CSC News

May 14, 2004

Computer science professors participate in laptop computer pilot project

Five computer science faculty members are participating in the College of Engineering’s Faculty Laptop Pilot Project, which complements the college’s student owned computing initiative.

In all, 40 College of Engineering faculty members received a $2,500 stipend to purchase a laptop computer and software for use in developing meaningful ways to incorporate laptops into classroom instruction.

The now entering its fourth year, the student owned computing initiative explores how the use of laptop computers and wireless connectivity can enhance the undergraduate academic experience in engineering. A group of classes throughout the college have been adapted for integration of laptop use. For computer science students, these classes are CSC 116, Intro to Programming, and CSC 216, Programming Concepts – Java. Computer science students also take E 101, Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving, and E 115, Introduction to Computing Environments

Faculty participating in the Faculty Laptop Pilot Project will be using the computers when teaching higher-level courses.

Dr. James Lester, associate professor, says he will use his laptop in two sections of the data structures course that he is teaching in the fall.

“It will be great to take advantage of the laptop to do in-class interactive demonstrations of the algorithm and data structures” that his students are learning, Lester says. He chose to participate in the program because “it could make a significant difference in the quality of the classroom experience.”

Dr. David McAllister, professor, says the laptop will enable him to run the software he needs regardless of where he is teaching his multimedia classes.

“A lot of the software used in CSC 467 is installed only in the Multimedia Lab [in the Engineering Graduate Research Center on Centennial Campus] but I teach in Withers [on main campus],” he says. “Mathematica is not installed anywhere on campus but I use it heavily in my research and can use it to show how numbers behave in numerical computations and how powerful symbolic manipulation can be."

The new laptop will enable him to run “Mathematica notebooks without having to constantly worry about Mac to PC conversions,” he says. In addition, the laptop will enable him to play media, access the Internet and do realtime illustrations of techniques in digital signal processing, filtering, image processing, audio editing, video editing, graphics and numerical analysis.

Dr. Ting Yu, assistant professor, says he looks forward to pre-loading software needed for course-related demonstrations. “Many of the demonstrations require the installation of software which is not available in public teaching computers,” he says. He’ll be using the software in his courses on database security, database management systems and information system security.

“Project demonstration is an indispensable part of effective teaching,” he says, as it gives “students hands-on experience” and helps to increase their interest in a course. A laptop also helps improve the instructor’s availability to students even when traveling, he adds.

Dr. George Rouskas, professor, says that his goal "is to use technology interactively with the students during class time to explain and demonstrate difficult concepts, such as recursion and dynamic programming, as well as to provide hands-on experience with fundamental concepts and theoretical treatment.

For example, he says, "I have found that students have difficulty understanding the theoretical concept of 'running time complexity' which characterizes the time it takes the computer to perform a task. By having students write, execute, and time different algorithms for the same task, I hope to be able to demonstrate the concept of complexity in practical terms."

He says he also plans to have the students use their laptops to collaborate on tasks in class.

Rouskas, who will be teaching a laptop section of CSC 316 (Data Structures) in Spring 2005, says he chose to participate in the pilot project because he has "always been fascinated with using technology in the classroom, not just for presentation purposes, but also for actively engaging students in the learning process. In fact, it is well-known that students learn by doing, not just by listening, (so) when one teaches arithmetic, it is important to have students carry out addition, substraction, etc., in the classroom. We teach computer science; therefore, it is only natural to have students use computers in the classroom.

Also participating in the program is Dr. Munindar Singh, professor.

- rzewnicki -

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