February 03, 2003

Chapter 7: Conclusion: Insiders as Knowledge-Makers: What We Learned

After our analysis of the Laptop program at Clemson University, it is apparent that, like many new programs, there are initial problems; however, the benefits found are believed to countervail and exceed those problems. First, it is understood that the cost to integrate the program permanently into the college would be high and that the source of such income is still uncertain, but the students are confident in its administration and know that such funding could be found and negotiated if they were inclined to do so.

We also understand that some professors may be hesitant to try this new teaching style, especially when its benefits are still uncertain. But in an era where computers are becoming the gateway of the future, it seems necessary for the generations of tomorrow be computer literate. And nothing provides a greater center for this than the classroom.

The fears or uncertainty that many faculty and staff may also have about the benefits of the program may be calmed when students say that the program does indeed promote learning. It may not be a type of knowledge easily measured by a standard test; however, observation can reveal the studentsí progress.

One such advantage is the increased communication among students, promoted by the use of laptop computers. Through email and online discussions boards, students are not only more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and ideas, but are also more inclined to listen to their fellow peers. In the classroom, when implemented correctly, computers can also create a student-centered classroom, enabling the students to become actively involved in the lectures and not just objects being lectured to. This is a necessity for young, impetuous adolescents who have not yet been able to lengthen their attention span. It is also beneficial because students learn more from doing than by listening, and computers provide a hands-on tool that allow students to do rather than just listen.

Some teachers have remarked that students are less inclined to pay attention when they have a computer in front of them. This may be true in some cases; however, it is an initial problem that can be remedied with experience. Once professors become comfortable with using the laptops they can begin to experiment and try new methods of teaching with them. To learn is to grow as they say, and computers provide numerous ways in which to educate. It will just take time and patience to discover which of those numerous possibilities work best for students. As students ourselves, we are not blind to the difficulties teaching can entail, and we understand that the responsibility of becoming educated does not fall solely on the professorsí shoulders. That is why we are willing to work collaboratively with the faculty and staff to create a teaching style that benefits both teacher and student.

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