Thursday, May 03, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- last day

My intent to blog throughout this experience got way laid with the end of the semester pressures from school and elsewhere. The experiment is essentially over and the 8 students in my graduate econometrics course have now completed their last class using DyKnow Vision on their Gateway M285 Tablet PCs. Recall from previous posts that in about the 10th week of classes we assigned to each graduate student exclusive use of a Tablet PC. Overall I think this was a very successful experience and experiment and hope to reproduce it again.

At the heart of this experiment was two parallel experiences. The first was the introduction of problem based learning in a big way (second year for PBL). The second was the use of Tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision (first year for that). Both succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and in future entries I will begin to detail how it exceeded my expectations.

Let me go on record as having always opposed laptops in the classroom (including when I was CIO of this university). I thought curriculum had to be bent badly to allow their use and find it ridiculous to see students shove their laptop aside just to take notes on paper. I teach quantitatively demanding courses and other than the running of statistical programs and writing papers (both better accomplished outside of class rather than within) the laptop is useless. I am a huge fan of instructor used computers in the classroom and I have used a laptop everyday in every course since 1995 or so. I did so to display my lecture notes and presentations to the students, adding a digital tablet and later the SMART Sympodia, and later yet again I used the Tablet PC so I could digitally whiteboard. But I found no need for students to have laptops in class. I teach econometrics in a computer classroom and when needed had students on the desktops in the room for purposes of some joint learning. Using SMART Synchroneyes I could take control and display student screens as we jointly worked on programming problems.

In this 1:1 computing and econometrics experience, the success comes from the combination of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision. Students have the lecture notes or presentations displayed on their Tablet PCs and they can annotate them and take private notes by typing or with digital ink.

I will have much more to say on this, but for now let me call your attention to the graph at the top of this message. It is the last in-class anonymous poll that I asked my students. This poll followed a discussion of the usefulness of the Tablet PCs to each of the students, and their written responses to an open ended question. With little attempt to define carefully the responses A to E (with A the highest), the students were asked how the Tablet PC assisted them in learning econometrics, that is, how important was it to them to have a Tablet PC to learn economics. An answer of C or the middle response represents a student that reports a take it or leave it response, an answer that says regardless of how much I like the Tablet PC, I could have learned as well without it. Answers A and B report more learning of econometrics with a Tablet PC (and DyKnow) and no one chose the worsening of learning answers of D and E. While hardly scientific, the honest answers of the students show a very positive experience.

More later.

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