What, no lectures!: experiences from a blended tablet PC classroom

Barbara White, Jodi Tutty


Like many other institutions, teaching information technology at Charles Darwin University is still focused on transmissive rather than interactive strategies with the traditional model consisting of 6 hours contact time: a 2 hour lecture; a 2 hour tutorial; and a 2 hour practical. In subjects which require students to understand and apply concepts and principles of coding, the separation of the formal delivery of the information (lecture) with opportunities to explore, apply and practice these concepts and principles (tutorials and practicals) often means that significant re-teaching has to be done as many students are simply not able to understand and complete the tutorial or practical tasks. As Laurillard (1993) notes, lectures while possibly inspirational for some students, may also provide many opportunities for student errors in getting information and making sense of it. Similarly Ramsden (1992) observes that while lectures enable the teacher to ‘cover the ground’, they are not effective for deep learning outcomes needing activity, responsibility, or interaction as students are often passive and dependent.

This case study reports on two variations of a blended learning approach to teaching first year Information Technology (IT) subjects that was an outcome of two successful infrastructure projects that originated two years earlier. In 2003, two School of Information Technology initiatives enabled a significant rethinking of how the teaching of some subjects could be restructured. As part of a broader strategy to attract and retain more students, three units were converted to a flexible online delivery mode (Evans, Tutty and White 2004). At the same time the school was the successful recipient of a Hewlett Packard competitive philanthropic grant receiving equipment that would enable the establishment of a mobile classroom that included 45 tablet PCs and associated wireless technology (Tutty, White and Pascoe 2005). These almost simultaneous developments led to the implementation of a blended learning teaching approach which integrated wireless enabled, mobile tablet PCs, interactive multimedia content web sites, an online learning management system with students learning in 3 hour face to face workshops.

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