Digital Literacy: Could e-books be a detriment to reading fluency?

Digital books have been around for a while now.  I’ve read a handful of books on my low-cost model Kindle and a couple on the Kindle app on my iPad.  I like having the flexibility to use digital books.  However, there just is something about a physical book that is special.  I definitely would know; I have lots of them.

While digital books are great green space-savers, could they actually be hindering reading proficiency?  At first, that concept seems silly: the built-in dictionaries can give instant access to unknown words, the read-aloud functions can help pronounce words or even pages, and the font size can adjust for eye problems.  But let’s look closer at those.

If you aren’t careful, those “helpful extras” can quickly and easily turn into “distracting extras”.  Videos that pop up in text books that enhance learning?  Sounds great: but now the student has to stop reading, focus on the new content, and then return to the reading content trying to remember what was being said before the video.

Annie Murphy Paul reported, for the New York Times, on a recently presented study by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar and Jordan T. Schugar from West Chester University.  The researchers found that among middle and high school students, “reading comprehension…was higher when they read conventional books” versus digital books on iPads.

Paul, summarizing information presented by the Shugars, states succinctly:

Parents and teachers to look for e-books that enhance and extend interactions with the text, rather than those that offer only distractions; that promote interactions that are relatively brief rather than time-consuming; that provide supports for making text-based inferences or understanding difficult vocabulary; and that locate interactions on the same page as the text display, rather than on a separate screen.

In addition, Paul states:

Adults should ensure that children are not overusing e-book features like the electronic dictionary or the “read-to-me” option. Young readers can often benefit from looking up the definition of a word with a click, but doing it too often will disrupt reading fluidity and comprehension. Even without connecting to the dictionary, children are able to glean the meaning of many words from context. Likewise, the read-to-me feature can be useful in decoding a difficult word, but when used too often it discourages children from sounding out words on their own.

So are digital books going to kill literacy rates?  Probably not.  However, if you don’t apply the same methods to learning how to read when using digital books as was done with physical books, we may have fewer and fewer people willing to read 500+ page books.

Technology-Use Classroom Policies: Let the Students Decide

Are you in favor of the zero-tolerance, paper and pencil only policy? Or, do you take the-more-the-merrier approach? Something in between?

Technology use in the classroom is the bane of many a teacher’s existence. Teachers struggle with the excellent benefits that technology can provide and the tempting distractions it allows.

So what are the benefits? Note-taking. Reference a large volume of text without the weight. Disability support. Educational support apps/programs. Email. Cloud storage and collaboration.

And the tempting distractions? Let me count the ways…social media, games, internet memes, non-educational apps/programs, text messaging. Even beneficial things can become a distraction, for example email and cloud storage. Students could be working on homework for one class while ignoring the teacher of the class they are currently in. When students snap back to attention, they ask the same questions that have just been asked because they were not listening. Precious class time is wasted in repetition. Then, the students who were paying attention get bored by the repetition and then become distracted by their technological device of choice.

So what is a teacher to do? Let the students decide.

Seriously.

Create a document in Google docs that all students can edit. Give the students a one week deadline to edit policies and consequences as they see fit. Discuss with your students the conundrum you face with technology–your goals versus its distractions.

This will allow the students to feel their desire to use technology is respected. It will invite students to police each other.

Of course, this may not work. Teachers may need to reserve the right to veto outlandish policies or enforce accountability measures. It all really depends on your students. However, if you have found your blanket policies to be ineffective at curbing distractions, perhaps the best strategy is to go straight to the source for feedback.

Guest Post: How Technology Shape Academic Learning

Guest Post Written By: Ethan Harvell

In the past, students have to do a lot of things in order to write their writing assignments or study for an exam. They have to go to libraries, check dictionaries, read the encyclopedia or type on a type writer. Thanks to technological development, students now experience a fast and convenient life as a student.

Other Side of Technology

Some say that technology (e.g computers, Internet or tabs) affects the concentration of students. BBC News even report that Internet usage made the attention span of people, much shorter. They even compare it to that of a goldfish. The focus of people becomes very weak because of the millions of data they consume on-line. These also promoted multitasking, with multiple tabs when people are searching on-line, which lessen the efficiency of people.

However technological inventions are not made to distract people. Its purpose is to help people have better lives. Internet is now used in learning. Since most students today were born in an era when computers are already used in every field of life, they have a sense of dependency towards computers. They rely on it for intellectual learning and even skills development. Even professors note the importance of technology in reaching Millennial students.

Let us take a closer look on how technology shapes academic learning:

Tablets For Learning

Recently Google introduced the benefits of the use of tablet applications in teaching. They note the importance of making students actively participate in class discussions and activities, which focus on Google Play applications downloaded on tablets.

Among the activities they do, are: quizzes, puzzles, reading books and spelling tests. Visual and auditory learners get to learn through visual aids while, haptic learners benefits from games and hands-on application. Class discussion also follows to access the learning of students.

E-books also became popular. It makes studying easier because students can bring their tablets anywhere. They can easily highlight and bookmark important parts of the book. Although only 21% of K-12 schools today uses digital textbooks, a huge increase of digital textbook users is expected, with 36.5% of schools, planning to move into digital books in the next few years.

Social Media Incorporated in Learning

Social media  used to be a distraction to intellectual growth and learning. But modern educators now incorporate it to class projects.

How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation,” written by A. Adam Glenn notes that Andrew Lih University of Southern California, uses Pinterest as source of generating idea for business and entrepreneur students. The “mood boards” that these students create are easily done through the sites clip board function. The site also promotes data curation, beneficial to journalism, digital media aggregation assignment, and content writing.

Google+ Hangouts are used by students for academic group discussions. Students from Boise State University incorporates YouTube videos in this groups and teach themselves with mathematical equations.

College blogs are also becoming very popular, not only for social sharing but also for social learning. Students can write their own contents and engage in commenting on other people’s work too. This leads to healthy discussions. Aside from that, reasoning, creativity and critical thinking skills are developed through blogging

Popularity of On-line Schools and Blended Learning

The increasing cost of attending a classroom facility encouraged people to enroll in on-line classes. Aside from monetary reasons, online classes  became popular because of these few reasons:

Flexibility– Students can take courses according to a schedule convenient to them. They can easily balance their personal life and school classes, without getting stressed.

Save Time– No need to waste time in going from one class to another; or driving from home to school, and vise-versa. You can efficiently use this time in studying instead.

Several Courses at Once– If you have a particular course that you want to take, but not in your program, you cannot take it on a typical class. But on-line programs allow you to expand your interest and enroll classes beyond the given course list.

Accessibility– Internet is easily available and students can attend classes at any convenient time they want.

Same Job Opportunity– You get the same job opportunity as students attending classroom lessons. Is an on-line program different from their usual classes? If the school is reputable, their method of teaching is basically the same, no matter how they deliver it.

Clayton Christensen on his theory of disruptive innovation tells that “by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered on-line.” Most classes today are already leaning towards technology-based teaching methods because of its effectiveness.

Flipped classroom is one of these blended learning strategies. Students are given lesson materials at home and they study it with an instructional video. In class, they join class activities related to that topic.
Although technology has its negative effect on students learning, it is undoubtedly, a very important tool in making academic learning much effective and efficient.

Author’s Bio

Ethan Harvell is resident of Fremont, California and is a journalist, philanthropist, and a volunteer teacher. He is currently a freelance writer for an essay writing service.

Infographic: The Future of Higher Education

More and more people are questioning not which college or university they should go to but if they should even go at all.  The creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, dropped out of college (Harvard).  The creator of Tumblr, David Karp,dropped out of high school.  The Co-Founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, dropped out of college (Harvard).  The Co-Founder of Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs, dropped out of college (Reed College).  The Chairman and CEO of Dell, Micheal Dell, dropped out of college (University of Texas at Austin).  With such a poor economy, degrees taking years to obtain, college loan debt sinking the middle-class, and the abundance of free online classes from most universities (Ivy League included), what reason do we have for attending a four year university?

Infographic: The Future of Higher EducationOriginal source: TheBestColleges.org