Here at FSU we are approaching a tipping point which may change classroom teaching dramatically. Two technological trends are involved: 1. the gradual move towards a fully wireless campus, and 2. the increasing amount of students with notebook computers. These two forces will combine to bring unprecedented amounts of computers into the classroom.
The administration at FSU is fully behind the idea of Internet-connected students in the classroom. Beginning in the Fall of 2007, incoming students at FSU will be required to own a notebook computer. Training sessions are being provided to assist professors in making good use of the classroom technology. At the same time, some professors are complaining that students will become too distracted to pay attention to their lessons. Plans are in the works to provide cut-off switches that professors can use to kill the wireless signal in the classroom.
I got my first glimpse of the future this semester when I decided to offer additional sections of my Computer Lit class for Mac users. In researching classroom options, I polled the fifty or so interested students and discovered they all had their own Macs with MS Office installed. Further research turned up a classroom with 60 seats and a strong wireless signal. Wow! Hands-on computer classes in regular lecture halls! I realized that over the next few semesters I could begin offering more sections for Windows, and Mac notebook owners in larger classrooms. I will soon no longer be dependant on the few computer classrooms, each equipped with 24 PCs, that I currently use.
The benefits of connected students in the classroom would include the ability to offer larger sections, and for the students to work on their own PCs. The drawback would be dealing with student’s own PC problems. I imagine instructors might be called upon to provide some repair services. It’s easy to see larger implications as students rely increasingly on their own PCs and less on University owned and maintained PCs.
I also look forward to having more PCs in my large lectures. Teaching computer concepts in a lecture hall is hardly what many would call a dynamic way to learn. Students empowered by Internet-connected PCs in the lecture hall will provide an opportunity to connect with them on a new level. I look forward to hearing your comments.