "guide" uses a tailored form of delivery. This style allows the "guide" to determine what the students know, what they need to know, and fill in the gaps between. The "guide" allows a student to perform hands-on experiments and demonstrations using a two-way form of communication (Wallace 4-5).

There are countless views about integrating technology into the curriculum. According to The Interim Program of Studies for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) a part of the Alberta educational system in Alberta, Canada ", there is no suggestion that technology should be taught as a subject, [however, they feel that] it should be considered as a tool for learning [and incorporated into the curriculum]"(Knight). In the classroom where computers teach the student, the atmosphere creates a place where they "can learn by doing, practice steps of process, [collaborate] in an encouraging environment to create their own products, and compete more against themselves than other students" (Schoch 1). The "guide on the side" role gives the teachers a chance to engage the student with the use of different modalities (for example power point, Eudora, Microsoft Word, etc.), which help provide the specific ways for the students to learn.

Given that the teachers, as guides, have an assortment of flexible ways to engage the students into their instruction, they primarily need help and assistance in order to enact the various instructional skills. Most teachers find it hard to adapt to the non-traditional role as a trainer, because "of their lack of training skills, and fail to provide the appropriate activities for a successful program" (Larson 5). Unlike the students who are usually somewhat accustomed to the new advancements in technology, most teachers are unfamiliar to it and find adapting to the new steps quite awkward.
Carol Ann Tomlinson conducted a research study in 1999, noted by John H. Holloway in the Association for Suspension and Curriculum Development’s (ASCD) Educational Leadership Journal Volume 58, to determine a method to prepare teachers for differentiated instruction, by varying the method in which instruction is presented. In order to make the technological transition a success, Tomlinson notes that there are four issues that need to be understood and supported.

One factor is administering training in the skills needed to work with the technology. In doing this the teacher can teach on the level where the student can genuinely benefit. Having a good understanding of the technology and applications is the second factor. If the technology is not understood it cannot be accepted and valued for what it is worth. It also will not provide the rewarding performance to make it accepted by others.

There also must be support for experimentation and innovation. This is what produces the success of the program. Most teachers do not have the luxury to redesign their course and don’t want to risk criticism by their peers. It will take time to adjust to the new teaching style, which leads to the last factor. Sufficient time must be allotted to learn and practice innovating technology into the classroom. The steps of studio teaching must be learned and allowed time to progress in order to maintain at a level of success.

In a conducted survey by Christa Benton of those teaching within the Pilot Laptop Program the numerous responses where somewhat similar. Many found themselves attracted to the program because the "concept was a good idea"(Stasiukaitis), they wanted to "try something new"(Kanet), and because they were given their "own personal laptop"(Mack). The collaborative learning environment gives more freedom to access materials, and is taking more seriously by students since the smaller class size gives them the luxury to see and obtain additional materials traditional classes don’t receive. When asking the teachers if they found making the transition from the "sage" to the "guide" hard, the answers varied. Some stated that they found the transition easy because they "had previous experience with using the technology"(Mack, Stasiukaitis). Others commented that the transition was difficult because "it was a lot for them to learn in such a limited time before incorporating it into their curriculum"(Kanet), and that they had to "rethink their entire approach of teaching"(Burns, Weaver).

Even though they found themselves attracted to the Pilot Laptop Program, they noted that this program has its problems as every program does. The main problem they all seemed to touch on was obtaining the full attention of the student. As Professor Priscilla Kanet remarked, "Laptops are like having backs [to the teacher and it is very frustrating trying to teach students that are surfing the web.]" Even though this is a number one problem within the program, it gives the teachers a challenge to keep their students focused to their curriculum. The last question asked if they thought that the role of the "sage on the stage" would permanently change to the "guide on the side." As some answered yes and no, others stated that " it should if the students are willing to take more responsibility for learning"(Mack), " that it [should] already [have taken affect] in most classrooms, laptop or not"(Kanet), or that " it is too soon to tell"(Burns).

The Banking Model of Education is a basis for this change. Education is the subversive force that can be a catalyst for breaking out of this routine, incorporating new ways of learning into teaching styles (Olson 1). The job of the intellectual now becomes humanizing in both classes by accepting limits without complying with its confines. Frieran Pedagogy, an interpretation from the works and research of Paulo Friere, an activist for education, applies well to the integration of the laptop program and its goal of integrating technology. The Frieran Pedagogy illustrates a situation where oppression has divided the world into two statuses; the oppressors and the oppressed (Smith 1).

Friere’s research and plans have evolved from people such as Karl Marx, formulating opinions and expressions that will be used in order to re-create a better education system. According to this book, the most important aspect of education should be our emphasis on dialogue and communication between the teacher and student.

The term alienation, derived from Karl Marx, refers only to the process by which a person’s power to know the world is limited. It is the domination of people by power elites, political structures, and thought itself. Ultimately, alienation is the separation of humankind from its habitual practices. It is the progression through which society will be able to accept change from a "traditional" educational learning environment to that of one including technological interaction (Smith 1).

In order to accomplish this, there first must be a previous understanding of each role.

The oppressors greatly influence economic, social and political domination; the oppressed are victims of their supremacy (Smith 1). In other words, the teachers become the oppressors, and the students the oppressed, involuntarily subjected to learning in one way in order to succeed. According to Friere’s beliefs, dialogue is the process that therefore impedes alienation. By not allowing oneself to be engulfed by defining social classification, the concern should instead lie within the learning process itself. This prohibits concentrating solely on the presenter, but more so on the information that is to be presented.

Within the Laptop Community at Clemson University, there is a continual concern with technological praxis, the practical application or exercise of a new branch of learning with technology (Olson 1). Although the focus of each class is clear, whether it be English or otherwise, is the incorporation of this new way of learning actually detracting from the information we learn? By becoming completely reliant on the computer and its programs, is it possible that the amount of care (concern) focuses more on the maintenance and understanding of this machine rather than the information the students should be absorbing from it?

Although most viewed it as a learning experience, the newest problem became coaxing them into actually teaching the programs themselves. Is it possible that administration became so concerned with finding people already within the system that were willing to participate? Has the administration simply instituted teachers in order to create a pilot program? The program in its entirety would be more effective if it were only administered only at its best. Admission into the Laptop Program is completely voluntary, however if the University had been allowed to pick and choose their participants, would that have been a factor in the information passed on to the students? Could it be that because they were not interested in this method of teaching they are depriving their students of lessons they would have learned?

Praxis comprises a cycle of action and reflection. It involves creativity and homogeneity as well as rationality and the concept of chance (Heaney 1). By becoming fully dependent on the machines operations, the Laptop Program is now voluntarily susceptible to its downfalls. Once students overcome their uncertainty and learn to think logically on their own, they begin to address themselves and their responsibilities in life. As they explore the results of their commitment and responsibilities, students also try to make the best decisions in continuing their personal growth. Finally they discover that to live and grow is to find a balance between values, ideas, choices, and all complexities in life based upon personal preferences, experiences and understanding (Perry 167).

In February of 2000, Dell Computer Corporation sponsored the Laptops in the Classroom Convention at the University of Central Florida; a conference intended to explore the benefits of laptop programs. Fifty colleges and universities sent representatives to the conference.

Prominent institutions in this laptop revolution, one of which is Clemson University, sent delegates to present the cases for promoting technology in the classroom. The goal of these presentations was to delve into the issues of whether or not laptops improve learning and how one teaches and trains teachers for these classes.

Clemson University’s Professor Bill Moss delivered a PowerPoint presentation entitled "Developing and Implementing a Pilot Laptop Program." This lecture highlighted the obstacles found in initializing such pilot programs. The areas of concern addressed by Moss were in developing a new curriculum for current courses, finding the best methods to encourage active learning on the part of the student, creating a sense of "studio" learning as opposed to traditional lectures, and enhancing communication between students and teachers as well as between students in the program itself.

According to Clemson University’s Dr. Bernadette Longo, there is much that is gained as well as much that is lost in programs that extensively use technology.

In defining new curriculum, one must take into consideration what is sacrificed by using technology. On many university campuses, students electronically submit their work to teacher assistants or professors, as seen at Clemson University with its Collaborative Learning Environment and at Wake Forest University with its Computer Enhanced Learning Initiative. Both are electronic hubs for student work. As a result grades are posted almost instantly and electronic mail makes the teachers more approachable to students; therefore, increasing communication between students and teachers. The use of a word processor is also deemed beneficial among students who find editing their writing is simplified and less time consuming. However, in an age where grammar and word spelling are automatically checked, often incorrectly due to the complexities of the English language, it is feared that students loose some of the basic writing skills received in grammar and middle school.

At the Laptops in the Classroom Conference, Clemson’s Dr. Barbara Weaver made the anther point that when teaching with technology one experiences fewer restrictions. A teacher may now diverge away from a mainstream curriculum so focused on traditional knowledge. Such an expanded curriculum could allow for an increased focus on current happenings. Also, as Weaver remarked, there could now be "collaboration among disciplines." In some instances the course syllabus must be completely redesigned, as in the case of freshman and sophomore level English classes at Clemson University. Laurie Sherrod, the Pilot Laptop Program Manager at Clemson University, stated the following in her "Extending Classrooms over Electronic Bridges:"
When the students are asked about their classes, they typically rave about their laptop English classes.

In the first two years of the program, all students involved had majors in the College of Engineering and Science. These were students who typically do not enjoy English.

However, nearly all of our laptop students said that they loved their laptop English classes. The laptop English professors were able to assign topics that involved technology and they enjoyed that much more than their previous English classes. They also enjoyed the creative projects that the English classes used. They did such things as learn to use the campus bus system, visit the S.C. Botanical Garden, help with a Habitat for Humanity house, participate in CommuniCon where they presented the results of their projects to the community, and collaborate with engineering and math classes. (par. 8)

The English curriculum was redesigned to attract those who normally lack interest by the liberal arts side of their education. According to Laurie Sherrod, at Clemson University this redesign of course work was successful.

Many universities throughout the country, such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, are renovating traditional classrooms to make way for laptop classrooms. These "smart" classrooms provide the teacher with a main computer equipped with LCD displays, and extensive control over the environment’s lighting and sound.

For the students, the smart classrooms provide each workstation with access to the school's network and any other service provided by the university. As a result of schools integrating laptops into their curriculum, the need for teachers with computer knowledge increases. At some universities teachers are given financial incentives to use technology in the classroom.

Professor Joe Serene from Georgetown University suggests in his memo, "Technologies Inside the Classroom", that "Individual faculty members can be chosen as champions and given some form of compensation to act as mentors to their colleagues for a specified period of time." The purpose of compensation for these teachers is to create an increase in teachers’ demand for the modernized classes. At Clemson University, however, financial incentives are not directly offered. Instead teachers receive a laptop computer and instruction in using different software.

Given the necessary tools for implementing a laptop classroom (e.g. hardware, software, and training) and under the pedagogy that teachers act more as a partners in learning, laptop programs will be able to maximize the efficiency and quality of learning on the university level. Learning as equals, people are able to learn from each other instead of being taught, or dictated to. By employing new methods of learning and teaching styles is an indicator that the divide between teachers and learners can be surpassed so that each gains something from educational experiences.

Education continually consists of action and reflection. Students learn and absorb at various levels, therefore they are more prone to be susceptible to different learning styles. The radical concept of the technological institution of laptops is becoming less extreme, allowing for the expansion of knowledge through these programs. As teachers deviate from traditional teaching styles, the importance lies not in teaching the curriculum, but ensuring the understanding of essential concepts. Through the analysis of the works of Paulo Friere, William Perry, Howard Gardner, and David Kolb, the research concludes that students absorb more information by engagement rather than dictation of instruction.

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