seal  Purdue News

September 19, 2003

Communication department integrates wireless technology in classes

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Students in Purdue University's communication department are using a state-of-the-art communication tool to improve their speaking skills and prepare them for the post-graduate world where people are often judged by the quality of their presentations.

students working on the tablet PCs
Download photo - caption below

"In my view, tablet PC technology is the bridge between laptops and personal digital assistants," said Howard Sypher, head of the communication department and an expert in communication and technology.

"I see these devices, especially when used in a wireless environment, as incredibly versatile and potentially revolutionary in their ability to shape the learning environment. Purdue graduates will see and use these types of devices in every technological field. It's great that our students will experience the strengths and weaknesses of tablet PCs just as they are being broadly developed."

Professor Melanie Morgan's "Presentational Speaking," an honors class of 22 first-year students, is one of the first to use the Toshiba tablet PC, which are about the size of a flat-screen computer monitor. More than 40 tablets will be distributed to communication students and faculty to check out for the semester. Information Technology at Purdue (ItaP) provided the funds for the tablets PCs, which are portable PCs of about the size of a paper notebook.

"The tablet PCs offer speech students immediate feedback," Morgan, an assistant professor of communication, said. "For example, as soon as a student finishes a speech in class, he or she can receive evaluations from classmates who have heard the speech. The tablet PCs also can be linked to PowerPoint software.

"I expect students also will suggest their own interesting ways to use the tablet PCs," said Morgan, who also will use the technology to archive her students' speeches, thanks to a grant from ItaP.

The devices also are being used in upper-level undergraduate courses – such as "Communication and Emerging Technologies," "Public Affairs Reporting" and other journalism-related courses – for student research and virtual teamwork projects.

"Students can use these devices in many areas of journalistic data gathering and integration," Sypher said. "When reporters interview sources, they can take notes on the tablet, while collecting audio and capturing photos directly to the device."

A graduate student is conducting a usage study of the devices, which features monitoring software, and is surveying users to determine the value of tablet PCs in communication classes.

Sypher said that these devices will be deployed in other communication and journalism questions, including a special study-abroad class in Italy.

"With the tablets students can do their own work, communicate with friends back in the U.S., work in teams and develop Web-based projects, and keep journals while abroad," Sypher said.

Morgan and Sypher will attend the National Communication Association annual meeting in November in Miami Beach where they will direct a short course on "Using New Technologies in Instruction and Research." This course will highlight the department's use of tablet PCs and handheld personal digital assistants for instructional purposes. Toshiba also will provide PCs for course participants to work with.

Purdue's Department of Communication has approximately 1,300 undergraduate majors and 125 graduate students. The department offers classes in pubic relations, video production, organizational communication, telecommunications, rhetoric, journalism and interpersonal communication. The "Fundamentals of Speech Communication" is one of the largest basic communication courses in the country, Sypher said. Nearly 8,000 Purdue students take the course each year.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Howard Sypher, (765) 494-3300,

Melanie Morgan, (765) 494-3305,


Related Web sites:
Communication 114
Toshiba Web site

Rachel Tieken, a freshman in public relations from Evansville, Ind. (in front) and Sarah Lamping a freshman in English education from Joplin, Ohio, (left to right) and Brittney Smith a freshman in history from Alexandria, Ind., use Toshiba tablet PCs in Melanie Morgan's "Presentational Speaking" honors class. More than 40 tablets, which are about the size of a flat screen computer monitor, will be distributed to communication students and faculty to checkout for the semester to learn more about this technology in the communication field.

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page