Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Didn't do the reading for today's class? Your professor may know it even before you take your seat!

No matter how much technology changes the way we buy, collect and read books, one thing still hasn't changed. There is no device that magically transfers the knowledge from the book to the appropriate section of your brain. You still need to read the book . Even if you decide to you use the voice option on your Kindle or Nook, it will require listening to each and every word. 

Reading is a major part of the education experience  Professors assign pages in a textbook to be read in preparation for a class. Whether that happens or not is another story. At one time I handed out a reading log on which I asked students to indicate the percentage of the readings they had completed. If they indicated 90% then I figured that into their grade. I have been fazing out that practice, however, since more than once I have had a gnawing feeling that the 100% on the reading log didn't mean the same thing to the student as it did to me. 

But with the move towards E-textbooks the tables may have finally been turned. A new company called Course Smart is helping professors to track how much of the reading students completed. Here is a bit from the New York Times article. 

Several Texas A&M professors know something that generations of teachers could only hope to guess: whether students are reading their textbooks.
They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all.
“It’s Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent,” said Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business.
The faculty members here are neither clairvoyant nor peering over shoulders. They, along with colleagues at eight other colleges, are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up, CourseSmart, that allows them to track their students’ progress with digital textbooks.Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning. The plan is to introduce the program broadly this fall.

You can read the full story here. In the mean time, students may either want to start reading their assignments or stick with the paper version of the textbook. 

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