Laptops at university: panacea or scourge?

Montreal - HEC Montreal has been requiring its students to purchase a laptop computer for 14 years. Universities that require laptops are however an exception in Quebec. Some professors at the University of Montreal have taken an interest in the use of laptops by students of the Faculty of Education. Are our future teachers laptop pros?

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Montreal - HEC Montreal has been requiring its students to purchase a laptop computer for 14 years. Universities that require laptops are however an exception in Quebec. Some professors at the University of Montreal have taken an interest in the use of laptops by students of the Faculty of Education. Are our future teachers laptop pros?

It was within the framework of the Odyssey of portable classes… from elementary to post-secondary conference, presented at the 78th ACFAS congress, that various speakers discussed the use of laptops in CEGEP and university classes. The organizers of the conference presented the results of research carried out among 530 teaching students from the University of Montreal.

According to this study, 69 % of students say that using the laptop is useful in the classroom. 61 % believe that its use is increasingly inevitable. However, some teachers are concerned that some students are using Facebook or YouTube during their lessons. However, it seems that the use of the laptop during the lessons is mainly academic, although the students admit to sometimes multitasking.

In class, students who use their laptops encounter certain physical constraints: there are very few outlets to plug in laptops and the wireless Internet network is difficult to access in some classes. In internship, it is rather human limitations that make the use of the laptop difficult. The support of the associate master then makes all the difference.

University of Montreal professors note that their students are poorly trained to integrate ICT into their teaching methods. The faculty themselves seem to have difficulty going beyond simple PowerPoint presentations. The study is reassuring, however, since it seems that the more training future teachers receive, the more they integrate ICT into their teaching.

Informational competence
Gabriel Dumouchel, doctoral student in educational psychology at the University, presented at the conference a review of research literature on informational competence. What emerges from his presentation is first that studies are rather divided when it comes to determining whether using a laptop helps students acquire this skill.

It also seems that students find themselves competent and confident when using ICT. However, the studies consulted prove the contrary: their search strategy is ineffective and they have difficulty evaluating information found on the internet. Plagiarism, whether consciously or not, also remains a major issue in post-secondary Internet use. Teachers therefore have an interest in themselves to change their teaching methods to adequately train their students in the use of ICT.

This conference on portable classes ended with a reflection by one of the organizers, Thierry Karsenti. According to him, it is essential to continue research and reflection on the use of ICT in schools by targeting student success. We must therefore take the time to reflect, while continuing to move forward by equipping classes and training teachers.

To visit the conference website and consult the speakers' presentations: http://acfas2010.crifpe.ca/

To know more : http://www.crifpe.ca/

By Marie-Philippe Gagnon-Hamelin

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