Using Tablet PC's to Enhance Student
Participation and Feedback

Transforming Student Learning through Technology-Enhanced, Active Learning Environments
in Classrooms using Wireless Technology

James Stevenson, Chemistry Department

May 31, 2006

In May of 2004, Concordia University was selected to receive an HP Technology for Teaching grant, which is designed to transform and improve learning through the innovative use of technology. Wireless Tablet PC’s will be utilized in classrooms in a student response system (SRS) which sends information to the students, asks questions dealing with student understanding, gathers responses and displays results. This provides instant feedback to the instructor about the students’ comprehension and the need for intervention with clarifying information for the class. Students will also have software for model building, data analysis and problem solving. This technology will allow increased use of interactive instructional techniques making students active participants in order to strengthen thinking skills and reinforce learning. Courses targeted for this work are Physics, Precalculus, Calculus, and Chemistry in order to encourage the activity participation of students in the classroom learning process.

Link to HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative 2004 Web Page


Traditional teaching methods inhibit student involvement while mobile technology provides tools for active learning, instant and anonymous feedback, and real-time assessment of student learning.
This technology implementation will allow increased use of interactive instructional techniques. The student learning experience will be transformed from one of passive receptor to active participant. Increased mental activity and peer interaction will strengthen thinking skills and reinforce learning.
We have already incorporated the best technology available for Internet access. Wireless implementation can add mobility for students and opportunities for faculty to create innovative ways of teaching. It will provide students exciting ways to collect knowledge and communicate with professors.

Implementation (pedagogy)

Much of the progess associated with this grant is in the chemistry courses. The Guided Inquiry approach has been in use in those courses for several years. The heart of this method is the classroom activity in which the students in small groups develop concepts by working through a series of critical thinking questions (CTQ). One of the challenges experienced in this method is overcoming the uncertainity the students have for their answers to the CTQ. Two methods of dealing with that have been utilized with the availablity of the HP technology.

  • One, submission of journals of the day's work for comments and posting.
  • Two, the use of Student Response System* (SRS) for in-class evaluation of the student's comprehension.

*Link to Numina II Student Response System

Implementation (technology)

In the Chemistry course Tablet PC's are being used to facilitate submission of notes of group work in the classroom. Wireless connection to a shared folder on the instructor's computer is used to save the Windows Journal file at the end of the class. The instructor can then make clarifying and corrective comments right on the file and post it on WebCT for the students to review as they are studying on their own.

The small size and wireless connectivity of the Tablet PC in the chemistry or physics laboratory makes it an ideal tool for data collection using sensors connected to the USB port. This eliminates potential errors of reading and manual recording of the data. The efficiency of this method of data collection allows more time for teaching the concepts involved in the experiment. Data collected using Vernier Logger Pro in the laboratory is saved in the shared instructor's folder and sent to the students' own computers via e-mail. The students are trained in analyzing their data using the Vernier Graphical Analysis program which they also have on their own computers through the site license.

In the Environmental Writing and Regulatory Compliance course the studnets need to access the most recent version of the U. S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). They are instructed in the method for accessing the government Web site and use the wireless technology to access the Internet during class so that they will be familar with the process later on their own. When the students are using the technology in the classroom with the instructor guiding them, the correction of errors is immediate and much of the frustration is eliminated.


Impact on Teaching

One of the goals of the project is to "enhance student learning with interactive instructional techniques."

  • Students used the Tablet PC's to investigate and learn about wireless security.
  • Students used interactive software on the Tablet PCs to develop understanding of conic sections in analytical geometry.
  • Students are guided through the process of writing a laboratory report and submit their drafts for immediate evaluation and feedback.

Faculty members have been pleased with the student involvement in the learning process.

Students have expressed their approval of the learning experienced through the interactive process.

Laboratory reports prepared after the interactive instruction received higher marks than in previous years without the interactive instruction.

Impact on Student Learning

Better Attitudes

It is our goal to see that students have better attitudes toward the use of technology in the classroom and laboratory. We believe that better atitudes toward the use of technology will enhance the learning process and lead to better grades. The results of the students attitude survey after using technology showed less anxiety about using technology and a better attitude toward the integrated use of technology to make learning more effective.

Go to Impact on Student Learning, cont.

Impact on Student Learning, cont.,

Fundamental Knowledge

Fundamental chemical concepts are those that should be present at the start of a college course in chemistry from the prequisite course in High School chemistry and thus are not taught specifically during the college course. Through the use of the Concepts Inventory it is seen that there is a considerable increase in the students' scores over the course of the year.


In chemistry, average scores on the final examination and for the course showed and improvement from Spring '04 (not using technology) to Spring '06 (using technology). A similiar change was noticed in the calculus course for the same time frame.

Sp '04
Sp '06
Avg. Score (%) on Final Exam
Avg. Score (%) for Course
Avg. Score (%) for Course
Clockwise from upper right, students in cryptology (2) biology and chemistry classes make good use of the technology.

Donna Janes (Biology): Having seen what I can do in the classroom when I participated in the production of the promotional video, I am excited about being involved in the expansion project.

Don Zielke: I was really excited to see the positive student reaction to the use of the Tablet PC's in geometry.

Yusheng Feng (Math):The use of the wireless technology in the cryptology course is indespensible in teaching the concepts of network security.

Quick Facts

Dept: Math and Sciences

Impacted: Chemistry, Physics, Precalculus, Calculus, Environmental Writing and Regulatory Compliance, Introduction to Modeling

# Students Impacted: 145

# Faculty Involved:4

This project is funded in part by a 2004 HP Technology for Teaching grant.

Contact Us

James N. Stevenson

Phone 512 486-1209

Link to HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative 2004 Web Page

Donald Zielke, Professor of Mathematics, instructor,

Theodore Zoch, Department Chair, instructor,

Joel Rahn, Academic Computing Manager, technical support,

References & Publications

Useful resources.

Numina II Student Response System

Classroom Presenter software

Chemical Concepts Inventory

Vernier Software and Technology

This project supported in part by an HP Technology for Teaching grant.

This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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