Wednesday, April 10, 2013

E-Text Books Used for Gathering Information

How many of you have crammed for a quiz or test the night before, memorizing all of the information you need to pass and then aced the test?

How many of you remember that information a month later?  If you're like me, the odds are that you will have forgotten most of that crammed information.

I was thinking about this while reading an article recently published in the New York Times about the use of e-text books in universities.  Professors are tracking how often students open the book, take notes, highlight key information and how long they spend reading or 'engaged' with the material.

It may seem a little controlling and perhaps 'Big Brother' but what I find interesting is that they are able to really notice if the students are learning the information or just cramming.

How important is that difference?  What do you guys think?  Especially the 9th graders here, who all have iPads, how do you feel about teachers tracking your study habits?  Do you think teaching and fostering good study skills is something important that should be added to our educational process?  Or should teachers stand back and let students sink or swim?

As an adult and a teacher, I like the idea.  We’re always looking for ways to touch base with our students, to check in with them and confirm that they really get the information. (Why do you think we give pop quizzes? It’s not to torment you, I promise.)  If I can see that you’re not doing well on the tests but you seem to do fine in class, I know there’s a problem somewhere and this could be a crucial tool for diagnosing that. 

I broached this question to the current 8th grade Information Literacy class and was interested in their reaction.  They had mixed feelings on tracking student study activity.  At first they were flat against the idea.  They saw it as a huge invasion of privacy.  However, after further discussion (and a rambling tangent about how mobile devices work and several suggestions on how someone could trick the system) they started to open up more to the idea.

What I found most interesting was that they strongly disagreed with the idea of using it in the later grades, 11th grade and up and even in college.  “When you get to college you’re in charge of yourself.  I don’t think professors should be looking at how long you studied or what you highlighted.  Everyone studies differently.”

However, they all agreed that it could be a helpful tool in the middle school.  “It’s learning study habits, right?”  One student put forward, “Middle school is the time when we learn how to do stuff, take notes and study for a test.”  There was a lot of nodding but then someone added, “But I wouldn’t want a teacher holding the information against us.”

“Yeah. They have to use the power for good.”

Which pretty much summed up the class discussion and we moved onto learning how to write a MLA database citation.

So what are your thoughts?  Go ahead and read the article and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Teacher Knows If You've Done the E-Reading

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