College of Education > EDUCATE > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the undergraduate laptop requirement in the Penn State College of Education.

Table of Contents

  1. Who is affected by the notebook computer requirement?
  2. What about students at non-UP campuses?
  3. Why are incoming students being required to purchase a notebook computer?
  4. Why did program faculty decide on Apple MacBooks?
  5. I already have an HP or Dell computer.  Why can’t I use this to meet the requirement?
  6. What does it mean to have a minimum requirement?
  7. The cost of attending Penn State is already high. Why are you forcing students to buy a new notebook computer?
  8. If I just bought a Windows notebook what am I to do?
  9. What happens if I do not bring a notebook that meets the requirement to class in September?
  10. Am I required to purchase a new computer?

Who is affected by the notebook computer requirement?

Penn State students who are admitted to the Secondary English Education (SECED ENGL), Childhood and Early Adolescent Education (CEAED) – PK-4 and 4-8 options, World Language (WL ED), Special Education (SPLED) programs are expected to have a notebook computer that meets or exceeds the minimum specification when they begin coursework in the major. In other words, the requirement begins at entrance to major.

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What about students at non-UP campuses?

Childhood and Early Adolescent Education (CEAED) and Secondary Education (SECED) English Education students at University Park and CEAED students at Altoona, Lehigh Valley, and Berks participate in EDUCATE. 

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Why are incoming students being required to purchase a notebook computer?

A number of professional programs require students to purchase specialized tools intended to support their learning and development. In education, these tools have previously been limited to required texts, journal subscriptions, and more recently online tool subscriptions (e.g., TaskStream). The process of creating a requirement for tools of any kind involves careful consideration by program faculty and input from past and current students. Decisions are made on the basis of how particular tools will enhance the educational experience of our students as they prepare to join the community educators.    

For those preparing to be professional educators, there is an urgent need to be fluent in using technology appropriately to support student learning. There is growing consensus among educators, business people, and policy makers that PK-12 education in America needs to be re-conceptualized to better prepare students for the 21st century global economy. Children and adolescents need to “know more about the world, think outside the box, become smarter about new sources of information, and develop good people skills” (Wallace & Steptoe, 2006). Appropriate uses of technology, as well as teachers who are well-prepared to use them, are at the heart of reshaping schools, curriculum, assessment and teaching. The teacher education programs at Penn State will educate students to meet these challenges, and the notebook computer requirement is intended to enhance these efforts.

The College of Education requirement is not without precedent. Students in other high profile teacher education programs, such as the one at University of Texas, have been required to purchase notebook computers as part of their professional programs for several years. At Penn State, Architecture and Business require students to purchase specific hardware and software.

Having a common digital toolset insures that all students will have the resources they need to participate fully in class and field experiences and to complete rigorous assignments that involve using and creating multimedia artifacts. In addition, technical support for a common platform allows the College of Education to provide efficient and effective support for faculty and students.

Finally, by making the digital toolset a requirement, the costs can be included in the calculation of need for financial assistance.

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Why did program faculty decide on Apple MacBooks?

Members of the EDUCATE Steering Committee carefully examined the options based on the kinds of experiences and learning program faculty were attempting to create and support. No other notebook computer provided the breadth of tools for digital expression and ease of use than did the MacBook. Out of the box, the MacBook provides a powerful operating system and software suite that enables the kinds of learning projects faculty have integrated into their courses and field experiences. In addition, Apple has a long-standing commitment to education, an environmentally sound business plan, and a partnership perspective.

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I already have an HP or Dell computer.  Why can’t I use this to meet the requirement?

We chose the MacBook because of its hardware configuration (built-in video camera, DVD/CD read/write optical drive, capacious hard drive and powerful processor) and software (Mac OS X and the accompanying suite of iLife applications, e.g., iTunes, Garageband and iMovie) make for a unique set of digital tools to consume and produce digital media. Yes, you can consume and produce digital content on an HP or a Dell, but it is critical for our program to have a common platform. A common platform will allow faculty and students to focus their energy in their classes on learning the art and science of teaching. Unlike Dell or HPs, a MacBook can run the core set of digital tools our program will rely on, and also run Windows-based operating systems and applications. From the perspective of of our teaching and learning objectives, the MacBook is the best value in terms of features we need and cost of ownership.

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What does it mean to have a minimum requirement?

We are sensitive to the expenses associated with pursuing teacher certification and we chose a minimum requirement to try to balance between the work that will be done and the capability of the tool set we sought. After several years of working with Penn State’s teacher education students and digital tools in our Professional Development Schools, we have a good sense of what is required to both consume and produce digital content in the context of teacher education. The specification that has been established takes into consideration the size of the hard drive (video and audio files quickly fill space) the speed of the processor and certain built-in capabilities like a video camera and an optical drive that can produce dual-layer DVDs. Apple does produce computers that exceed our minimum requirement, but we felt the additional features were more than we needed.

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The cost of attending Penn State is already high.  Why are you forcing students to buy a new notebook computer?

Penn State’s College of Education is not the first teacher education program in the country to require its students to bring a notebook computer. For several years now, our faculty have been studying how other programs make use of computer requirements. After experimenting with notebook computers in the College, we have determined that what we can do as a faculty and what our students can do is significantly enhanced by notebook computers.

The faculty recognize that the cost of a notebook computer is significant, but we believe the expense will be more than offset by what you will learn by having it in our program. The requirement is that students enrolling in the course of study come prepared with a minimum set of digital tools; they need not be newly purchased.  

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If I just bought a Windows notebook what am I to do?

We decided to announce this requirement as soon as we could to give you ample time to prepare for the requirement. If you already own a Windows notebook computer and the return period for your new computer has lapsed then you might consider selling it via Craigslist, eBay or another outlet that will net you a fair market value. Another option is investigating the recycling program Penn State’s Computer Store offers.

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What happens if I do not bring a notebook that meets the requirement to class in September?

If you do not come equipped with at least the minimum specification, you will not be able to move forward in the program. This is similar to other requirements for the major like number of credit hours and background checks.

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Am I required to purchase a new computer?

No, students who already have a computer, or can acquire one for the duration of the program, that at least meet the minimum specification for hardware and software do not need to purchase a new computer.

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