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Laptops and Lectures: Mismatch or Opportunity?

By in Classroom on .

Recently, while browsing through my Twitter feed, (@HuckAtPurdue ), I saw an article linked called “Why you should take notes by hand — not on a laptop”. The article was from June 2014, written by Joseph Stromberg.   The article was referencing research published by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, entitled “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard – Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.”

Since I work as an Educational Technologist, and I see lecture halls filled with laptops, this was an alarming finding to read.  However, after reading both the article and the research, I think while I do not disagree with the findings, I do see it as an opportunity to guide more effective use of the technology.

The research summary states: “even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

The article used that research to state: “When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text.”

I do not dispute either statement, but I do feel that the flaw does not lie in using technology, but in the lack of effective use of technology. Both documents dismiss or ignore the possibility that you could alter the methodology of note-taking with the laptops, and achieve similar results to the hand-written notes. The lack of performance seems more tightly linked to the notes being more verbatim and less constructed by the learner.

We need to use this data to do a better job instructing students on the effective use of the technology. If they are made aware of the impact of verbatim note-taking, they can make a conscious effort to make their notes more meaningful to them.  In fact, they could potentially use the audio recording capabilities of the laptop to handle any need they may feel for verbatim notes, and instead listen more intently and make notes only on important concepts and thoughts they fabricate themselves about the content.

All of this ignores the fact that research has shown that lectures themselves are a less effective method of instruction. But that is a whole topic in itself……

Varied Paths to a Common Goal


By and in Musings on Technology on .

Design and Development of Educational Technology  Wk 1 – Everything Old is New Again

MITx is offering a MOOC entitled Design and Development of Educational Technology on their EdX platform. Senior Educational Technologist, Wei Zakharov and Educational Technologist David Huckleberry are co-works on the Innovations in Technology and Learning team at Purdue University and both had decided on their own to take the course. During the next several weeks, they will be blogging on their experiences in the course. Wei and David come from completely different  backgrounds, with Wei being a younger, female born and raised in China, while David is older, male and raised in rural America. 2 starting points, drastically different, that led them to the same point and similar passions and goals at Purdue.  The blog will allow readers to compare and contrast their paths.

David: “ Week 1 was very interesting an nostalgic for me. The title of “Everything Old is New Again” seems unlikely when I think of EdTech and working on the cutting edge. But after watching the videos of B.F. Skinner and his Teaching Machine from 70 years ago, it was interesting that after such a long-time, we still consider real-time feedback on classwork as being innovative and transformative.

My path through EdTech began at Attica High School in Attica, Indiana USA in about 1985. Dr. Curtis Watson, Physics instructor there, purchased the first computer and brought it to what was our “Chess Club” meeting. It was the Tandy TRS-80 Model 4 (http://www.trs-80.org/model-4d/) For weeks we stared at that green and black screen, and really did little more than play Lunar Lander. But I remember the engagement I felt and the excitement of seeing something so foreign to me. Later in 1985, Dr. Bret Lewis, Industrial Arts teacher, assigned me my first Project-Based Learning assignment. I was to use the newly purchased Apple IIe (http://apple2history.org/history/ah07/  ) to create a Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) program from scratch. I would be able to tell them computer what shape I wanted, what dimensions, and starting coordinates and it would draw the shape. I knew nothing about programming and was appalled he had given me an impossible project to complete. 9 weeks later, I proudly stood by as he entered data into my crude CAD system and watched him draw a house floor plan. This was my first success with using technology as a tool to teach myself. Looking back, that one project was likely the seed that bloomed into my career and my passion for EdTech.  By the time I was a senior, Attica had the first programming class, using the BASIC language and a lab of 25 TRS-80 4’s and I was learning logic, problem solving and critical thinking. The BASIC isn’t anything I use currently, but the other skills I use every day in some way.”


I was born in 1981 and raised up in a fast developing country, China. Educational Technology is quite a modern term actually. Initially, it was Electrifying Education which was introduced by 3 Chinese scholars from USA in 1930s. The term is still very popular among K12 information technology teachers nowadays in China.

During my K12, class size was 50-60 students every year, and instructors didn’t use educational technology tools, no LOGO, Sim City or CD-ROMS. At high school, I first had access to computers in the lab, probably Pentium 486. Before attending college in 1999, I didn’t know what this subject Educational Technology was about, same as majority of my classmates.  Interpreted from the name, along with the advent of personal computers, I assumed it’s something about using computers and other electronic equipment for teaching at school.

I had my first desktop in 2001. After one year working as a high school teacher in Educational Technology, I got my first laptop in 2004 from my work along with all other teachers. The same year, the high school I was working for wired all rooms for Internet, built school TV station, and equipped each classroom with TV, projector, and internet access.

China was established in 1949 and opened up in 1990s. Same as many families in China, my family doesn’t keep a long-history family tree. My grandparents and even my parents had very few photos when they were kids due to lack of cameras. In conclusion, as for Educational Technology, the same as other technologies development in a young and developing country, I feel we are so afraid of falling behind again and pay much more attention on hardware purchase than soft design process and educational resources development in the past.

Should you care about the latest FCC rules on net neutrality?

By in Musings on Technology, Uncategorized on .

As a result of last week’s proposed FCC changes, there has been a rash of protest and discussion among the technology community about what it may mean to the Internet as we know it. But that concern seems to end there. The typical end user has had little exposure or even seems to care about what goes on beyond the walls of his home, and that is the lack of concern that large Internet providers are banking on.

What the most recent proposals will allow is the creation of “fast lanes” between edge content providers like Netflix, Hulu, & YouTube and their end consumers. Internet Service Providers (ISP) like Comcast can go to Netflix and say essentially “if you want to pay us some extra money per subscriber, we will make certain your content gets to them faster and more reliably than your competitor.” They can then make that same speech to each provider of similar content, and it essentially becomes an access fee which is what net neutrality has worked hard to prevent. The goal of proponents of net neutrality is that every provider offers the same levels of service to every potential customer, without added fees or barriers to access certain content at a higher rate or better reliability.

In theory, an ISP could even block access to content providers not willing to pay their “toll” to reach consumers.   This is a fundamental change to the way the Internet has operated and allowed the innovation of services to occur freely.

One common point of misunderstanding is belief by some users that they already have to choose their levels of service from an ISP. That is true, to an extent, but what you are selecting is the speed in which all content is capable of reaching you, not allowing the ISP to decide what content is important to you and adjust your access accordingly.

So how do these changes affect higher education? If implemented, ISP’s could approach institutions that they know are dependent on their students being able reliably reach their learning content platforms.  Even though the institution may not even be a customer of the ISP, their students are, and they would be put in a decision making position of paying an access fee to allow its students the access it needs. Refusal to pay such a fee could place the institution at a competitive disadvantage with other similar institutions and cause reliability issues that affect learning effectiveness as well.

These changes will be released via the FCC website for public comment on May 15, 2014. Using the feedback methods they establish, it is the time for all users, not just tech savvy ones, to look at both sides of the issue and determine what is best for you as a user. If you feel that the Internet is a free market and providers have the right to set access fees on their services, then you would want these access charging changes to be implemented as needed. If you believe that Internet access has become a must-have utility, then you would say that it needs to be treated like a common carrier and not a commercial product, and access should be provided equally to all content vendors.

For more information on the proposed changes:


Course Redesign ‘Doubles-Down’ on Student-Centered Learning

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By in Course Redesign, IMPACT on .

Having been at Purdue now for only a month, my experience working with faculty is still very limited. However, as an Educational Technologist that will be working with “Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation” (IMPACT),  I am very excited when I consider the potential this program, and those like it, have and how critical they will be to an institution’s ability to attract and move ahead with the students coming out of high schools. I base that excitement on the type of students and active learning I have encountered in K-12 schools.

Having spent the last twelve years as a technology director and instructional designer in public education, I have worked with students as far down as the future freshmen of 2027. While course redesign was getting underway in higher ed, the move toward more student-centered learning and project-based learning was underway at forward thinking K-12 schools as well.