In late April, the Office of Information Technology (IT) teamed up with the Provost’s Office to purchase 16 Dell Latitude Mini laptops for the Department of Modern Languages. This decision came about from observations in the dissertation titled, “Instructors’ Attitudes Toward the Use of Technology at the University of Mississippi,” written by Dr. Julia Bussade, Director of Portuguese and Spanish in Modern Languages (ML). Virtually, all Spanish and Portuguese instructors were using PowerPoint and other kinds of instructional technology in their classes, yet not all of the classrooms to which they were assigned had full lecterns. Therefore, they were relying heavily on IT Media to deliver laptops, creating more demand than could be met. IT and Modern Languages saw a mutually beneficial solution, specifically to equip Spanish and Portuguese instructors with Dell mini laptops that they could use to make classroom presentations, thereby removing the need for laptop deliveries every class period.
After the approved purchase and shipment, the laptops were distributed using a training process similar to TACIT: Faculty receiving the equipment reported to Weir Hall to pick up the equipment and receive training on connection and operation. Per Ron Savell, Manager of Technology Services, “This included showing them how to use the laptop and connecting it to an LCD projector and a wall plate, both wall mounted and on any lectern on campus.” IT Staff – Johnny Price, along with Nathan Robbins - also showed the instructors how to connect the laptop to the 46″ televisions that are located in some classrooms around campus. Each laptop was provided with a set of cables consisting of video, audio, and Ethernet. Ron stated, “Training sessions for equipment set up were provided May 13, 2010 with facilitated assistance from Penny Rice, Nathan Robbins, and other IT staff also. “The training on setting up the Dell mini laptop was beneficial because I not only learned how to set up the equipment, but I also received PowerPoint training as well,” stated Spanish instructor Maribel Sullivan-Gonzalez. “The IT staff were patient and very helpful. I’m gracious they would help in this manner. I was very excited to receive a mini-laptop, and the training session for the equipment set up because finally I was going to be able to have the technological equipment where I could keep my class material. Also, I was very happy because I was not going to bother and overwhelm the IT media personnel.”
Why have computers/laptops been in such high demand for the department of Modern Languages? For one, some classes in the ML Dept were replaced by hybrid language instruction which is one use of instructional technology in language programs that has gained popularity in the last few years, states Dr. Bussade, “The instruction is called hybrid because a portion of the course is obtained online. Hybrid course delivery brings together the best elements of both traditional and online teaching.” Kathryn Rankin, a Senior Spanish minor at the University of Mississippi says, “I believe that the major advantage of the hybrid course is the amount of practice you get with the on-line activities. The immediate feedback is really helpful in understanding important aspects of the Spanish language, especially the grammar aspect,” she states. “It is very convenient to be able to complete the hybrid hour credit of the course at any time during that week.” Rankin adds, “It also has activities that require students to listen to sentences in Spanish which is very helpful with being able to have conversations in Spanish.”
Rankin also states: “During my freshman year of Spanish courses, every day an IT worker had to set up a computer for each Spanish class. The worker had to set up multiple computers for the same hour slot, so it always seemed to put a strain on the worker. It was also an added stress to the teacher, because if the worker was late, it set the class back on being able to see the power-point presentations for that day. Now that the instructors have their own equipment, the classes tend to start on time with no set-backs, says Rankin. “It makes the whole class less stressful when there is no rush in finishing everything on time. There is more time for questions and discussions, which is an important part in learning Spanish.”
Rankin concludes by expressing that the equipment is a necessity in helping learn the language. “It is much more helpful to learn vocabulary through pictures on a slide show than the teacher acting it out or having to translate the word to English, states Rankin. Rankin asserts that the teachers personal possession of the laptops makes the class much more organized, and it seems that the classes run much more smoothly. She further notes that the equipment allows them to “watch videos, hear songs, and see photos that help better our understanding of Spanish and the Spanish culture.” “The Modern Languages program is always prepared and organized, concludes Rankin. It is a very respectable program that does an excellent job in teaching students the language and the culture of other countries.”
Modern Languages instructors are scheduled in classrooms all around campus, i.e. Bondurant, Hume, Farley, Shoemaker, M. Res. College, Trent Lott, Former Athletic Basement, Bryant, Meek, Isom, Anderson, Bryant. Holman, Longstreet, Croft, Lewis. Due to the distance instructors have to walk to make it to classes that are sometimes back to back, the lightweight Dell mini is highly resourceful with great portability. “With the exception of the VGA cable, the Dell mini laptop is lightweight and easy to handle and carry,” stated González. “The VGA cable is heavier than the mini-laptop.” Spanish Instructor Irene Kaufmann expresses how her work has been so much easier after receiving the mini-laptop: “I can carry it with me to every class. I no longer need someone to help me set up the equipment.”
“I think it changed everything and it’s going to make a world of difference,” states Dr. Bussade, “It caused us a level of anxiety not knowing if computers were going to arrive and arrive on time.” “The instructors are not going to have to worry about if they are going to have a computer; they know it’s there; they know how to connect and set up their computers and start teaching.” ”Receiving the mini-laptop gave the opportunity to have all my class material ready and at hand when needed,” concludes Gonzalez. “All my PowerPoint presentations are prepared and ready to go at the moment a class begins,” concludes Kaufmann.
This fall, instructors were observed as they set up and used equipment during the first week of classes. New Graduate Instructors were very enthused and appeared very comfortable while using their new equipment and facilitating their classes with the use of PowerPoint and other interactive activities.
Mini laptop vs. Standard Laptop
Mini laptop specs Standard laptop specs
Weight: 2.91 lbs Weight: 5.25 lbs
Width: 10.43″ Width: 14.1″
Depth: 7.36″ Depth: 10.1″
Thick: 1.2″ Thick: 1.3″
Case weight: 15.2 ozs Case weight: 2.4 lbs
Approximate total weight not Approximate total weight not
including cables equals less than 4 lbs. not including cables equals just over 7.5 lbs