Laptop Computer Usage in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at
Wake Forest University

by Richard Carmichael

This year's freshman class all were issued IBM ThinkPad computers; the cost was built into their tuition. In anticipation of this 12 Academic Computing Specialists were hired two summers ago. These persons serve the departments as advisors to faculty. They find software, hold help sessions, etc. In addition our Computer Center started preparing for this several years ago. There is a help desk available for students and faculty to call. There are printers all over campus for the students to use and separate printers for faculty to use. Overall I believe that there is extensive use of the ThinkPads already. Almost all of the campus is wired for connection to the central computer as well. The relatively smooth start is due in large part to the existence of a helpful infrastructure at the beginning and probably to the fact that we are having a phase in situation. Only 1 class will have ThinkPads this year, next year 2 classes, etc. until all classes will have them.

In the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science we are already using them extensively. Our introductory computer science course for majors is using the ThinkPads as the machine of instruction. We have established a ThinkPad lab where the lab for this course is held. We convinced the University to purchase a site license for Maple and have installed Maple on all of the faculty ThinkPads and on all of the ThinkPads of our students in the first two calculus courses. The ThinkPad is then their laboratory. Some of our calculus teachers use the ThinkPad in their class daily. We have several classrooms that have power at every seat and also data connection at each seat. In these classrooms the teacher has a ThinkPad connection at the desk which is connected to a ceiling projector; the teacher can sit at the desk and show work to the class. In three other classrooms we have just installed a television monitor system which will also allow the teacher to display work to the class. We are also using the ThinkPad for work in our introductory probability and statistics classes. It is also being used in many other of our courses. Our graduate teaching assistants (we have a Master's degree program in both math and cs) have ThinkPads to use in holding their tutoring and problem sessions. Our use of the ThinkPads will only increase across the department and college as well in my estimation. My opinion is that we are off to a good start in using these laptops.

One of my colleagues, Elmer Hayashi, has used the ThinkPad extensively in his calculus classes and would be willing to make comments concerning the use in his classes if you want to contact him. His email address is

Richard Carmichael
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Wake Forest University
January 31, 1997