HP grant supports expansion of tablet PCs into humanities, social sciences

The Teaching Center, in collaboration with faculty in the Departments of Education and History, both in Arts & Sciences, and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), has received an educational grant from Hewlett-Packard (HP) that will provide 40 tablet PCs to assist WUSTL instructors in teaching.

The grant supports the expansion into the humanities and social sciences of teaching methods developed by the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences and The Teaching Center with the help of a 2005 HP grant.

The most recent grant includes $15,000 in cash, plus HP technology — including the 40 wireless tablet PCs — valued at approximately $107,000.

The project supported by the grant — led by Aaron Addison, University GIS coordinator; Regina Frey, Ph.D., director of The Teaching Center and senior lecturer in chemistry in Arts & Sciences; Tim Parsons, Ph.D., professor of history and of African and African American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences; and R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., associate professor of education and of psychology, both in Arts & Sciences — will enable the students to use tablet PCs to perform active-learning exercises that can improve their learning and group work and that can help them develop skills essential to effective collaboration.

“From our previous grant in chemistry, we found that students’ scores on homework improved and in-class student participation increased when specialized software was introduced via in-class exercises versus outside use only,” Frey said.

“We want to apply this teaching methodology to our application of GIS in many disciplines and computer-supported collaborative-learning software in education,” she said.

The 2007 HP grant plays a significant role in the GIS initiative. One set of the tablet PCs is being used as a mobile GIS lab for in-class GIS training.

This fall, faculty in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences used this cart to teach students how flood maps are created.

The second set of tablet PCs will be used in the 2008 spring semester by Parsons, who is incorporating a GIS unit in his course “International and Area Studies 180: International Development” — a core, freshman-focus course in the International Leadership Program.

Washington University was one of 10 U.S. institutions of higher education that received the grant this past year.

Faculty interested in using the HP tablet PCs in their classrooms should contact Frey at 935-7474.

Faculty interested in using the mobile GIS lab should contact Addison at 935-6198.