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Bolukbas, Okan (2011) “Effectiveness of Student’s Use of Laptops Outside the Classroom” Conference Proceedings of the 2nd Sabanci University ELT Conference: Expectations eclipsed in foreign language education: learners and educators on an ongoing journey pp. 217-227. ISBN: 9786054348220

ABSTRACT

The study was aimed at investigating how efficiently students use their laptops outside the classroom. The study was undertaken at Sabanci University, School of Languages, Preparatory Programme. The findings indicate that although a laptop is a great tool for learning, students do not necessarily use their laptops in the way that could most contribute to their learning outside the classroom; consequently, in order to encourage and maximise the ideal use of laptops outside the classroom guidance, training, and counselling need to be provided .

INTRODUCTION

The study aimed at investigating how students in an EFL academic context use their laptops outside the classroom. It also aimed at discovering how the students’ use of laptops outside the classroom contributes to their learning and the implications of this on teaching and learning practices. The following research questions are addressed by the study:

  1. In what ways do preparatory programme students’ use of laptops outside the classroom contribute to their language learning?
  2. What implications does this have on teaching/learning practices?

The students are all equipped with a laptop provided by the school. The use of this technological tool is also encouraged by teachers in the classroom. However, outside the classroom the knowledge of how the students use their laptops was unknown to the researcher. Therefore, the present study can shed light on what could be done for teaching and learning practices. It will show, for example, to what extent students use their laptops to improve their learning and to entertain them. In light of these findings, numerous suggestions will be made to promote the ideal use of this technological tool in education.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Our lives as faculty are full of everyday frustrations, challenges, and unrealised potential. While we have worked out solutions and strategies for dealing with many of these, it is clear that, given the right tools, we could be more efficient and effective. Technology now offers an increasing number of intuitive, reliable, “ready for prime time” tools to help faculty do the things they do every day (Clyde & Delohery, 2005).

The role of technology in teaching increases day by day. The ‘right tool’ mentioned above could as well be laptops. Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, provides each enrolled student with a laptop. With recent technological advances and more affordable price, laptops have attracted educators’ interest to support learning. There is substantial evidence that using technology as an instructional tool enhances student learning and educational outcomes (Gulek and Demirtas, 2005). Rockman et al. have made multiple evaluations on the findings of Microsoft’s laptop immersion program, which resulted in positive effects on student learning and curriculum delivery (1997, 1998, 2000).  Some of the key findings of the study are as follow:

Student outcomes:

  • Laptop students spend more time doing homework on computers
  • Laptop students spend more time engaging in collaborative work than non-laptop students
  • Laptop students direct their own learning
  • Laptop students participate in more project-based instruction
  • Laptops increase access to information and improve research analysis skills

Teacher outcomes:

  • Teachers who use laptops use a more constructivist approach to teaching
  • Teachers who use laptops feel more empowered in their classrooms

Research provides evidence that students who engage in collaborative work, participate in more project-based learning and have higher levels of motivation (Wigfield et al., 1998; Guthrie and Wigfield, 2000).

The use of laptops often goes hand in hand with the use of the Internet. As Green states:

One fantastic feature of the Web is that it can provide a wide variety of information in various media formats. One can find reams of text on just about any subject, as well as multimedia archives and live camera feeds from around the world. For this reason, educator often point out that the Web is particularly useful as a resource for students conducting research (1968:31).

To the knowledge of the researcher, a few studies have investigated the effectiveness of laptops in learning (Gulek and Demirtas, 2005). Nevertheless, there are no studies which examine the effectiveness of students’ use of laptops outside the classroom.

DATA COLLECTION

The data were collected from only one set of informants: 46 university students who are mainly at Upper Intermediate level. All students were enrolled in a one-year intensive English course offered in the Preparatory Programme. Students who get a score below %70 on the university’s English proficiency test are required to take the preparation classes. Students, then, are placed in beginner, intermediate, and upper intermediate levels depending on their score.

Initially, one semi-structured, individual interview was administered to collect data from a group of seven students. The students were approached and offered to take part in the study. Interviews were scheduled with those who volunteered.

The data collected from the interviews proved to be useful in that the survey questions could be developed further in order to gain more insight into the research. After the new questions were added and some questions were edited or removed, as the final research tool, a survey was administered with 39 students. The participants were selected randomly by the class teachers or volunteered to take part in the study. An anonymous survey Web site, namely SurveyMonkey, was used for the purpose of collecting the data. The rationale for the use of SurveyMonkey is mainly for the ease of collecting data and for anonymity. This Web site had already become popular amongst many School of Languages teachers; therefore, many students have had the experience of completing one or more surveys through this way. Some students’ familiarity coupled with the anonymous way of collecting data made this technological tool a practical and reliable method of data collection for the study. (Please see the appendix for the survey questions).

CONCLUSION

Students intensively use their laptops for an average of 3 to 4 hours everyday outside the classroom, which makes the laptops the second mostly used technological device after mobile phones. However, as obvious it is that they use their laptops for long durations, it is more important to know what they do with their laptops.

In terms of entertainment, students clearly stated that they play computer games. Whilst the usefulness of computer games might be a discussion point of another study, it is clear and acknowledged by some student informants that it can be a complete waste of time. In addition, some students advised to uninstall any games from the laptops. Apart from games, students use their laptops in the most basic ways including watching films and listening to music, in which the laptop functions merely as TV and radio or stereo. They also check personal email accounts, chat online and visit Facebook.

As for the use of laptop for learning purposes, all students use their laptops to do their homework. They also use online dictionaries while doing so. The students are provided with a course management system namely SUCourse and most of them actively use the Web site for the supplementary activities which support their learning. In addition, many students visit the links sent by teachers. The results show that course management system Web sites can play a great role in supporting students’ learning. The use, content, practicality of such sites should be enhanced and students could be trained as to how to make the most of it.

In relation with the results for question 5, most students use Internet shortcuts to access to addresses on the Internet. These shortcuts are called ‘bookmarks’ or ‘favourites’ depending on the browser used. The use of organised bookmarks should be encouraged and promoted as most of the work that students do on the Internet is based on using an Internet browser.

The findings for questions 7, 8, and 9 indicate that students are basically aware that the laptops are beneficial tools for learning as long as they are used in efficient ways. They also know that using a laptop can be addictive and playing computer games have negative effects on students’ success.

  1. Homework given by teachers and based on the Internet research is the most significant motivating factor to use their laptops outside the classroom for learning purposes. Teachers should, therefore, keep this in mind when assigning tasks to students.
  2. In addition, students appreciate the links to useful educational Web sites sent by their teachers. A special compilation of ELT links could be prepared by the teachers and installed by the laptop providers as default on their browsers (or by the IT department) at the beginning of each semester. These links can be periodically updated and upgraded and sent to the students.
  3. Finally, the use of course management system Web sites should be encouraged and promoted to support students’ learning and studying outside the classroom.

In conclusion, the data collected through interviews and survey revealed that the majority of upper intermediate level university students equipped with a laptop do not necessarily use their laptops in the ideal way that it could most contribute to their learning outside the classroom. Provided that the laptop users are given the correct guidance, training, and counselling, maximum contribution could be obtained through Internet based assignments, a collection of useful ELT links, and course management systems.

REFERENCES

Clyde, W. & Delohery, A.(2005) Using Technology in Teaching. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Green, T. et al. (2008) Making the Most of the Web in Your Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis, Pages, and Sites. CA: Corwin Press.

Gulek, J. C. & Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 3(2). Available from http://www.jtla.org

Guthrie, J. T. & Wigfield, A. (2000). Engagement and motivation in reading. In M.K. Kamil, P.T. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, Volume III (pp. 403–22). Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum.

Rockman et. al. (1997). Report of a laptop program pilot: A project for Anytime Anywhere Learning by Microsoft Corporation Notebooks for Schools by Toshiba America Information Systems. San Francisco, CA: Rockman et al.

Rockman et al. (1998). Powerful tools for schooling: Second year study of the laptop program – A project for Anytime Anyhere Learning by Microsoft Corporation Notebooks for Schools by Toshiba America Information Systems. San Francisco, CA: Rockman et al.

Rockman et al. (2000). A more complex picture: Laptop use and impact in the context of changing home and school access – the third in a series of research studies on Microsoft’s Anytime Anywhere Learning program. San Francisco, CA: Rockman et al.

Wigfield, A., Eccles, J. S., & Rodriguez, D. (1998). The development of children’s motivation in school contexts. In P.D. Pearson, & A. Iran-Nejad (Eds.). Review of research in education. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Appendix A

Interview Tool Data

 

Place

  1. Where do you usually use your laptop outside the classroom?
  2. Where do you mostly use it (at home/in dorm)?
  3. Are there any places that motivate you to use your laptop?

Time

  1. What time of the day do you use your laptop?
  2. How long in average do you use your laptop?
  3. When do you prefer to use your laptop?

Purpose

  1. For the purpose of entertainment, what do you do with your laptop (i.e. websites, etc.) on the internet?
  2. For the purpose of learning English, what do you do with your laptop on the internet?
  3. What reading do you do on the internet?
  4. Do you use your laptop to watch DVDs? What kind of DVDs?
  5. Do you play any computer games on your laptop?

Personal Opinion

  1. In your opinion, what is the best way to use a laptop for learning English reasons?
  2. Are there any web sites you could suggest to study English?
  3. Let’s say that now you are a Freshman student, for the new preparatory programme students, what would be your advice to use their laptops efficiently for learning purposes outside the classroom?
  4. In your opinion, what kind of factors would motivate you to use your laptop outside the classroom for learning English?
  5. What would you expect from your teacher to encourage you for more efficient use of laptops?

Appendix B

Survey Tool Data

Q1. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think about “laptop”?

Q2. How often do you use your laptop in these places everyday?

Q3. How often do you play computer games?

Q4. For the purpose of entertainment and correspondence, what do you do with your laptop on the Internet outside the classroom?

Q5. For the purpose of learning and studying English, what do you do with your laptop outside the classroom?

Q6. Could you please take a look at the Internet browser’s favourites/bookmarks tab now and tick one of the following

I have no idea about “favourites/booksmarks” 5.7% 2
I don’t use this tab 17.1% 6
There are 0-5 links about learning and studying English websites 37.1% 13
There are more than 5 links about learning and studying English websites 40.0% 14

 

Q7. Let’s say that now you are a Freshman student, for the new preparatory programme students, what would be your advice to use their laptops efficiently for learning purposes outside the classroom?

Q8. In your opinion, what kind of factors would motivate you to use your laptop outside the classroom for learning English?

Q9. Outside the classroom time: What would you expect from your teacher to encourage you to use online resources more efficiently? How should your teacher help you to use your laptop efficiently?

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