I'm teaching a workshop on the easy way to get started teaching laptop courses, for professors who don't want to completely rethink their courses but rather move into it one small step at a time. Part of the trick to this approach is that making material available to students on the web and assigning out-of-class exercises using computers goes a long way to satisfy students who want their laptops to be useful. It isn't necessary to actually have students use their laptops often in class.
But the center of this workshop needs to be ideas for exercises in which the students do use their laptops during class. The idea is to try a few of these the first year, then keep the ones that work and add a few more, and gradually build up what the students use the laptops for in class. My list so far of true in-class exercises (not just making available material on the web) is:
- students work in groups in class to solve sample problems
- students fill in a brief opinion survey in class (eg. on WebCT) that then becomes the basis for discussion
- brief quizzes at the beginning of class or after a segment of lecture to see what students understand and what they need more help with
- students spend 5 to 10 minutes doing a web search on a discussion topic and then share what they have found
- take a field trip and have students bring their laptops and write about what they experience on site
- students write tests (particularly if open book) on their laptops because many write more comfortably now with a wordprocessor and it saves the professor from having to read their handwriting