The laptop initiative: faculty and preservice teachers' perspectives on teaching practices and the learning environment
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In recent years, institutions of higher education have begun to invest heavily in dynamic technological change by creating environments in which both faculty and students use their own laptop computers inside the classroom. Among the early initiatives by higher education institutions to require the use of laptops by faculty and students in classrooms is the Laptop Initiative for Future Educators (LIFE) in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. This study sought to understand faculty and preservice teachers’ perceptions of the impact of the Laptop Initiative on teaching practices and the learning environment after the initial two years of implementation. Faculty and preservice teachers responded to a web-based survey that included quantitative and qualitative items and was designed based on the Chickering & Gamson’s Seven Principles of good teaching practices. Findings indicated that faculty perceived the impact of the Laptop Initiative on teaching practices and the learning environment more favorably than did preservice teachers. While faculty perceptions were slightly positive of the impact of the Laptop Initiative, preservice teachers expressed almost neutral views for most principles. In addition, data showed that preservice teachers with more experience of learning with laptops expressed a more positive perception of the impact of the Laptop Initiative than did preservice teachers who had less experience. The study respondents indicated that positive aspects of the use of laptop computers included: convenience, help in planning courses and doing assignments, ease in conducting research, ease of online communication, improvement in note taking by students and help in staying organized. Issues and concerns raised by some faculty and preservice teachers included: the potential of laptops to distract students during lectures, lack of effective utilization in some classrooms, the need for more training and additional technical support, and the cost of the computers. The findings of the study suggest several improvements could be made based on faculty and preservice teachers perceptions. Limitations concerning the methodology and results of the study and suggestions for improvement of the Laptop Initiative and for future research are provided.