DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Michael R. Moore
DePaul University


20th Annual DePaul Teaching and Learning Conference
Panel: A Report and Reflection on an Ongoing Laptop-Required Initiative


Theorizing Technology & Faculty Professional Development


Integrating laptops in the writing classroom is a good fit in DePaul's First Year Writing and Professional Writing courses, given our emphases on text production, multimodal composing, and the integration of digital literacies.


Some instructors envision a “writing studio” approach, where they are able to work alongside students as they plan, draft, and revise their work; other instructors emphasize the collaborative group-work possibilities such as file sharing and peer reviews using shared documents via Google Drive, DigicationDropbox, or D2L; and others focus productively on writing workshops in real time.


First Year Writing and Professional/Business Writing instructors have also noted the increased interactivity in their writing courses due to the presence of computer technologies and wireless capabilities, noting that students are more actively engaged in problem solving, writing, and sharing their writing in an environment where the technology actively supports those activities.




  • Mid- to late-1990's: a noticeable shift from an emphasis on dedicated computer labs and classrooms as open, social spaces
  • Initial journal articles addressed the need for faculty professional development (Warriner, et al [1998]; Rice [2008])
  • Charles Moran on access (1999)
  • Newer tensions between laptops and mobile devices

Linking and Integrating Learning Outcomes with Attention to Students' & Faculty Literacy Practices


Results & activities 

  • Collaborating, using a range of platforms — Google Docs, D2L, Digication, word processing
  • Writing: 15-minute sessions
  • Integrating the activities and digital literacies in which students are already engaged: reading, composing, peer review, editing, sharing 
  • Reading, writing, annotating, incorporating Scrible or other web-annotation tools; NYT example
  • Accessing online texts and news sources  
  • Organizing time and materials
  • Researching via Google Scholar and university databases
  • Identifying online discourse communities for analysis and participation
  • Engaging real-world discourses via available technologies that students will encounter again in both their academic and professional lives

 Theorizing Technology & Faculty Professional Development (Feenberg)



  • Instrumental theory: technology as a value-free "tool" like a hammer or a pencil
  • Substantive theory: views technology as shaping human culture and expanding to every possible space. Not only is it not neutral, but it fosters a further adoption of even more technology. 
  • Critical theory: resists both the neutral and the agency-resides-in-the-technology perspectives, and offers ways to intervene in technology environments and students' lives to achieve social goals, learning, and meaning-making.  


Reading in Print & Reading on Screens


It's possible that we have been asking the wrong questions: what we should be asking is what platforms and environments support slow, deep, contextual, and rhetorical reading practices that result in comprehension? In addition to asking how we read, we should also ask why we read. (Student Print/Digital Literacy Projects)




A social, cultural, pedagogical challenge: laptops as distractions?
Some instructors point out when it is time to “close your laptops” so that the screens are not vying for attention with discussions, workshop activities, and attention to the front-of-the-room whiteboard. In end-of-term course evaluations, some students reported not being distracted by their own screen (“I was paying attention”), but, interestingly, being distracted by other students’ laptops screens, especially when they were engaged in extracurricular laptop activities.

Other instructors prefer to appeal to students’ sense of classroom community, and developing the mature, professional, and mindful habit of active listening and engagement — eye contact, participation, contributions — even when one’s laptop is open. Also see “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers” and Shirky, “Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away.”


CHE: The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking

"A year after banning students from taking notes on laptops, a professor reports on the results."




Feenberg, Andrew. Critical Theory of Technology. OUP, 1991. 


Fleckenstein, Kristie S., Fred Johnson, and Jackie Grutsch McKinney. "A Portable Ecology: Supporting New Media Writing and Laptop-ready Pedagogy." in Technological Ecologies and Sustainability: Methods, Modes, and Assessment. Computers and Composition Digital Press (2009).


Moran, Charles. "Access: The 'A' Word in Technology Studies." Passions, Pedagogies and 21st Century Technology. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999. 205-20


Rice, Jenny Edbauer. "Rhetoric's Mechanics: Retooling the Equipment of Writing Production." CCC 60(2008): 366-38.


Warriner, Alison, Nancy Montgomery, Jacqueline Rinaldi, & Pauline Yatrakis. "Towards Excellence in Computing in Five Years at Sacred Heart University: Year One." Computers and Composition, 15(1998): 41-60.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.