Interactive Learning and Mobile Computing at Rensselaer

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Interactive Learning and Mobile Computing at Rensselaer. Sharon Roy Director, Academic Computing Services Myra Williams Assistant Director, CIS Business Services. Early Computing Initiatives. Computer Calculus Computing Across the Curriculum Engineering Graphics and CAD - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Interactive Learning and Mobile Computing at RensselaerSharon RoyDirector, Academic Computing ServicesMyra WilliamsAssistant Director, CIS Business Services

  • Early Computing InitiativesComputer Calculus Computing Across the CurriculumEngineering Graphics and CADWide and deep adoption of technology since 1990Departmental and school initiativesInstructional Development Program

  • Interactive LearningFewer lecturesMore student participationFaculty as coachStudents work in teamsMany variationsOngoing curriculum reform in Engineering

  • Studio ClassroomsDesigned to facilitate interactionPhysics led the way (CUPLE)Technology-rich environmentEvolving to include more web-based learning

  • Student Laptop Requirement3-year voluntary pilot program1998 highly recommended1999 required of all freshmen2000 second year of requirement2001 first refresh2002 full deployment

  • Student Mobile Computing Laptops required for freshmen and sophomoresIBM ThinkPad T20Configuration and training sessionsSkills assessment and short courses

  • Software IncludedWindows 98 Microsoft Office Pro 2000 Visual C++ Maple 6 (symbolic algebra program) SolidWorks (a CAD package) MapInfo Pro National Instruments LabView Internet Explorer/Netscape Communicator Norton Anti-virus software

  • How do students use their laptops? CoursesResearchCommunicationCollaboration RecreationPortability makes it all easier.

  • First-year courses using laptopsMathPhysics to Engineering Analysis Graphics and CAD Computer ScienceChemistry and Chemistry of MaterialsHumanities and Social Sciences Architecture

  • From Pilot to Requirement1995-1998 designated sectionsMath I and IIPhysics I and II Introduction to Engineering AnalysisStudents and faculty volunteered for the program

  • Fall 1999 ChallengesAll large-enrollment freshman coursesCourses with some sophomores and juniorsFaculty preparation Short time from decision to deliveryClassrooms

  • Fall 2000 ChallengesAdapting sophomore coursesReaching skeptical faculty Growing software needsMore classrooms

  • Faculty Mobile ComputingPutting laptops in the hands of facultySponsored by Provosts OfficeMatching funds from department or schoolPriority to those teaching or preparing to teach laptop coursesProgram in its fourth year

  • Faculty WorkshopsFaculty sharing ideas(and doubts!)Learning from early adopters

  • First year theme: why laptops?Report from Laptop Implementation TeamKeynote from David Brown Examples from the pilot program

  • Learning from peersEarly adopters not always good role modelsDepartmental peer use important source of knowledgeLater adopters need more supportTechnology as a time sinkEase of use, templates, adaptability

  • Reports from the ClassroomOld and Evolving Paradigms in Math, H. McLaughlinStudio Classes in Architecture, M.MisturStudios and Laptops in Physics, P. Casabella Laptops and Studio IEA, J. Brunski

  • The McLaughlin QuestionsHow have instructors changed or improved their course goals by involving laptops in instruction?How have instructors assessed the value of using laptops in their courses? How have instructors increased their efficiency?What do the students think?What time is given up to the use of laptops? What have other schools done? What can we learn from outside sources?

  • Breakout GroupsChem-MaterialsIEAITComp SciMathEMACH&SSManagementPhysicsArchitecture

  • Goal: Formulate Fall PlansClass visitsDemos by IDEA consultantsConsult with ACS staff Software selection WebCTDiscussion among departmental colleaguesReport to group on Day 2

  • Follow-up ActivitiesDepartmental initiativesFaculty release time and summer salariesHands-on training for new laptop users

  • Ongoing SupportWebCT templatesWorkshopsUser groupSeminar series

  • Does it make a difference?Faculty surveyStudent surveyFall colloquium on laptop effectiveness Return to the McLaughlin QuestionsMore needed, but we need to make sure we are asking the right questions

  • Spring 2001 Colloquium on Teaching & LearningJose Mestre, Professor of Physics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Using Learning Research to Transform the Way We TeachBill Gerace, Professor of Physics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Improving problem solving by emphasizing reasoning, analysis, and knowledge structuring

  • Teaching and Learning Dan Budny, Director, Freshman Programs & Professor of Engineering, U. of Pittsburgh.Cooperative Learning and Learning Styles

  • Teaching and LearningImproving Web-based Learning

    Unleashing the power of WebCT:Three ways to improve your course web site. Harry Roy, Badri Roysam, Guido Slangen, and Don Bell

  • Teaching and LearningNext Generation Studio: Connecting Web and Classroom Learning Brad Lister, Bill Siegmann, Doug BaxterAddressing Differences in Learning Styles Michael Danchak, Linda McCloskey, Brad ListerWhat Do They Learn? New Techniques for Formative Assessment Karen Cummings, Debbie Kaminski

  • More Information

    Our support of WebCT Computing at Rensselaer Learning, Student Survey

  • Where are we now?Third Year RefreshFirst Year ExperienceUpper-level classesStill more classroomsUbiquitous computing is the air we breathe!

  • Questions?

    Since 1990 we have looked for targeted large-enrollment introductory courses where technology could make a difference: Boyce and Ecker started using Maple in computer calculus on the IBM mainframe in 1989 to make the course more interactive; chemistry and physics computing across the curriculum; Engineering used CAD software that would continue to apply in advanced courses and in the future. All professional tools that would be used in class for demonstrations, modeling, experimentation. Boyce W., and J. Ecker: The Computer-oriented Calculus course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1 45-50, 1994. Kolb, J. E., G. Gabriele, and S. Roy, Cycles in Curriculum Planning. Technology-Driven Planning: Principles to Practice, Ann Arbor: SCUP, 2000. Interactive learning may or may not involve technology, but it gives students an active role in class. There was widespread (never unanimous!) agreement across the schools of science and engineering that the lecture was not the best way to teach that students learned more when they were actively involved than when taking notes. H&SS and Architecture already offered many courses on this model, though, at that time, not necessarily using technology.Jack Wilson led the way in advocating studio classrooms. Originally, he urged a model that arranged desks in a U with desktop computers behind the students. Our faculty led us to build many different models. The laptop gives us far more flexibility. Second generation studios can be virtual classrooms. They are built on the assumption that students will have ubiquitous access to computing. CUPLE led to more PC classrooms. Our philosophy of supporting software across platforms whenever possible led other departments to use the PC classrooms because of the studio model. Wilson, J. 1994. The CUPLE Physics Studio. The Physics Teacher 32 (9), p. 518-523. Laws, P. Workshop Physics, Learning Introductory Physics by Doing It. Change 23 (July/August):20-27. Wilson, J. and W. Jennings, 2000. Sutdio Courses: How Information Technology Is Changing the Way We Teach, On Campus and Off. Proceedings of the IEEE (January): 72-80.Because technology was such an important part of learning, we couldnt keep up with the demand for computer labs and classrooms. Students wanted to be able to access computing night or day, in class, and in the dining hall. This led to Rensselaers Mobile Computing Program. Students are required to purchase or lease a laptop computer that meets our minimum requirements, but it doesnt have to be the ThinkPad. However, have able to provide such an attractive package including extensive training and support, that all but a handful of students choose the ThinkPad.We emphasize software that will be used throughout the curriculum. (MapInfo and LabView are special gifts.) Some departments and programs require additional software purchases. Linux Installfest. (This slide shows the fall 2000 software.) Of course, the use of the laptop is not confined to classes. Math was one of the first large-enrollment courses to use computing. Back in the 80s calculus was a big stumbling block for many students who wanted to go on to careers in science and engineering. Computer calculus -- Boyce and Ecker seen as a possible solution. Grants from NSF, Kresge, etc. Changed math curriculum to use Maple on the principle that active involvement improves learning.

    Physics -- studio teaching -- changed from large lecture to smaller, more interactive classes. Used CUPLE, spreadsheets, various equipment for gathering data. Karen Cummings and DJ Wagner are two faculty who use many interactive exercises to get students actively engaged in learning: pilot program included both of these courses and IEA. John Brunski also used spreadsheets and real data to help students visualize problems and ask what-if questions.

    EG&CAD-- Solid Works -- new this year. Interacts with standard Windows software. Easier to prepare reports, use spreadsheets.

    Chemistry and Chemistry of Materials. The pilot program was a valuable proof of concept, but it didnt give us any idea of what full deployment would be like. The need to train some initially reluctant faculty. The scale of distribution and training for students. The approval of the laptop requirement came late in the enrollment cycle. Upperclassmen were skeptical of the change, and some faculty, though interested, wanted more time to prepare. Fortunately, we had a program in place to distribute laptops to faculty. Because many freshmen courses included some sophomores and transfer students, we created some hybrid classrooms.Second year we worked with individual departments and faculty to obtain needed software for sophomore level courses. We obtained funds from an internal grant program called Strategic Investments. Included software, consulting and training. Thanks to Dave Brown for the pictures. Some of the faculty attending the workshop were very comfortable teaching in computer classrooms on the studio model. Others were content to give computer-based assignments but were skeptical of having students use them in class. The workshop was a combination of outside expert, local examples, and technical support staff. Interactive sessions to start planning their own courses. Incentives. Early adopters sometimes scare their more cautious peers; they are willing to spend much more time playing with technology because they love it. Second wave faculty appreciate the uses of technology but fear it will take too much time away from their primary interests. They need templates, easy-start solutions, and lots more support. Brad Lister organized this years teaching and learning colloquium as an opportunity for faculty to reflect on their teaching and how they might incorporate new findings in how people learn. Outside speakers and Rensselaer faculty discussed learning styles and problem solving. Technology was in the background and entered the discussions that arose during the two days, but was not the focus of the colloquium. In 1999 the National Research Council released a report entitled How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. This report not only synthesizes learning research from the last 25 years, but also presents exemplars of how this research can be applied to classroom teaching. Joses talk summarized the findings from the report, engaged the audience in the kind of problem solving activity he uses with students. No computers.Bill Gerace introduced a framework for understanding how novices and experts acquire, store, and use knowledge for reasoning, communication, analysis, and problem solving. He demonstrated activities that encourage students to engage in cognitive processes that enhance their critical thinking and help them make the associations and generalizations critical for organizing and structuring knowledge. WebCT is the course management system that underlies the second generation studio. In this workshop, RPI faculty and ACS support staff discussed how it can be used to increase the power and reach of interactive learning; ubiquitous computing is an underlying assumption.

    These faculty all use the ThinkPad extensively in their classes. But this was not the focus of their disucssion. Its a given. Depends on who you talk to! Were facing our first computer swap. The first year experience is a major initiative and a new office at RPI attempting to make the freshman year more rewarding for students. Theres a big emphasis on social interaction and personal development and a de-emphasis on technology. In practical terms this means we are struggling to find time in the students schedules to distribute the ThinkPads, configure them, and train students in their use. More faculty are looking at what the laptop means for upper level classes. We re building more classrooms. But for most faculty and students, ubiquitous computing is taken for granted. They couldnt do without it, but they dont think about it very much. We must be doing ok.

    Upper level courses, which tend to be smaller and more specialized, dont lend themselves to the same approach in faculty training as large-enrollment first-year courses.


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