Patricia S. Rahmlow, MBA Associate Professor of Computer Science

Mobile Tablets for Collaboration and Visualization

Pat Rahmlow, Linda Moulton, Marie Hartlein, Jason Wertz
Business and Computer Science Division

Neil Goldstein, Allan Schear
Communications (Humanities Division

In July 2007, MCCC received an HP Technology for Teaching Leadership Grant. Our vision is to continue building learning communities at MCCC that incorporate mobile tablet technology to create a dynamic and visually engaging classroom experience. Activities utilizing tablet technology in a collaborative learning environment encourage active learning. Building on the success of our 2006 HP grant, we are redesigning a second CIS course (CS2) and an entry level Script Writing course to incorporate both collaboration and the highly successful mobile teams and digital ink from our first CIS course (CS1).

Problem Solving Using Mobile Teams and Digital Ink

Pat Rahmlow, Linda Moulton, Marie Hartlein
Business and Computer Science Division

In May 2006, MCCC received an HP Technology for Teaching Grant to encourage the transformation of learning and teaching. Pat Rahmlow, Linda Moulton, and Marie Hartlein are using mobile technology to transform the Introduction to Computer Science environment into a dynamic classroom experience. A variety of activities utilizing tablet technology in a collaborative learning environment will be used to encourage active learning. Project innovations will empower students to succeed in education and in the workplace of the future.

[Rationale] [Pedagogy] [Technology] [Quick Facts] [Impact on Teaching] [Impact on Student Learning] [Initial Observations] [Resources and References] [Contact Us]


We are using HP mobile technology to awaken today's computer science student. Mobile tablet technology transforms a passive learning experience into a dynamic educational journey. Mobile technology allows ad-hoc formation and reformation of learning teams. Digital ink facilitates easy capture of ideas and designs without the often burdensome task of learning difficult software. The sharing of ideas, program design, and research engage the student in learning complex concepts - no sleeping allowed!

Implementation (Pedagogy)

CIS111 (Computer Science I: Programming and Concepts) introduces students to fundamental techniques, concepts and vocabulary of programming and computer science. Emphasis is on programming in the high-level computer language Java. This is the first computer course required for the Associate of Science degree for computer science and engineering majors and is often taken by students in other disciplines such as mathematics. This course transfers to four-year institutions.

In order to engage the students in active learning, students will collaborate with multiple teams to develop solutions to various programming problems during the semester. Planned activities include:

  • Students participate in “ten minute design walk-throughs” where students work in groups to critique and improve program design
  • Students work in groups to debug programs and present their solution process
  • Students use digital ink for the creation and organization of pseudo code
  • Students use digital ink for drawing various logic symbols and charts

Students will learn how to take notes effectively using tablet PCs and One Note. Planned activities include:

  • Provide students with an outline of the course lecture prior to the beginning of class

  • Provide students with One Note for use on campus and at home

Students will explore the problem solving process, reflecting on their personal learning style. Planned activities include:

  • Students will maintain a journal during class documenting what they learn including problems encountered and solutions they explored


Quick Facts

Dept: Business and Computer Science, Communitcations (Humanities Division)

Courses Impacted: CIS111 - Computer Science I: Programming Concepts; CIS111B - Computer Science II: Object Oriented Programming; COM100 - Mass Media and Society; COM160 - Media Literacy Workshop

# Students Impacted: 640

# Faculty Involved: 15

Keywords: computer science, collaborative learning, mobile technology, tablet PCs, One-Note, LinQ, Classroom Presenter, Visio, team projects, Java, Final Darft, commincations. script-writing, mass media


Implementation (Technology)

Use of One-Note, LinQ, Visio, Final Draft and Classroom Presenter has enabled interaction that was impossible without mobile tablet technology.

The mobile classroom is filled with student teams sharing knowledge, program designs, and research files. It is alive with activity - no more solitary coding and frustration!


Impact on Teaching

The drone of a lecture, sleeping students, and deafening silence too often characterized the computer science classroom of the past. Student demonstrations, code walk-throughs, and team research activities have enlivened today’s mobile classroom!

The mobility and flexibility of tablets has enabled the teaching paradigm to shift to a shared student / teacher led learning experience. Students are able to easily and frequently share projects and program design. If the new paradigm is successful, students will readily choose teamwork and share their learning experiences with the class, increasing student interaction and engagement.


Impact on Student Learning

The computer science major of the past could best be described as a loner - hovering over the keyboard coding the latest assignment with no one other than the mouse to keep them company!

The computer science major of the future will readily work with classmates designing, coding and testing systems. Sharing of files and ideas is easy with the use of mobile technology. Flowcharting and brainstorming can be fast and furious with digital ink and tablet PCs.

This collaborative learning leads to a student who has a deeper understanding not only of computer concepts and programming techniques but also of the importance of teamwork. Increased class participation, improved performance on standardized assessments, and recommendation of computer science to friends will demonstrate the success of the new paradigm.

Data indicates we are moving in the right direction, towards achieving our project goals...

  • Increase the number of students who prefer working in teams

    The number of students in communications classes that preferred working in teams increased by 3% during the semester as evidenced by the pre- and post-course surveys. .

  • Improving student understanding and retention of concepts

    Student understanding is improving as measured by an increase in the average final exam grades during the 06-07 academic year versus the previous academic year. On average final exam scores increased by 5%.

  • Build Computer Science community and support structure

    The availability of a lab aide and open lab time was well-received by students as evidenced by their comments on post-course surveys.

    Lab aide was very helpful. He helped me to connect the dots between missing links ... Because of this, I was able to help my fellow classmates.

    The lab aide and the extra lab time really improved my ability to learn and work on Java.

    Open lab time was great for solidifying our understanding of the assignments.

    I liked a lot about the tablets but the main thing was that they were ready on the spot and they didn’t cause any problems that would compromise the class.

    What I like most about the Tablet PCs is that it was mobile and flexible. So, when we had to do group projects, we could move around in the class with our pc's with us. This was much help. We could work together and learn more efficiently.

What students are saying about the tablets ...

  • One group of students was so enthusiastic about the tablets, they posted their video on YouTube.
  • See and hear from the students themselves.
  • Quotes from student surveys...

It allowed for a very comfortable environment in a traditional classroom, as opposed to the rigid and stationary feel of computer labs. The mobility was nice as well.

My time with the tablet was "pure love" :)

Easy to work with other students when in teams and walking around and sharing.

Personally, I would give one to every student. They are very helpful. You can type on them if you are a person who is a fast typist or you can write on them. It's a win-win situation.

I like the way the tablets' digital technology allows the user to operate the computer with a digital pen instead of a keyboard or a mouse... It is easy to carry and use for Java and C++... These are good to use in computer classes.

It was fun to use, very handy. Tablet PC uses the pen so it was fun writing with it.

[What I liked was the] LinQ software and the ease of being able to carry them around the classroom to different people's desks with us.

Gave the course a personal feel, more like I was working on my own equipment, rather than a college owned computer.

They were very helpful for note taking. I could take a few pages of notes on the tablet, save them and bring them home and have them on my computer. It made it so I could be much more organized.

The tablet PCs are very easy to use. The number one thing I liked about it was I was able to walk around the class and bring the tablet with me to work with another classmate.

The portability, ease of use. I loved the fact that it was different from a traditional laptop.

Swivel monitors made it easy to work on one PC [with classmates].

Truthfully, there wasn't anything that I can say bad about them. If I had the money, I would buy one in a heartbeat.

Ease of movement and freedom. The ability to work in groups without having to log onto new computers.

I like not having to move to a separate CS lab. It's nice to be able to stay in the same classroom and do the lab after lecture.

The tablets made team exercises easier because they were portable.

The tablets were easy to use and something different from the conventional norm.

Being able to write on the screen as a normal piece of paper was neat.


Initial Observations

Students are enthusiastic about having access to current mobile PC technology. Students have most enjoyed the following activities:

  • Sharing research during group projects thereby eliminating duplicate work and expediting the completion of the task.
  • Group problem solving activities including program code, pseudo code and flowchart design, enhanced by the ability to move from team to team using mobile technology.
  • Demonstration of programs and projects by projecting student tablet PCs to the class using LinQ software.

Students have experienced some challenges including:

  • Resource intensive computer science applications running slowly.
    • Additional memory has been ordered for the tablets.
    • Unnecessary applications have been removed from the start-up process.
  • Various connection issues using the wireless network including printing and Internet access.
    • IT has re-configured access to the printer, improving connection.


Resources and References


Contact Us
  Pat Rahmlow, PI
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
  Linda Moulton, co-PI
Professor of Computer Science
  Marie Hartlein, co-PI
Associate Professor of Computer Science




This project was supported in part by an HP Technology for Teaching grant.


Last Update: May 28, 2007