May 08, 2003

Preface

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 nationís 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 Twoís group examines the impact the Laptop Program on Clemson Universityís 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 studentsí 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 scientistsí studies as a foundation, researchers then examine how laptop computers affect studentsí learning abilities, and how they affect professorsí 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 programís 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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