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Collection: Laptops

Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Laptops - An Exciting Addition to the Social Science Classroom

REFERENCE: Riegler, E.R. (1992). Laptops - An exciting addition to the social science classroom. The Writing Notebook , 10 (1), 38-39.

Description of Article:

CONTEXT: The author/teacher asks if "technology - and especially laptops - enhance teacher- and student-centered learning in the social science classroom," and answers with a resounding yes (p. 38). As a member of Alhambra High School's Model Technology Project (MTP), Mr. Riegler and twenty four other teachers received training three years ago in the use of the Macintosh, Tandy computers, laser disc players, VCRs, camcorders, and other technology. The project's goals involved student-centered learning and "writing across the curriculum." The author indicates he quickly developed ways to incorporate these project goals into his two advanced placement history classes. He found that laptops were ideally suited for the tasks involved: document analysis, essay writing, development of a solid background of historical material in preparation for the AP exam, and fast-paced instruction. Each of his sixty students were provided with a Tandy Model 102 laptop for the year on a contractual arrangement, and used them daily in his class for notetaking.

PRACTICE: The author discusses aspects of the following issues: notetaking on the laptops, small group assignments via modem, cooperative learning groups, laptops as a research tool, and the future of technology in his social science class.

Regarding notetaking on the laptops, each day several of his students report on selected topics. The reports are prepared at home on the students' laptops, and classmates take notes on laptops during the report presentation, printing them out during the last ten minutes. The teacher finds that student interest is enhanced, notetaking facilitated, and instruction made easier with the use of laptops. The students are using the laptops in other classes as well, and are taking good care of them.

He also is using the laptops to facilitate small group assignments via modem and student access to a district message and group chat board. The teacher, for example, assigns historical problems on the message board to a group of five to eight students. The students dial on for the assignment, use the laptop to complete it, and present the next day. He reports that this process promotes student interest and involvement, and that he frequently participates in a group chat with the students from his home. He also found that laptops promote cooperative learning. Each student group discusses a problem, with one student serving as secretary and recording the findings. The notes are printed and distributed to the class for use during the group leaders' oral presentations. Another process involves student groups creating and sharing outlines of AP exam review topics. The teacher reports valuable outcomes, including the improved quality of student essays and an easier grading experience for himself (no struggle with varieties of handwriting!). Essays are typed at home, edited and formatted at school using the Macs in the computer lab, and printed on the laser printer.

Laptops proved very valuable as a library research tool and part of a multimedia experience for a cross-curriculum English/social science project. Groups of students were assigned topics dealing with the culture of various periods in American history, covering literature, art, science, drama, education and music. Students took their laptops to various libraries to record their research; uploaded to their Macs; and, after writing, editing, and formatting, finally printed a formal report. For some, the project expanded into a multimedia experience whereby the students learned to use the camcorder, VCR Companion, interactive video, sound digitizer, video digitizer, and videodisc player to produce HyperCard stacks. The resulting presentations used combinations of text, sound, graphics and animation under computer control. His plans for the future include the use of two Mac SE's in the following projects:

Outcomes/Reflections: The author/teacher feels that he has progressed far beyond the traditional realm of the history teacher, and that "technology makes students the center of their own learning. It has an important and exciting place in the social science classroom of the nineties (p. 39)."

CONTACT(S): Edward R. Riegler is a social science teacher at Alhambra High School, 101 S. 2nd St., Alhambra, CA 91801.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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