posted June 2, 2004

HP Grant Supports E-Textbook Project

Hope College has been selected as one of 42 college and university recipients nationwide to receive an HP Technology for Teaching grant, designed to transform and improve learning through the innovative use of technology.

Each college or university receiving an HP Technology for Teaching grant will use the HP wireless technology to enhance learning in computer science, engineering, math or science courses.

At Hope, the grant will be used to support research into the effectiveness of electronic textbooks, a project headed by Dr. Ryan McFall of the computer science faculty. The college will receive an HP cash and product package valued at up to $60,000, which will include one year of access to HP's higher education help desk support.

The grant to Hope will support further investigation of the e-textbook application developed by McFall and his undergraduate assistants as part of a two-year grant funded by the National Science Foundation. A total of nine Hope students have contributed to the project since it began in the summer of 2001.

The Hope team has created an application that allows students to perform many "traditional" activities while reading, such as highlighting, taking notes and drawing diagrams in the text. The application takes advantage of wireless communication techniques to facilitate sharing of notes and diagrams among students and between the students and instructors.

Professors teaching classes using the e-textbook can share notes with the students, allowing them to add examples and context that would not be possible with a printed textbook. Students using the e-textbook can also search the text, make bookmarks and view a summary of the portions of the text they have highlighted or annotated.

According to McFall, "Most efforts at adapting printed text to electronic texts have focused on replicating paper textbooks. While we think it's important that students be able to do the same things with e-textbooks that they can with paper, we also feel it's important to take advantage of the pedagogical opportunities digital media open up as well. If you can do exactly the same things with paper books as an e-textbook, why switch?"

Hope's prototype e-textbook was used in two offerings of the department's "Introduction to Computer Science" course during the 2003-04 academic year. The equipment provided by this grant from HP includes 21 new Tablet PCs, notebook-like computers that interact with the user through an electronic pen and handwriting.

These new computers will be loaned to students taking "Programming Language Design and Implementation," an upper-level computer science course offered in the fall, and to one section of students enrolled in "Science and Technology in Everyday Life," a General Education for Math and Science (GEMS) course, taught by Dr. John Krupzcak of the engineering faculty in the spring.

"We have gained experience in using the e-textbook during the last year, and we hope to be able to make its use more effective based on that experience. This new equipment will help tremendously, making the computers running the e-textbook application much faster," McFall said.

The HP Technology for Teaching grants, totaling more than $10 million over 2004-05 among 151 kindergarten through 12th grade public schools and 42 two- and four-year colleges and universities, support HP's broader education goal of transforming teaching and learning through the integration of technology in the classroom and beyond.

"At HP, we strive to go beyond providing technology for the classroom by supporting systemic improvements in teaching and learning," said Bess Stephens, vice president, Philanthropy and Education, HP. "By doing so, we enable more people to gain access to new opportunities, prepare more effectively for the future, and ultimately achieve greater economic success in our communities."

Click for more information about the 2004 HP Technology for Teaching program and grant recipients.