For an increasingly high number of students at Miami University’s Oxford campus, carrying around a laptop along with their books has become routine.
Whether students are permitted to use their laptop in class or not is up to their professors.
One program that has found laptop usage particularly beneficial in the classroom, however, is the college composition program at Miami.
According to Heidi McKee, digital writing coordinator for the college composition program, there are about 100 sections of ENG (English) 111 and ENG 112 offered each semester.
Since 2006, the program has had sections of ENG111 and ENG112 that have been designated ‘student laptop computer required’ and in these sections, students bring their own laptops to class everyday. In 2006, about 10 “student laptop computer required” sections were offered. This coming year, 80 or 85 sections will require laptops.
McKee said students in these sections use their laptops to write, research and analyze texts online.
“The curriculum is the same but having a laptop in class is a huge benefit for the student,” McKee said.
Students have the ability to write on their computers in class and then take their computer back to their dorm where they can continue to write, which McKee believes is beneficial.
“Students need the opportunities to analyze and produce digital texts,” she said.
Yet, traditional writing still remains a crucial component of the class.
“Traditional writing, particularly writing academic research papers, is still very much a part of our program,” McKee said.
Since writing is becoming increasingly multimodal-the integration of text with images and sound, McKee finds computer usage in the classroom to be valuable.
Senior Annie Tarkington took ENG111 class in which a laptop was required in fall 2007.
“I liked being able to work on my laptop during class,” Tarkington said.
Sophomore Julia Barrow enjoyed being in a laptop-required section for both ENG 111 and ENG 112 this year.
“I did think the laptop was helpful because you didn’t have to bring much to class because it was all in one place,” Barrow said.
For these classes, college composition program, which includes ENG 111 and ENG 112, uses seven designated laptop rooms that have special furniture and amplified wireless Internet.
“They are much more conducive to working with laptops and having them on your desks,” McKee said.
Instructors teaching in laptop classrooms have seminars and workshops talking about such issues of how to negotiate the classroom and make sure that students are not distracted by websites such as Facebook.com.
Yet, since composition classes are project/inquiry based and students are very active with their writing during class, getting distracted on their computers has not proven to be an issue, McKee said.
McKee said the Miami Laptop Notebook Program enables students to get high-quality machines that are already configured for Miami’s network.
“It’s really beneficial for students to purchase Miami notebooks because of the service and support that comes with these computers,” McKee said.
In the college composition program, there are over 30 workshops each year for instructors specifically about how to achieve student-learning outcomes while using technology.
In these workshops they try to answer the question, “Here are the learning outcomes—how can technology help us achieve them?” McKee said.