Increasing use of online technologies pushes the need for more screen real estate

In MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry the class is using the OpenStax Algebra and Technology textbook, Desmos graphing calculator to make graphs and calculations, and Schoology learning management system for classwork, assignments, and online tests.

Screen real estate is particularly problematic, even on a 16:9 screen.

During a Friday test many students deployed their own personal technology to augment their screen real estate. The student above has both a laptop and a smartphone, providing additional screen real estate. Although the college limits students to a single WiFi login, the Desmos app for smartphones does not need WiFi for full mathematical functionality.

Another student is viewing notes on his tablet - the tests are open book. As the problems are both different from the textbook problems and unique, the text is not necessarily as helpful as might be expected. The problems require the students to creatively apply the mathematics, not just follow a rote schema.

Splitting the screen load with a smartphone. A student who does not have additional personal screens is potentially at a disadvantage in the course. Yet not all students can afford personal technology.

One could, theoretically, force all students to use only the college provided computers. In terms of the authenticity of assessment, this would be highly artificial. In the "real world" students would be able to use whatever technology they had at their disposal to solve problems. Artificial academic limitations to technology are just that: artificial and do not help prepare students for the modern working world.

One option would be for the college to assist in enabling student acquisition of personal technologies, and I am informed that the college bookstore is moving fairly aggressively in this direction.

This effort to enable student acquisition of technologies should be strongly supported as these technologies are learning enablers. As students increasingly acquire personal technologies, the need for multiple student WiFi logins is likely to increase.

Another option to be considered would be increased screen real estate through ultra-wide monitors such as 21:9 ratio monitors. Even where a 21:9 might not have the same vertical height as 16:9, the critical need is to place three screens, Schoology, Desmos, and the OpenStax text, side-by-side. The 21:9 facilitates this arrangement in a way a 16:9 cannot. The use of ultra-wide screens would provide a more level "playing field" for students who do not have personal technologies such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones.


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