Future Educators in Missouri Practice Mobile Computing

The University of Missouri - Columbia College of Education is committed to producing a new generation of educators who can help children achieve higher levels of learning utilizing modern information technologies.

The college recently opened a Mobile Laptop Computer Laboratory, designed to prepare future teachers to work no matter where they might be located. Richard Andrews, dean, says the lab will allow graduates ìto know how to set up shop any place in the world and engage their students in technology-enhanced learning.

Freshmen Get PowerBooks

The innovative program ó supported by Computer Spectrum, Apple Computer and Dayna Communications ó provides each freshman education major with a Macintosh PowerBook 1400cs and collection of software. The package includes the Interactive Shared Journaling System (ISJS), developed by University of Missouri faculty.

With ISJS, students can create journal entries on their PowerBook, then electronically send them to a centralized Silicon Graphics server, where others can review the entries and make comments. The system incorporates tools for browsing the Web, sending e-mail and accessing newsgroups.

ìThis system allows students to create multimedia-based journal entries of their experiences, thoughts, ideas and reflections, and share them with other students and faculty using the Internet,î says Dale R. Musser, co-director of the universityís Center for Technology Innovations in Education (CTIE).

For the past year, CTIE has spearheaded Project MOST (Missouri Supporting Teachers), an effort to improve math and science instruction in K-12 schools. Funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the project calls for kids to maintain journals much like the students in the College of Education are doing.

Some 350 freshmen are borrowing PowerBooks, which the college leases from Computer Spectrum, the campus computer store. The store purchased the machines directly from Apple after concluding that such a process would be most cost-effective in the long run.

Each PowerBook comes with 16MB RAM, a 750MB hard disk, internal 6x CD-ROM drive and a carrying case. In addition, all the computers were upgraded with Ethernet adapters and modems from Dayna Communications (Salt Lake City, UT).

A Chance Meeting

Musser recommended the PC Card solution after a chance meeting with a Dayna representative at the 1996 EDUCOM trade show. When Musser described the program being implemented at the College of Education, the representative quickly agreed to send him some PC cards to try out.

ìWe didnít have any problems,î recalls Musser, adding that he was impressed with the ìsense of support that I was getting from Dayna.î As a result, Computer Spectrum outfitted each notebook with a CommuniCard PLUS, which combines an Ethernet adapter and 28.8K modem in one Type II PC Card.

The CommuniCard is compatible with Appleís Card and Socket Services, Version 2.0 of the PCMCIA standard, Hayes AT command set, and the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard. Both the Ethernet adapter and modem can function simultaneously.

Daynaís PC card, when used in conjunction with the bundled software, allows students to submit journal entries from anywhere on or off campus. ìThe faculty of the college have put a priority on learning from field-based experience and developing reflective practice,î notes James M. Laffey, the other co-director of CTIE.

Enthusiastic Responses

Laffey adds that the laptop program has become fully integrated into the College of Educationís curriculum. Thus far, students have responded enthusiastically.

Natalie Griesbauer, for example, says: ìThe chat lines allow us to react to each other right away, getting feedback and sharing ideas immediately.î When Griesbauer and her fellow students return as sophomores next year, theyíll continue with the laptop program. In addition, a new crop of freshmen will receive PowerBooks.

John Wedman, director of the School of Library and Information Science, says the program has succeeded because it took place at the right time in the right place. ìSince you usually canít predict exactly when you will need interactive technology, where you will need it, or how you will use it, the only solution is to put a powerful laptop computer in the hands of every student ó and we did.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.