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Massachusetts Universities To Require Laptops 231

karmma writes: "The Boston Globe has published this article that says that Massachusetts will become one of the first states to require the purchase and use of laptop computers. While several private universities have already adopted this practice, this program will be among the first at publicly funding such a program. Full and partial vouchers will be provided to low income students, and educational programs and infrastructure will be established." Actually, Northern Michigan University, a public university in Marquette, Mich., started doing this with laptops a couple of years back. Having spent some time there, it's pretty cool how it works -- it means a lot more integration of electronic material in the classroom, from what I saw.
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Mass. Universities to Require Laptops

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  • East Carolina University and the even-more-(in)famous University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (both public-funded universities) have both started requiring Laptops for undergrads... possibly a whole year back already, in fact.

    Personally, I think it's a cop-out by the universities. If they want every student to have a computer, they should provide every student a computer, or make them available at a REAL discount through the university system. Making students buy laptops with their own money or financial aid, in addition to tuition, board, beer, etc, can be a hefty financial hit for lots of students.

    NCSU doesn't require students to buy computers -- yet, at least. It still has enough lab machines to meet the demand. Of course, lots of students buy computers on their own, and that helps alleviate the demand. But requiring machines for everyone? Waste of the student's money, in my humble opinion. Are they next going to require them to purchase Visual Studio for programming classes, or Photoshop for art classes? These are resources the school (and the students' tuition) should be providing up-front.

  • And the number one thing UMass Lowell needs before taking on such a lavish venture: To stop phoning in bomb threats to Merrimack College!

    This is interesting, tell me more about it.

  • I'm a student at the University of Mass., Amherst and this is the first I've heard of it. Knowing the University, this plan would take years to design and implement.. the first freshman required to get computers would be starting at earliest, fall of 2002.

    I'd be surprised if the Amherst campus had much say in proposing this one. Most students here already have a computer, I don't see the need for a school to require everyone to adopt some standard. Why do schools always require laptops? They're more expensive and harder to type on. Also, our connection is saturated with Napster traffic all the time. They'd better buy a bigger pipe if they're going to make everyone get a computer.

    This just doesn't seem to fit in with what the school has done traditionally. UMass is a very cheap school, with cheap students. The state has been cutting funding to UMass lately.. I don't know if they'd pay a lot more for a new program such as this.

    Just my two cents, as a bitter old student.. one thing's for sure, they'd better not require me to get a laptop.


  • No, it's probably a Dell conspiracy. What planet do you come from, where no one makes money off government funding? Ever heard of Perot? Peru? Singapore? I'm too disgusted to give a real list.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.
  • Thanks for the info regarding the network specifics, i've not been keeping track of that.

    I agree with you about increased familiarity with computers benefitting non-science majors, this is definitely a fact, and i thought about it in writing my original post, but gave up, as i was beginning to meander as it was. It seems that this is the greatest benefit they will receive. Usage in the classroom seems marginal on average and forced at best. Kinda like the professors thought to themselves during the summer months "damn, i have all these kids with laptops, now, what in the hell am i going to do to make use of them in class". Many of them (even in the science disciplines don't bother). To be fair to the profs, it's a work in progress, and continues to be a pilot project in many ways. To be fair to arts majors, i can think of 6 or 8 cs majors in my time that could code like the dickens, but didn't know how to use a mouse till second year (i kid you not!!!). Like i said in my post, i don't see any problem with laptops in the classroom, but PLEASE, let's make them tools, not hinderances, nor wastes of money & time.

    If you wish to email me, please remove the spam thingie.
  • Thats a lot of RAM for a 386. My first 486 had 4 megs. I was shocked when one of my friends told me he had 16 Megs.

    I only said text mode since I know that just about any 386 will deal with that. Even a really crappy one.
  • This isn't going to save the universities any money at all. It'll likely cost more than upgrading and expanding the labs. They'll need more support and instructors for the laptops than they would need lab supervisors. I think the ideal computer policy for universities is to put a computer lab in every dorm and staff it with the local residents that can get a discount on their room and board if they work in the lab. The best way for students to learn to use computers is from other more technically inclined students that wouldn't mind sitting in a lab a couple of hours a day playing diablo or whatever. If you put the lab in the dorm you have restricted access and can therefore allow it to stay open more often, even 24hours a day if you so chose. I think the biggest problem with campus labs are that they are only open at certain times and they aren't really consistent (at least where i went). If you have a small lab in each dorm the support will come easily from other students that are much more willing to walk down the hall to oversee a lab than going half way across campus to sit in a large lab. Its all about personal attention =) This laptop plan is just flawed from every angle i can see. From Money, Effectiveness, to Utility. Costs more and doesn't work for most students, what Art history major _needs_ a laptop let alone a cs major. woo hoo now i can program in the park. yeah right. whats the point ??
  • Wow, they are still arguing that line? I've heard it before:

    "Og, if we use speech, then others may hear what we are saying! In my day, hand signals were better."

    "If we teach all the kids how to write, they will never develop their memory! It was a lot better when I was younger, and we could remember whole epics."

    "If the people stop believing in the gods, then everyone will be immoral! It was a lot better in my day, when people had proper respect for the religion of their elders!"

    "If we have a democracy, then people will loose their responsibility, and just vote themselves benefits! It was a lot better when we had a king, who could act in the state's best interests."

    "If we teach that we came from animals, then people will act like animals! It was a lot better in my day, when it was something special to be a human..."

    "Slide rules are cheating! In my day, we did long division by hand, and quickly!"

    "Calculators are cheating! If a kid doesn't learn the slide rule, then he'll never get a good grasp on logarithms!!!"

    Anyway, you can probably come up with your own list. I've heard it so many times, I'd like to give it a name, like "Flibbert", so, when I hear it, I can just say, "Oh, you're just being a Flibbert!", and they can say, "Well, you're just being a knee-jerk AntiFlibbert!", and someone else would say, "You know, you are both right...", and me and the Flibbert can just say "Syntha-Flibbert!" And so on...

    (Sorry, drifted off into Marxist Thesis-Antithesis-Synthethis for a second there...)

  • (the wonderful people behind technogenesis) have always required computer for its students, but after my class, it was mandatory for those computers to be school-issue laptops. now, most of the classes that the freshmen and sophomores take DO require the use of their laptops and alot of their curriculum is web-based, but that doesn't stop just about everyone from playing quake, ut, minesweeper, solitaire, etc. i feel that's highly disrespectful, and hey, maybe i'm just annoyed that i take all my notes by hand, but i feel that having to take care of a laptop distracts me from class... i hate being in a humanities class where i'm trying to pay attention but the people around me are jiggling and clicking like mad. some professors do something about it, others think they're just being eager in their note-taking. erf.

    computers in the classroom aren't a panacea [sp].
    Lord Omlette
    ICQ# 77863057
  • Wish I could afford exceed

    Why don't you just try X-Win32? It's not as full-featured as exceed, but it'll let you open XDMCP sessions to other unix boxen on campus.

    To keep this on-topic, my University (University of Vermont) requires computers for all Engineering and Math students, but they haven't had the balls to require laptops only. I know that the School of Business here required all of their students to have laptops because the entire building is wired to allow access in all of the classrooms, etc. Personally, I don't see what this really adds, but administrators aren't reknowned for their good sense and practical ideas.

  • RPI required the purchase of a wintel laptop. For what I spent on my dual booting Linux/Win98 P3-500 with 256Mb ram, cd burner and dvd player, I would have ended up with a difficult to upgrade p3-400 (or slower), 64Mb ram with a 40x cd-rom. It was a major influence in my choice.

    I am definitly all about computers, but it is still much easier to take notes on paper.

    Another issue is that there exists a large number of people who can afford a state school and do very well using school labs for their computing needs; but the mandatory cost of a computer would push the school out of financial reach. Isn't that why they have computer labs?

    stephen byrne
  • This line from the article says a lot:

    "State officials have been in talks with computer makers IBM, Compaq, Gateway, and Dell."

    Macs will be marginalized; the existence of OS'es such as Linux, BSD, and Be will simply be ignored. If they go with Dell, there will probably be some ani-AMD propaganda involved too.
  • Seriously, though, this is a good thing, if only because it gives me an excuse to buy a laptop. Now I'm going to unabashedly troll and ask for opinions here: Windows laptop or Mac laptop? Windows laptop hardware tends to be kind of crappy, but a Mac laptop is, well, a Mac at the core... But it does have OS X, which I have seen and really looks pretty nice. Suggestions?

    My roommate has an older (maybe 2 years) G3 Powerbook - it's 292mhz or something wierd like that. I installed LinuxPPC on it and it kicks ass. With the two included batteries you can get 8-10 hours of constant usage on in, and LinuxPPC is pretty nice. Everything is completely supported - sound, modem, ethernet, video, power management, etc...

    If you want to run Linux on a laptop, I suggest a Powerbook.
  • When I was in college I was expected to write form the very few books available locally and maybe one or two foreign editions, but now I am sure the expectation of the examiner would be higher since my refernce field would increase immensly. Even if the examiner were complacent works of co-students (the serious ones) would lead to it. And ofcourse the examiners life isn't any easier for he may not be sure whether the student is speaking in terms of the latest developments unless he too puts in more effort. So its going to make everyone work more and yet doubt whether it is sufficient.
  • There was a recent story on MSNBC's (the TV station, not the site) _Home_Page_ show. It was about some high school or junior high school that is requiring students to have a PDA. The student's have to obtain the devices on their own, either by buying or renting one, although there is an assistance program available to them.

    After the story, one of the "reporters" hosting the show made this brilliant comment: "I'm all for them as long as they don't replace learning".

    I don't advise that you watch this show unless you have had a lobotomy. I think I lost brain cells.

  • Ok People, I realize that MSU [] isn't the largest school in michigan... Oh wait, it is.
    Then I guess it doesn't have any sports teams to make you remember it... Oh wait. it does& lt;/a> []
    Look... MSU instituted this policy for all incomming freshman at the start of this school year..... well shoot me with a stick
    The only article I found on the net was this one [].

    Anyhow.. just trying to give my alma mater it's Due Props.
  • From what I see here on campus where it isn't required, doing other homework, chatting, and games. People IM me to say they are in class and bored... Also most places that have laptop type campuses have wireless so connections aren't a hassle.
  • Blame Canada! If you would get off your lazy canuck ass and read the article you'd realize that we are talking about a government stating that all public university students within the state need laptops. This is completely different from an insignificant unknown private university in Canada. Do you think Acadia was the first university ever to require students have laptops? I hope you aren't that blind.

    I also feel sorry for your students hearing that your math students use Maple. Maple and Matlab are far more useful to non-mathematicians. Most universities I know of treat math students to Mathematica. The standard software package for pure mathematics. Maple and Matlab are incredibly useful and should be required in the Physics as well as Engineering programs. It's too bad your school is so far behind.

    I use vi and xemacs. One is faster, one has better features. You obviously have chosen your camp.

  • I keep hearing reports of shortages of LCD's that are keeping the prices of laptop and PDA's up and keeping supply low. Would 18,000 new laptop users every year be enough to exacerbate this situation>
  • I'd use it to take notes on. My tendonitis flares up when I write, but I can type for hours without any trouble.
  • dude, I go to RPI too
    and frankly, I don't WANT a laptop...
    they suck next to a desktop...are more expesnive, harder to easily upgrade, crappy screen, crappy keyboard, crappy mouse button/pad, battery that runs out if u forget to plug it in

    i hate everything about laptops...I'm glad I wasn't part of the freshman year that made laptops required. I have two computers, but you'll _never_ see me with a laptop. And I'm disgusted to think they would force such crap upon those of us that prefer desktops (caus frankly, some people can't afford both)

    and very much like the napster issue, I think classroom laptops would be used more for leisure/gaming/fun/diverting purposes than real useful ones (not to say some ppl wouldn't actually use them for work purposes)
  • The shool should require all students to have a computer. Not a laptop. It really isn't needed in a educational fasility. Even as a Computer Science Major. The typing would be distractive (by noise) compared to just written notes. God help you if you start if you have to draw a diagram with the the little nobby thing between the "G" & "H" key. Or use the touchpad. A full day of classes can reach around 8 hours. I dought the battery can last that long. Or having to change bateries in the middle of class dosent help too. How about theft? Student A has 400mhz laptop. Student B had a 700mhz laptop. Same brand and model. Just to the old switch-a-roo and bang instand upgrade. And most importantly with the money I spend on a laptop how can a student gather enough money to buy themself a Sun Ultra sparc!
  • I apologize, I gave you my 2 minute debate answer and not my 10 minute essay answer, because I only had the two minutes to spare. I agree with your criticism and PK's [] , and I think moderation was working in this case - your comment got a 5, mine just has a 2. Anyway, I've got some more time, so here's the longer version:

    Your experience is the experience of several other Slashdotters, including myself. I, too, was in the high-school classes that drilled actual knowledge and understanding instead of rote memorization and relying on developed tools. Often, however, the path to understanding was through memorization, and we were required for the math classes to have advanced calculator models (TI-82, though many opted for the more advanced versions). As I understand it, the best classes haven't changed - The teacher goes through the theory, creating the proofs along the way, and tries to determine if he or she explained it adequately. We then test this theoretical knowledge through problems, working from trivial problems to the advanced ones. The tests came in two flavors - endurance tests where we had to prove we could solve average problems in a timely manner, and brain twisters, that tested our knowledge of the theory.

    Although this seems to describe a math class, it was the method used in other classes as well. In Chorus, we practiced the scales and learned harmonies for songs we already knew, but also had to practice reading sheet music cold, trying out for a part, and doing solo work. In English classes, we had to comment on classic works (often enlightened by the best of the critical essays), but also try our own hands at writing short stories. In history, we proved we had memorized the facts, but also that we understood the arguments, by trying to argue from their perspective (it was interesting to write a fictional letter from a papist official who agreed with the condemning of Galileo, and it was certainly enlightening). Those of us who recognize that we received a good education treasure these memories, and pity those whose memories of school were just trying to get through the day, either because the work was not challenging or incomprehensible.

    Perhaps you had the same experience I had going to college - disappointment. I expected that only the best and brightest from high schools would make it, that it would be a place that, for once, learning would be the highest goal, and the lesser considerations - social life, athletics, and trouble-making were low on my personal list - would be put in their place. I found that college, in many respects, was worse than high school - at least in my freshman opinion.

    I was appalled by the reliance on calculators and computers in my first few math classes (I retook calculus, because I thought it would be harder and/or purer in college - I should had known better after the first day). It seems there has been a "revolution" in higher math education, where the old theory-based style has been replaced with a greater reliance on graphs and computers, which are supposed to complement the material. In my opinion, your worst fear comes true - most students approach problems as a data-entry exercise, to try to get the tools to come up with the correct answer.

    Now, I used the tools and the calculators, but I believe I was using them in the spirit first intended. For difficult problems, I could manipulate the tools to give me the right answer, then, secure in knowing my destination, I could work toward it, using the theory. If I had an intuitive insight, I could back it up by calculating several important points across the domain with relative ease. Finally, I could turn that math into pretty pictures, which is what the real world wants, anyway.

    I've come to the realization that the same technology can be used as a crutch for the average guy, a tool for the above-average person, and a stepping stone for the gifted. In any engineering class, 75% of the people will be using those laptops to do the work for them, 20% will be using them in the spirit intended, and 5% will be writing the next generation of tools. If we went back to slide rulers, it would be the same way. (Feel free to play with those numbers to fit your own beliefs)

    What the new tools does do is allow the average student to access much more difficult problems, the above average student to do the harder problems even more efficiently, and the gifted ones to create better tools and abstractions. And I believe this is a Good Thing, even if it causes the ranks of the average to swell. With the world the way it is, we need all those average folks, and, if we can give them better tools to make their data entry easier and more efficient, more power to them.

    Further, I think it is unrealistic for us to expect that everyone has to be some sort of renaissance man or philosopher king. I'm very happy that I can program away without really understanding set theory or number theory, beyond what I need so that binary math makes sense. Someday, I may go back to school and pick up those missing pieces in Math and Physics, so that I really understand my tool of choice inside and out. But for now, I'm happy in state of partial ignorance, using computers I understand more than most but less than some. I'll leave it to the kernel programmers and the materials engineers at AMD for now, and pick up what I need when I need it.
    At the same time, I understand that the true innovations come from vertical knowledge, and that most of my knowledge is in the horizontal dimension, and that some day I may change that (sorry if that made no sense).

    Re-reading your initial comment, I realize I wasn't aiming my comment at you, but the extremist who thinks new tech is Bad because the users don't even understand what they are doing, because it gets results without work. I have to think that our opinions are a lot closer than I first thought.

    Do you see why sometimes I go for the short answers?
  • I don't think it's blind technophilia . . . laptops can be rather useful in the classroom . . . ask any Rose-Hulman student . . . of course, Rose-Hulman was one of the first schools that required all students to have laptops, and they're a small enough school that they were able to put network jacks in at every seat and projectors in every room . . . I have a hard time thinking that most public schools have the resources to do this . . .

    My school, the University of Cincinnati, is currently "requiring" that all engineering freshman have a laptop . . . not a truly enforceable policy though . . . and unlike Rose-Hulman, my school doesn't have the infrastructure for this . . . yeah, they've started wireless networking but it's not available in all the engineering buildings . . . and I've seen some of my professors try to use computers . . . I shudder to imagine some of them trying to integrate computers into their lesson plans . . .

    Rose-Hulman also has a wondreful support program, where you can basically swap laptops if anything goes wrong with yours . . . At Rose this is important since the laptops are integral . . . perhaps support won't be such an issue when the laptops aren't really integrated into the classroom . . . though if they're not integrated into the classroom, why bother?

    Another reason my school is currently pushing for laptops is that some people want to eliminate computer labs in general. Computer labs are horribly expensive to maintain, and if every student had a laptop, then there would be no need for them . . . though this logic seems slightly flawed . . . I'd much rather work at a full size keyboard and desktop than a laptop . . .

    Another problem with requiring laptops is that laptops are behind the technology curve to begin. My school's engineering program is a five year program. Now how many of you think these laptops will be worth anything by the time an incoming freshman graduates? Especially for engineering students who are going to be running demanding applications . . .

  • Mandating laptops is all well and good, but for what? Will they insist that it's from one particular manufacturer, and that it runs their mandated OS and software (and we all know what that'll be), or will students be given the choice?

    I'm getting quite interested in the answer to this question as the whole story never mentions the price of software. This would mean only free software could be installed on them.

    Ok, in reality at least part of the laptop will probably have some sort of windows install. A quick browse of the umass LAN support pages [] suggest it's a Novell shop. But with their own local redhat mirror [] so they promote 'choice' in operating systems.

    All I am getting interested in is, are they going to support wireless LAN ?

    I used to work in a university and one of our 'very far future' ideas was to support wireless lan for students who brought their own laptops and wireless nics to save on computer rooms.

  • Backpacks with padded sections for laptops are readily available. And my current laptop (which I got for free, but probably is worth $150 -- it's an old K5-133 with 32MB ram and a 2 gig HD) is no heavier than two or three spiral bound notebooks, and is significantly lighter than my three ring binder fully loaded with paper (mostly used for archiving printed stuff)

    I suppose, if you retain information better if you write it down (I can't write and listen at the same time. And I write slowly enough that if I try to write one bit, I miss the next four bits of lecture) then writing it down is probably better for you for notetaking (I have an amazing grasp of the obvious, eh?) but there's still advantages of having a laptop.

    And just wait until we get real useful handwriting recognition :P

  • I'm a UMass student. They would most likely support either Windows or MacOS. They allow you to use almost anything you want (there are many linux people here) but there is a very limited set of applications the helpdesk supports (Netscape or IE for web, Eudora, Netscape, OE or PINE for e-mail, etc)

  • The University of Mississippi [] has been doing this for years in their graduate program. I know there were plans for undergraduate requirements up to two years ago...not sure if they've been implemented.
  • I think reqired laptops and more motion toward the integration of technology and education is a great step. Having taught and been taught in classrooms where computers are used heavily, there is much that technology can do in the way of making learning easier and bringing examples directly to you.

    I am somewhat concerned, however, that this sort of thing could become bogged down in bureacracy, with idiotic requirements like trying to restrict the laptop make to a single manufacturer or specific model. It would also be important to take steps to ensure that this technology will be used, as many may profs and students may see the technology as a toy and of no practical value.
  • Hey there Mister. Yes. You in the 4th row. Is that a headset you're wearing? It sure looks like one.

    Take off those sunglasses please. Bring them up to the front so that I can see them. Just what I thought. Another game of Quake during differential equations.
  • I went to a talk given by an Arcadia faculty member. He discussed the problems that follow when 20-30 undergrads bring their laptops to class and are on the network - irc, email, games, etc. Chat rooms set up for class use degenerated into discussions about the cute guys (yes, he said that the chat room users were almost entirely female).

    There were plusses though - his history survey course had no textbook, only a syllabus with links to web pages/projects (mainly hosted/funded by other universities). Groups in the class were assigned projects that they had to collaborate on during the course of the week - either face-to-face or electronically.

    As for the need for laptops (vs. desktops), consider collaborative work or *gasp* studying in the library - you might want to have your computer handy when engaged in these activities.

  • it was 1984, and laptops were the size of todays desktops, and they were known as portables, but weighed alot, I suppose. The Mac was the new rage. Ethernet.. huh? Internet... wha???? I love Marquette, MI (lived there for a few years- still have hippy friends there....I'll be back..'der, eh?..) the University was best in the summer, when the students went back across the bridge, and the pathways were clear to bike as fast as I could.....except for an occasional goose. and the Lake... ahhhhh.. nothing better.....
  • The operating system is the least that concerns me. I am much more worried about the students that are at the mercy of the "educators" who decided that laptops are beneficial to students. I doubt the study you were in was the only one of it's kind and I doubt the research found a benefit to having laptops. I think these studies are very important. I sure as hell wouldn't lug it around to my classes and worry about taking notes on it. I went to a very good university for undergrad and grad school (it was a top engineering school) and never once had to bring a textbook to class except for one of my humanities classes. Digital books I could do without. Give me a paper and a pencil and a good teacher.
  • The writer didn't claim that Mass was the first school to do so, he claimed that they were the first major public institution to do so - Acadia hardly fits that criteria...

    As a Canadian I'm all for the pride thing but I can't agree with your misguided criticism here.

  • When my brother went to UVM he had to buy a computer. It was $3000 dollar IBM microchannel 386 which he paid for over his 4 years there. When he graduated it was so slow it was next to useless.

    When I was at UMass we could use the Engineering computer lab which was chock full of fine 486s and dot matrix printers..We could use them 24x7 by getting a key from the dept.

    I don't see how requiring computers helps anything.

  • "He estimated that the state could cut the price of a good laptop computer to about $1,200, which students would pay directly to the vendor. State officials have been in talks with computer makers IBM, Compaq, Gateway, and Dell."

    A very nice example of computer industry lobbying masquerading as a "for the public good" law... and everyone will be running Windows.

    If one could bring UMass into sync with the rest of the world by requiring laptops, it would have been done already. They have other priorities right now that they need to fix. For them, it is all a matter of getting subsidies from the state... and helping out their public image.

    Cambridge, MA

  • As a Mississippi State student with a laptop, I often use it to take notes in class. This works best when the teacher posts a .pdf of the notes, and I use Acrobat to type notes on theirs. In addition, I have been in class MANY times and a teacher gives out a URL... I can go see that page right then and see what they are talking about rather than waiting until I get home and probably forgetting to go to the site. Another use is to do my labs, as I can never get a computer in the labs. When I do get a lab computer, they are slow and I often can't do what I need to because of the restrictions on it. I have sat in our Student Union many times working on my labs while eating lunch, something that no computer lab on campus would even consider.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @04:59AM (#700208) Journal
    This is a decision only a non-imformed administrative council could love. I'm sure the pitch was something along the lines of: We can stop buying computers for labs since every student will have their own computer. We won't have to buy expensive servers to store student files since they will have their own storage. We won't have to back up their data since they will be responsible for their own data.

    This seems to me like a giant step backwards. The idea of physically carting around your data in a bulky laptop from dorm to class to lab is ridiculous... Data like this should be accessible from anywhere from any machine as long as the correct security credentials are supplied...

    This also means that all students will have to purchase licenses for each software package they ever want to learn. What if I want to go to a lab and try my hand at AutoCAD 2000? In a typical university, just go to the CAD lab and try it out. Now you'd have to go out and buy a copy for your own laptop.

    The support logistics also seem like a nightmare. For example, where will a student turn when they attempt to install a parallel-port zip drive to their laptop and it blue-screens during the next boot, making all of their data inaccessible? (We had a real problem where I work with that. For some reason, external parallel-port zip drives and NT 4 just don't get along very well... Loads of BSOD problems after a reboot after an install. We finally had to ban the things...)

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    ____ bedroom
    ____ bathroom
    ____ kitchen
    ____ shed

    Model and year of your pickup: 196_

    Do you have a gun rack?
    (_) Yes (_) No;
    If no, please explain:

    Newspapers/magazines you subscribe to:
    (_) The National Enquirer
    (_) The Globe
    (_) TV Guide
    (_) Soap Opera Digest
    (_) Rifle and Shotgun

    Number of times you've seen a UFO:_____

    Number of times in the last 5 years you've seen Elvis:_____

    Number of times you've seen Elvis in a UFO:_____

    How often do you bathe:
    (_) Weekly
    (_) Monthly
    (_) Not Applicable

    Color of eyes:

    Color of hair:
    (_) Blond
    (_) Black
    (_) Red
    (_) Brown
    (_) White
    (_) Clairol

    Color of teeth:
    (_) Yellow
    (_) Brownish-Yellow
    (_) Brown
    (_) Black
    (_) N/A

    Brand of chewing tobacco you prefer:

    How far is your home from a paved road?
    (_) 1 mile
    (_) 2 miles
    (_) just a whoop-and-a-holler
    (_) road?
  • sigh... why do i never catch typos until after I hit submit and never during preview? s/imformed/informed/
  • See subj:
  • The OU College of Engineering [] has required laptops for its students for several years. We actually have a (growing) wireless network spreading across campus, where students can access all of our servers and their data files, as well as the WWW. On a nice day, you can walk by Engineers' Court and see students sitting outside by the fountains or under the trees working on projects or just surfing the web.

    We use the system for more than e-mail, however. Several courses use a BlackBoard [] collabaration website to work on projects, turn in and grade daily grades, and supplement the classroom lectures.

    If you are interested in learning more, check out The Engineering Computer Network's Website [], or our laptop requirements for the past year at this page [] from the FAQ.

    Go Sooners!

    Mike Hollinger
  • Obviously, Hemos skipped English classes at NMU.
  • I've seen this done in a small private institution, and the students there loved it. Rose-Hulman is a college of about 2500 students, and it's tech-majors only (engineering, computer science, etc.). All students are required to buy the same laptop. At first, this turned me off, and then they told me that they had an on-campus repair center with plenty of spare parts, so they could replace whatever broke on the spot.

    Of course, never believe the hype. So I talked with students. One student told me her screen or something got damaged, she took it in to the repair center, and they swapped out her hard drive and put it in a spare and she was out in no time. And since the college knew that students would make use of it, a lot of the classrooms have power and ethernet jacks in the desks (so no hunting for that).

    To address the teaching issues: I sat in on a Calculus class, and at the time, the teacher was covering three-dimensional integrals. It's fairly difficult to draw those on the board (shading is a _pain_), but Mathematica can do decent renderings fairly quickly. Now I can hear all of you saying, "Great, so now they only know what it looks like if the computer shows them!". No, it doesn't have to be that way. My HS calculus teacher would let us use calculators during lecture, but no calculators could be used on the exams. So we could use the calculators to "play" with ideas and test them, and get a deeper understanding of the theories. But come test time, it was us against the test, with only a #2 pencil to help us.

    That's how teaching should be handled. Use all of the tools available to help students understand the material. But once it's time to test the student, make sure you're testing they're abilities to comprehend, not they're abilities to use the tools (unless teaching the tools are explicitly part of the course, which should be rare).

    And actually, I've just recently decided that my next computer is going to be a laptop. I go to Virginia Tech, and I end up with a lot of small blocks of spare time. If I had my work with me, I could get something accomplished, but the blocks aren't big enough for me to make it back to my room, get work done, and then get to where I need to be next.
  • ...that I could've had a sponsored laptop when I went to univiersity...

    Life would have been much easier then... :)

    ...or I would've just played more video games.

  • Okay, so they need computers. Why do they need to be laptops?

    -Laptops are expensive to purchase
    -expensive to upgrade (if possible)
    -Are easily Stolen
    -have keyboards that suck.
    -suck for taking notes when math symbols are needed. (which is damn near any class of mine)
    -Don't run most of the 'hard core' applications I would need as a Mechanical Engineer. I doubt I'll ever run a fininte element analysis on a laptop with only 128 megs of Ram when our school has Dual Processor Sparcstations available with 1 gig+ of RAM

    Why not just have a few computer labs available for students (like the current system). Sparcstation labs for me, Linux labs for the Hardcore C.S. students, Macs for the hippies, and Windoze labs for the losers.

    I would argue that computer labs (with regular computers) would be a much cheaper way to run a school. Backups are run nightly, SysAdmins can fix a zillion computers at a time, and you don't have to worry as much about a computer problem right before exam time.

    And what software will I be required to purchase? Wouldn't it make more sense to have 100 computers available for every 300 or so students. I Doubt all 300 students will need the computers at any given time.

    I say make the laptops recommended, but optional. Maybe make everybody buy palm pilots with those full size keyboards. Palm Pilots are truely portable, and would more than likely be used for work and not goofing off.
  • by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:09AM (#700217) Journal
    Recall the time limited textbook issue? []

    Seriously, if I were an undergrad again, (Lord have mercy), I would not like being required to obtain two grand's worth of easily stolen gear when there are other, better ways to use comptuer technology in education.

    Not every topic requires computing, let alone mobile computing, shakedowns like this open the path for time limited textbooks, and desk top computers are not as easily stolen.

    Blind technophilia is not leading edge.
  • i think that the more important aspect is the fact that more material will go online therefore allowing the students to pay attention in class rather than wasting an hour attempting to write down what the prof is saying.

    this is my situation at school, all my cs courses have the notes online, so rather than take notes, we dicuss.
    on the other hand my religious studies courses (required) nothing is online, so i write like a bastard trying to get the ideas down.
  • by clinko ( 232501 )
    I recently went to a DELL meeting that said that everyone at UT will eventually have to buy 1 particular model of their DELL laptop or 1 model of their desktop. It's part of their tuition according to DELL. The reasoning is that the tech guys will know exactly what is wrong with them and they could fix them when there is a complaint. This is the best part, they all link up to DELL's portal to buy College Supplies. I believe this is in plans for next year.
  • I can see this happening -- infact, I do this anyway, but with a laptop that I provide.

    -Mr. Macx

  • "as well as everything humanity is doing right now, " Now that's a bit rich......
  • Rennselaer Polytech is halfway through their transition into a laptop toting populace. Unfortunately it seems that good ol' RPI has forgotten some details like...

    Theft, there are 3-5 reported stolen each week in the school paper.

    The upper two classes and the graduates. There are still two classes at RPI (undergrad) who were not required to buy laptops when they arrived there. Furthermore, the grad. students aren't required to purchase laptops at all. And the clincher is that the campus, which had one of the highest computer-to-student ratios in the country is now somewhere around 200 : 1 (student : computer)(and that only considers the population who aren't required to buy laptops).

    I was a CS student there only a few years back, and I personally wonder how a CS student can get the necessary breadth of programming and architecture familiarity when there is only one type of computer on campus : The Wintel Notebook. What kills me is that they've removed almost ALL of the *NIX systems from the computing center, and now there are only Wintel PCs. The worst thing about it is that the RCS, the campus network is still UNIX. The M$ stuff is grafted onto RCS in a half-assed way. It's abominable.

    I know I don't like it....

  • I go to a Massachusetts public college..where is my laptop? =) Oh and I'd rather eat nails than use a PC so look for a cheap laptop on Ebay soon....
  • A good friend of mine has been going to NMU for the last 2 years, majoring in Art. He was required to get one of the IBM Thinkpads. He's quite pissed about it. Both his parents work at NMU, so he gets free tuition, but he has to pay extra for the laptop that he never uses. And to top it off, in the art department they use Macs, so for almost all of his classes, the laptop is totally useless. Even if he did get a Mac laptop, one that would be great for his art classes, he'd still be required to get the Thinkpad. At the beginning of this year, there was a big hoop-tee-do when the Thinkpads were delievered. A big parade of IBM trucks pulled into town, and from what I heard (I wasn't in town at the time), and there was a big party of some sort. For laptops. Wooo.
  • I have a writing problem caused by joint and motor control wierdness, and use a laptop for all my lectures. And it is nightmarish. Having to make sure the batteries are charged, switching batteries in the middle of lectures, having to work out how on earth to get greek stuff out of the keyboard, etc. etc. etc.

    And have you ever tried doing matrices outside of TeX? *shiver*

    Desktop computers are a _much_ better idea. I also like the idea of lectures by video conferencing, although you may find a lot of students just spool morning lectures onto HD to delete^H^H^H^H^H^Hread later :)

  • I am actually a student here so I am somewhat informed about the laptops. For the most part non-CS majors use them to play solitaire in the back of the lecture halls.

    In the end what this turned out to be, or such it is perceived as, is a hidden tuition hike to pay for their new science building. They're charging $385 a semester for an almost year old laptop. Thankfully they improved upon it this year. This is the first year they're actually requiring all students (juniors the previous year had the option of waiving out) to acquire these. After two years you can trade it in to get a new one.

    One of the big problems I have with this is that there are no options to purchase your own laptop. You are required to receive one from the University. I became a junior a month or two after the deadline and I was not given the waiver. I argued for quite a while and finally got a pseudo-waiver. I was waived $85. The other $300 was infrastructure fee, of which I was not entitled to waived from. They tried to tell me this was like the $150 we pay for the health center whether we use it or not. It seems like at least the health center doesn't make me buy a $35 toothbrush.

    Personally I use the laptop quite frequently, it's nice to be able to carry around Mathematica and Systran among other things. You can hop on the network just about anywhere on campus. Heck the practice rooms in the music building are decked out. But I'm irritated that I'm essentially paying the full cost for a laptop I can't keep.

    I'm enrolled in 23.5 credits of classes, *none* of which require the use of a laptop. I'd say maybe one of my professors barely knows to turn it on, the rest?

    Anyway, this is probably rambled together as I have class in 20 minutes.


  • Heh... Well, will you look at that... The article does say that. Well, yay for you guys... So your government can tell you to embed laptops in your classes... Shouldn't that be a decision left to the individual universities?

    And most of the content of the comments has been on how revolutionary this all is... Which it really isn't.

    And to the best of my knowledge Acadia is one of the first if not the first well recognized university (not just college) to FULLY integrate laptops into the classroom and completely rewire the campus to reflect this.

    Moreover, no one ever claimed our administrators were that bright... As I say, we use Novell. :) So, the fact that we aren't using Mathematica isn't really that important. We're an undergraduate only school anyway for the most part... Perhaps Maple and Matlab are sufficient for our Math Majors... (I wouldn't know being in Comp Sci...)

    --Flame On--
    And now that I've fully read your post maybe YOU should wake up. Insiginificant and unknown?? PRIVATE? Next time read a book or something before you post - Acadia is not private at all. That's why people who don't have their daddy's give them corvette's are able to attend. Not only that, but Acadia is consistently rated highly by Maclean's magazine and is easily one of the best universities in Candada. And get this, since in Canada we don't give out ridiculous sports scholarships, most of the people who graduate from Acadia actually have brains in their heads! Woot!
    --Flame Off--

    But yeah, you're right... We don't have our government telling us we have to use laptops. That would be just plain wacky.
  • And I spelled Canada Candada... That's beautiful. :)
  • Now we'll have some people sitting there staring at their beautiful new active matrix LCD going, "How do I click the mouse?" and "Why did my screen turn blue with pretty white text?" Not everyone is computer savvy, I don't think it's a good idea to require someone to own a laptop if they don't know how to use it.

  • That I'm sure the administration does think this will save money--they don't invest in labs now, and this way they can avoid ever doing so. Further, while $1200-2000 is not so bad for a laptop, it's still a lot for and undergrad putting themself through school working 40hrs/week at a minimum wage job, or a grad student living on a TA's stipend and trying to support a family. I'd also like to point out that we've lost over 200 tenured faculty in the last 10 years that departments have not been allowed to replace. A number of classroom and studio buildings are in danger of being condemned (for real!). if the Board of higher ed wants to give us money, great; computers could be helpful to many students; but we have more pressing needs at the moment.
  • Great. Now professors/educators have expensive toys to fiddle with as one more excuse to avoid the hard work of organizing/teaching meaningful courses.

  • We've been doing it for about 3 years now (I've been in it since the beginning). It's really cool what is possible when everyone has a computer that they can take home and wherever they go - no fighting for lab time is a big plus.

    My brother went through a non-laptop program and I went through a laptop program. The main difference was that I was always able to do my work whenever I felt like it, and he had to fight for lab time. Now, we had/have a good computer at home, better than the ones at school, but we didn't have the software (actually, we had the software, but it wasn't compatable with what the school had...). Even if you have the same versions, there are multiple portions, dll's, etc that make each installation unique. Sigh ;)

  • And I suppose if you add a nice new graphics card to your desktop, they refuse to support it. Instead of putting up with outdated university computer facilities, the students' home machines will be outdated too.
  • This is absolute, and utter shit. I can't tell you how angry & upset I get every time that I hear this sort of disgusting rot coming from the mouths of the leaders of our institutions of (so-called) higher learning. Why is this? Allow me to give the reasons: (1) this is simply yet another way of blocking off access to the university for poor students. Since the founding of public universities, it seems, it has been a gradual closing off of all the avenues by which people without money might attend. (2) this is obviously a corrupt and criminal agreement between computer manufacturers and a public school system in order to increase sales of overpriced laptops. (3) this sort of plan helps to reinforce a uniformity of computing software which is unnecessary and hurtful. I doubt that my 486 laptop, which runs Linux, would qualify under their plan. (4) what the fuck is the point, anyhow, of forcing people to use computers? There are simply many, many tasks where not using a computer is better than using one. Okay, I'm running our of steam, but I can't tell you how horrible I think these plans are. They disgust me, & they make me ever more upset with the computer industry than I usually am. Erik
  • I have to question how far vouchers and public funding will go. Even crappy laptops are far more expensive than their desktop counterparts.

    Somehow, this feels like yet another nail in the coffin for education of the monetarily-challenged.

    Tuition is stupidly expensive, books are stupidly expensive, and these prices go up more and more each year, faster than inflation...
  • This sort of thing is not new, at all. The architecture department at Mississippi State University has been requiring laptops since the early '90s. The engineering departments all followed suit back in the late '90s. Although it may not have been a campus wide requirement at the time, this sort of thing has been brewing for quite some time.....
  • allow me to expand upon "friggin luddites"...

    1) we offer training courses and accomidate them at every corner. We don't have the budget to convert them right away, so it HAS to be done gradually.

    2) they REFUSE to use the simplest of newer technologies. We have to find a tv/vcr cart instead of them using the VCR/projector in the room (the difference is that the projector projects the TV image onto a large (40") screen whereas the TV/VCR cart just has the standard 21" screen. As a student, which one would you prefer? both being the same ease-of-use (exact same VCR), but they just need to push "source" on the remote control.. hrmm..

    3) They are the biggest bunch of assholes on this planet. I'm all "yes sir, right away sir, whatever I can do to help sir." and all they do is yell and bitch about how I'm not jumping high enough or through enough hoops for them. Then they lie about things to their deen and threaten my job - all because of my suggesting that they try the new document camera (which can project even solid state documents) instead of the overhead projector which was broken (and we did not have a replacement available). It's too much to care about.

    4) The worst thing is that they are from the school of science and technology. More like, old-science and obsolete-technology if you ask me.

  • . . .And just the other day a Slashdot thread had me convinced that the market for PC's was leveling off. . . .

    If you can't convince 'em, regulate 'em.

  • Greetings,

    Intro :

    I am an art student at the "thinkpad" university - Northern Michigan University. As was stated earlier the art department uses apple macintosh computers, of course.

    Requirement :

    However, all students who have not attained junior status are required to lease a laptop computer from NMU unless they already own a laptop. Even with already owning a laptop it is difficult to get past the requirement. All transfer students, I included, are also required to lease a laptop from the university.

    Waiver :

    Those students who have already attained junior status can apply for a waiver from the university and then pay 60 dollars a semester in order to use the computer labs on campus, which ironically use ibm thinkpad computers. the main problem with the labs is that they are constantly in use and backed up with requests for use.

    Printing :

    for students who managed to get out of the requirement, there are no printers available for public use, technically. if one is smart and knows someone in a lab it is possible to use the printers, but those who are timid and/or do not know anyone in an important place, have troubles merely making hard copies of their work.

    Laptops in class :

    Virtually no one uses their laptop in class from my experience (word of mouth and 12 credits here so far). And, when they do it is for taking notes. From what I have heard, it is a proven fact that the vast majority of people take better notes with pen and paper than with a computer.

    Also, very few classes are equipped with the power outlets and ethernet ports to accomodate the laptops. Hence, many students have complained that they are not able to use their laptops the whole time through their busy schedule because their batteries run out.

    Freedom of choice :

    It is required that a student lease an IBM Thinkpad computer - no other choices are available. There are IBooks and the like on campus, but these are few and far between and all owned by individuals who were able to attain a waiver.

    Windows 98 (and possibly ME by now) are the only OS's distributed with the computers. MS Office suite is also distro'd w/ the laptops (along w/ more software).

    Cost :

    I cannot recollect the cost of the laptop, it is, however, leased by the semester. But, the cost to lease a laptop for four years is far greater than the cost to purchase a very similarly equipped IBM Thinkpad.

    My Thoughts :

    If you couldn't already tell, as a student at Northern Michigan University, I am not in support of the laptop requirement. I strongly advise anyone who will possibly come into contact w/ a similar requirement to attempt to make their voice heard in the matter.

    And for those who are wondering - I was granted a one-year waiver from the requiment. I just transferred this fall. I was granted the waiver because of misinformation when transferring.

  • A friend of mine is at a technical college where most people have a laptop, since there are Ethernet plugs everywhere in the lecture rooms.
    While there are advantages to this, most students only use the permanent Internet connection for extended ICQ chats during lectures, and for trading MP3s.
    The advantage of being able to try out example applications "life" (i. e. during the lecture) does not outweigh all the distractions that a laptop offers...
  • Incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill are required to own a laptop beginning this year. Known as the Carolina Computing Initiative, the idea is to get laptops into the classroom and promote a greater "intellectual climate" (their words, not mine). However, there are a number of flaws with the program and I'm not so sure I agree with it. First of all, the program specifically states that students have PC's running Windows and certain other software, such as MS Office.
    I'm not even going to start on why this is a bad idea. Another sore spot is that the university partnered with IBM to give students a "great deal" on a pretty well loaded thinkpad, which have been having problems since just about day one.
    My biggest problem with the whole thing is that they are forcing a computer platform on students. Sure, the 10% of businees/econ kiddies we have here may love their stinkpad with Excel. But what about graphic design students? Of course we want our macs, with big huge monitors and optical mice. What about CS students? Is windows the best platform to learn programming? When I took CS classes, I did all my development on a my linux machine. The point of my little epistle here is that forcing a single scheme on students is a very bad idea, especially in public universities that are supported by your taxes.
  • Was my first linux box... and it kicked for the time... It had a MACH32 video card - and X just seemed to love it.

    All in all it was a solid Slackware system...
  • by EricWright ( 16803 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:53AM (#700284) Journal
    The point is that the University of Massachusetts system is going to do this, not just one campus.

    I don't know about Mass, but in NC, there is one university called The University of North Carolina (the one in Chapel Hill), several others that go by The University of North Carolina - City X (Wilmington, Charlotte, Greensboro, etc.) and others that do not bow to the wishes of UNC-CH (NCSU, ECU, etc.)

    OTOH, there is a University of North Carolina system of 16 campuses, of which UNC-CH is but one campus.

    There's the difference... statewide school system vs. one college.

  • ...well, my 486 laptop plays an excellent game of Scorched earth running DR Dos... which would run just as well on a 286...

    What a game... we still have scorched earth group games... I just wish Xscorch was half the game that scorched earth was.
  • The University of Oklahoma's College of Engineering has required all newly-enrolling students to purchase laptop computers since the fall 1998 semester. I was part of a small test group at OU when I was a freshman in the fall of 1997. At that time, a few classes were offered in "laptop" versions that attempted to make use of the laptops. Several buildings were outfitted with wireless networks so that you could connect to the campus network and the Internet in many places in and around those buildings. I believe this network has been expanding to more buildings across the campus, but I don't know to what degree. The program initially met with a varying degree of success; it was cool to have class materials online and deliverable to your web browser, but it was also too easy (and tempting) to goof off. This was, in fact, how I discovered Slashdot. Adoption of the laptop program has been somewhat slow from my point of view; the College of Engineering has not introduced laptop sections of upper-level CS classes fast enough for me to benefit.

  • College is already expensive enough without saddling an additional burden on students. There's so much theft already in dorms, this will onloy makeit worse. And for what? So the school doesn't have to provide computer labs? More likely just to impress people that massachusetts has a gud education system. Well hey, its not all that bad, I mean, we're not kentucky. Maine wants to do this for high school students and I think its an equally dumb idea.

    Good education comes from commitment from students, professors, and administration - not arbitrary political requirements smoothed over with assistance from public funds.

    Microsoft must love this..I am sure that each of these laptops has paid the appropriate microsoft tax. I wonder if Umass students are also required to run winders. It wouldn't surprise me.

    Governor Celluci is terrible. I voted for Weld, even though he pissed me off at times I thought he had a good head on his shoulders - Celluci does not. I wish Weld would come back.
  • In the IT University [], part of KTH (Royal Technical University) in Stockholm, Sweden, students pay a low motnhly fee for their laptops that they use all over the university buildings with their integrated wireless LANs. Of course, like most universities in Europe, this is a public university, meaning that you don't need to pay for the courses. To be accurate, in some EU countries students pay a little annual fee for their studies in public universities (ex. Spain: about 500 $ a year), but in Sweden that is completely free. In fact, the Swedish government pays the students about 250 $/month for beeing students.
  • by acomj ( 20611 )
    Could be distracting during class, not to mention slow down the network.....
  • I'm a CS major at the University Of Massachusetts Lowell. I don't want a laptop. Cheap models are heavy, slow, and heat up too much to be used safely on my lap. Expensive models aren't much lighter and still aren't as powerful my desktop machines. Battery life sucks. All but the tough-to-come-by Transmeta laptops will still burn my lap if I do something CPU intensive like a compile or DSP simulation.

    Not only do I not want a laptop - I don't need one. Notetaking works just fine on a hundred dollar handheld or five dollar notebook. A good calculator like the TI-89 or HP-48g covers most of the mathmatic stuff, costs only around a hundred bucks, and is small and light enough to keep in my backpack at all time. I can't think of any tasks I can't do on the handheld or calculator that can't wait until I get back to my desktop PC or a computer lab.

    Furthermore, the availability of portable computers in the classroom will make it possible for professors to assign proprietary e-textbooks that can't be loaned out or resold. I'll pass on those, thank you very much.

  • School-sponsered laptops? I wonder if this is going to work like textbooks...

    "Buy a "school-sponsered" laptop, a blazing pentium 166 w/32MB of RAM for only $3000! But don't worry, the school will buy it back from you for a whopping $50 when you graduate. No, you can't bring your own, because the SCHOOL only supports Windows 95, and of course you'll need to buy a school copy of Microsoft Visual Basic for $1,300 for the advanced programming course, but again, you can sell it back at the end of the year. Provided you can return the shrinkwrapped package. For $50."
  • University at Buffalo also requires incoming students to have "access to a computer, beyond those provided in the university's public computing sites." com p_reqs.shtml [] I don't really agree with this policy either.

    Con: I suspect that because students will have there own computers, the University will not have to give as much support to public computing labs. Public computing labs will never be eliminated, but the equipment and infrastructure may be allowed to "slide". Also, people have noticed that students in the Computer Science program don't use the CS labs as much these days, now that everyone has their own high-speed-internet-enabled, mp3-playing, IM/ICQ machines at home. This reduction in use of the computer labs also reduces CS students' camraderie and feelings of unity (what little there was to begin with).

    Pro: However, having a standardized minimum level of computer access does have its advantages. It allows instructors and administration to move to more efficient ways of registering for classes, communicating, submitting assignments, etc., since they know that all students have the ability to do so (because they know all students have computers).

    Details: There are some minimum requirements for computers, based upon the ability to run applications. I don't know of any instances where students are required to be able to run Wintel-only programs. Also, students don't have to buy a computer. They can lease one through the University. There is also a Students Needing Assistance Program (SNAP) [] which loans computers to students for free, funded by Dell and IBM.


  • If you read the article, you would see that (in the third paragraph) it claims that 30-some *private* universities including Dartmouth already have this requirement. RTLinkL.

  • Locally, we have a high school and junior high that both issue laptops to students to use in their studies. I remember when we couldn't use calculators in school, and now laptops are becoming standard issue...

    Like so many other things with technology, this is a double-edged sword. It's great that more people are becoming comfortable with computers, but there are several problems as well. The biggest problem I see is that the curriculum will probably be OS centric, and the OS will likely be Windoze. This gives Microsoft an unfair advantage and headstart. I wish I had the time to develop a linux distro that was education-centric. Something that would allow for easy encrytped distribution/sending of homework assignments (128-bit encrytped wireless NICS, ex.), basic firewalling when the laptop is in a classroom (handled by the local basestation for the RF NICS), and software that was tailored to a learning environment. At the very least the curriculum should support Windows, Linux and Mac OS's so that the students can use what they feel most comfortable with.

    I also worry that this may make the students lazy. If you've got spell checkers, thesauruses, and other tools handy on the laptop that might encourage more of a reliance on the technology and less reliance on independant thought. Also, if the laptops are provided by the school, or partially funded by the school, does this mean that the information stored on them is the schools property as well? Will this make it easier to invade students' rights?
  • Will they insist that it's from one particular manufacturer, and that it runs their mandated OS and software

    Here at Miami University, there's not an actual "admissions requirement" of a desktop/laptop, let alone a particular OS.

    However, I've found that I can't really get rid of my MS Windows partition simply because the classes use so much Microsoft centric software.

    My programming classes require Visual Studio, my communications class needs Power Point, etc, etc.

    While there is no "required" OS, I find that I still have to use the products the school chooses, or face inconveniences and incompatibilites. Ack.

  • by Alex Pennace ( 27488 ) <> on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:59AM (#700317) Homepage

    Things UMass Lowell [] needs before taking on such a lavish venture:

    • Working residence hall fire alarms.
    • Parking (and not just for faculty, students go here too).
    • Elevators that don't trap people between floors every week.
    • Working shuttle bus service. My last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays ends at 15:15 on south campus. The shuttle bus delivers me to my dorm around 15:50, covering almost two miles. (Thanks to a friend, I get a ride back to my dorm in 5-10 minutes).

    UMass Lowell doesn't even run the campus network in an ethical and sane manner (pulling connections for groundless abuse complaints before conferring with the alleged abuser), I sure as hell won't trust them with any computer I use. This is all gee-whiz stuff; they hope that this laptop computer craze will mask all the other problems.

  • Unfortunately, people like me who live off campus are left out in the cold :(.
    Unless college life has changed significantly since I was kicked out of Ferris State, off-campus life beats the hell out of a free PC+dorm room anyday :)
  • I still remember the look the techs here (St. Andrews university) gave me when I said I had an Amiga hooked up to the LAN.

    Indeed. I was one of the lucky ones to get a terminal port in my room when I was at University (UKC []), and I connected up my Amiga. They were quite happy for me to do that, but they wouldn't support it. Of course, that was in days gone by, and the Amiga was effectively being used as a dumb terminal, eventually connected to the LAN via some proprietary hardware. I don't know if they'd allow a direct TCP/IP connection to their LAN (which these days is much bigger).

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  • Nova Scotia, Canada, Acadia University, Wolfville.

    The Acadia Advantage. Tuition goes up a bit, but every student gets a school laptop loaded with the stuff they need. Classes use the network, and the computer, for various activities. For example:
    Math: There's a program called Maple which is an excellent problem solver for nearly every type of math.
    Physics: Course information, and lab software is on the network.
    Computer Science: Take a wild guess.

    Also, CS students get Slackware put on the lap top as well... apparently our C classes will be in Linux.

  • Mandating laptops is all well and good, but for what? Will they insist that it's from one particular manufacturer, and that it runs their mandated OS and software (and we all know what that'll be), or will students be given the choice? Ideally, it'd be something like:
    You can have anything you want so long as it is able to connect to our TCP/IP network and speaks SMTP -- if opt to go for anything other than our recommended system, you don't get support.

    Sadly, I think they're far more likely to go with the first option.

  • by mftuchman ( 66894 ) <<mftuchman> <at> <>> on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:15AM (#700341) Homepage
    Public officials want to do anything that appears to be a magic bullet. I'd much rather subsidize teacher salaries than forced laptop purchases. Sounds like some nice deals were made under the table with some laptop manufacturers, who will now make out big time.
    Not to mention a certain company in Redmond. After all, teachers will no doubt insist that everybody have the same software. Will that software be Mathematica or Excel?

    Something is rotten in the state of Massachusetts.

    Actually, I probably shouldn't have said 'fad' since it is unlikely this regrettable trend will abate soon. Dell Stock (recalls notwithstanding) anybody?

  • by OlympicSponsor ( 236309 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:16AM (#700365)
    What are they going to use the laptop FOR?

    If the answer is things like "Internet access" or "word processing" or "programming homework" they could just as well (and more cheaply) use desktops. The only conceivable reason to use dlaptops is so they can lug them to classes--but why would you need (or even want) a laptop in class? Imagine the shuffling around as everyone tries to find a (working) power/network outlet. The beeping and "you've got mail!" sounds around the room. The time it takes to do a shutdown when the class is over. The compatibility problems (student/student, student/teacher, student/administration, student/self).

    If they want to be "interactive" why even attend classes? Just do video conferencing right to the dorms on desktops. Attendence would skyrocket.
    An abstained vote is a vote for Bush and Gore.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:19AM (#700370) Homepage Journal
    This might not be a good thing, IFF the students stop thinking and just become LIDs (Living Input Devices).

    A case study: when I was in undergraduate engineering school (1983-1987), many if not most of the students had HP-CV calculators with the engineering formula add-on pack. I had a TI-35. During one test in Circuits II, I dropped my calculator, and the keyboard came apart, scattering the keys over the floor. I re-assembled my calculator, and still managed to complete the test before anybody else in the class (and get one of the highest scores on the test.)

    Why was I able to complete the test? Because I had the good fortune to have had a high school teacher who beat it into my brain to solve the equations first, then crunch the numbers. Most of my classmates just started plugging the numbers into the equations, then taking the resulting numbers and plugging them into the next set of equations, et cetera.

    By actually doing the algebra, I was able to reduce out all the pi's, root-2's, and so forth, and come up with simple equations that were far more accurate than the results of the other students. And since I had to type far fewer numbers into my calculator, I was far faster than they were. Finally, since I actually saw what happened in the circuit ("Ah! so that resistor doesn't effect the output voltage, because I just cancelled it out of the equation!"), I had a deeper understanding of the theory.

    My point is, that while a computer is a great tool for many things (I shan't tell you about taking my Atari 800 and monitor into my Linear algebra class to run my Gaussian Elimination program on the final....) it must not become a substitute for thinking. I fear that the students in this school won't learn to do algebra (rather they will just use Mathcad student's edition), won't learn to spel korrecktly, and not will grammer learn ("It looks like you are writing a term paper. Would you like to cut and paste some text from Encarta?").
  • by funkman ( 13736 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @03:20AM (#700372)
    Spencer, the plan's chief architect, said the proposal grew out of concerns that too few graduates of state colleges have the technological skills to fill tens of thousands of business and high-tech job openings in Massachusetts.
    And because I can use a calculator means I am good at math.

    This program has merit but this is a lot of money on something that could backfire. Here are some ways:

    • Teachers can't ramp up to the tech fast enough or they ramp up emphasizing too much on the technology and not on learning the subject matter.
    • The laptops can be underpowered and be obsolete by their 2nd year of school.
    • No one can support that volume of laptops so a significant percentage of students own an expensive paperweight.
    • Grand theft.
  • by plastickiwi ( 170800 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2000 @04:38AM (#700377)

    Ever see the Dilbert strips in which he telecommutes? He ends up in his underwear, filthy and unshaven, holding a little Dilbert hand puppet up to his QuickCam to fool his boss into thinking he's still maintaining a professional demeanor.

    Given that half my students barely manage to get dressed before coming to class (if they make it at all), I have dim hopes of anything productive getting done via video conferencing.

    It *would* be funny in small group discussion courses to see who'd come up with the best conference 'bot. Some bright kid doubtless would edit together some Quicktime movies of himself nodding, jotting notes, etc., with the occasional meaningless comment: "I agree. Yes. That's a good point."

    Heeeeeeey, now. That gives *me* an idea! Now, where's that copy of Premiere?

  • Things UMass Lowell needs before taking on such a lavish venture:

    Ah, but all these things the University would have to pay for. They're going to put the bill for the laptops on the students.

  • Here at acadia all the rooms have two network drops, plus there's more in lounges, the SUB, and in most classrooms. The use of the network for distrubiting assignments and such is in full swing here.

    And by the way, since this *is* Slashdot, Napster, scour, etc. (and other high ports, like games and lunarnet irc) are only blocked during the daytime.
  • Here at MSU [], laptops are required for engineering students in certain classes (the first of which is thermodynamics, usually taken sophomore year). And if I'm not mistaken, I think next year entering freshman engineering students will be required to have a laptop.

    Some of the stuff teachers do with the machines is pretty neat. And I suppose for the non-computer literate engineering students - particularly those who have never owned a computer - they probably learn a good bit. But most of the time people are on Napster, playing video games, or talking to people.

    I never really did think the integration of computers in the educational process was done the right way. It might work in mid to upper-level college courses (e.g. using Maple for calculus), but my former high school once considered requiring students to have laptops. Bad idea, I'm glad it never became a reality. We need to emphasize the traditional way of doing things now and let students explore other ways of doing them on their own (perhaps by a trip to the school computer lab).
  • I wonder what tasks require them to have normal laptops. For all of my studies, a PDA (with a keyboard, so it's a "palmtop") and a desktop machine are more than enough.
  • Having worked at one of the UMass campuses for a number of years, they are yet again forgetting an important factor:

    Who is going to support all these people with laptops?

    They don't have the staff to handle the network needs. They don't have the staff to handle all the problem reports. They don't have the staff to train the less-technically-inclined.

    Glad to be out in the real world now where there is at least a budget...

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