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Does Reading on Computer Screens Affect Student Learning

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Naomi S. Baron is a woman who walked past her campus bookstore and noticed a sign advertising digital-textbook rentals, and started to worry. She is a professor of linguistics at American University and author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. She studies the relationship between technology and language. She believes that students will have a mentality of “I’m studying for a test, and this piece of text is not going to become a part of who I am” when they are reading on a computer or tablet screen. It’s only a matter of convenience and students won’t absorb every word comparatively to a traditional physical text book.

She is not the only professor that is worried about the effects of reading on screens. Other professors such as Michelle Blake, whom is a professor of English at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, noticed her students’ eyes seemed to glide over obvious errors in their papers while reading aloud. She wonders how much of this is an effect of the web and its hindrance of s students’ ability to engage with texts.

A few studies have found that there is little difference between the retention when a student reads on a screen versus in print. However, from the Norway’s University of Stavanger, they did a study that did suggest that high-school students remember less when they read a text digitally. Some evidence exists that when students multitask, their comprehension dips.

What’s even more astonishing is the fact that Ms. Baron had done research that shows that students prefer reading from print (ninety-two percent answered print). From this sample of 429 college students, she believes that her hunch that students have trouble switching into academic-reading mode when the text is on the screen.

For more information on this topic, click here.

Colleges to Drop Traditional Textbooks for Open Educational Resources

The national reform network for community colleges, Achieving the Dream (ATD), has announced that they will be taking the initiative to develop degree programs that will use open educational resources (OER). The OER Degree Initiative makes it so that programs will use openly licensed learning materials as opposed to purchasing expensive textbooks, saving their students thousands of dollars.

Currently, the cost of textbooks averages to about $1,300 for a full-time community college student. For the millions of students, the cost of textbooks alone prevents students from completing their education. The OER Degree Initiative will be implemented to save students money and improve the rate of college completion. According to a press release, “…there are enough open educational materials to replace textbooks in required courses in four two-year programs: business administration, general education, natural or general science, and social science. But only a few colleges are using those resources.”

“Through the OER Degree Initiative, these community colleges are simultaneously addressing two important challenges faced by educators and students: Not only will they provide their faculty the flexibility and academic freedom to align their open educational resources to curriculum objectives, but also, by lowering textbook costs, they will make it far more likely that their students will achieve the goal of attaining a degree,” said Barbara Chow, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For this initiative, ATD will be in charge of assisting colleges in making the OER degree an important factor in their student’s efforts for success. Upon the initial implementation, the OER courses will be available on an online platform.

The OER Degree Initiative is backed by grants from foundations totaling $9.8 million. Participating colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process “based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of selections offered,” according to a news release.

For more information, please visit the article here or the Achieving the Dream site

Open for Learning: OER Materials Continue to Rise

There is a large and growing number of works released with open licenses, which encourage sharing and remixing. These works (both creative and academic) can be used extensively within classrooms for little to no money. Over a billion such works were created under Creative Commons licenses alone. Yet for many, open educational resources (OER) are a yet-unknown element. A recent study found that about 3 out of 4 higher-ed faculty members could not name what OER was, despite making access to textbooks and other learning materials easier than ever for students. The common trope of professors writing textbooks that they require students to buy doesn’t quite hold up: few professors make money from textbooks, even if they do write and require their own textbooks, and the process systematically locks students out of learning.

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Photo Credit: premieradmissions.com

Combining pedagogy with open learning materials is the subject of multiple websites and conferences, including the Open Education Global Conference in Krakow, and oerstrategy.org. OER advocates say that campuses save almost as much time and expense by adopting these resources as their students do. Cable Green of the Creative Commons points to OER efforts in British Columbia and the University of Minnesota, which snowballed into an effort that Washington, Oregon, and California have since joined. Green hopes the efforts will lead to more efficient usage of faculty time and more uniform, less redundant learning materials: “They said, ‘Let’s not duplicate efforts and let’s not waste money’ — butwe can actually do better than that. We can set plans together. We can divide the labor, so everybody doesn’t have to work so hard. We can share the expenses on projects.”

For more info, visit the article here.

 

BSU to Use Mobile App for Campus Safety

Boise State University announced earlier this month that it will begin using a smartphone app to augment its existing campus safety measures. The app, “Rave Guardian,” allows users to set safety timers, which alert emergency contacts and campus safety services if they expire or if the user manually calls for help. At that time, profile information (potentially including a photo and medical needs of the student) is instantly provided to responders as they locate the student and ensure their safety. Along the way, designated friends and family can check in on the location and status of the student. Users can also submit anonymous tips to police and campus security through an SMS-like interface, with support for pictures as well as text.

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Photo Credit: 123rf.com

The app is described as a “mobile personalized blue light phone on steroids,” giving students and security services a level of interconnectivity not seen yet. It’s a natural fit for the Boise area, too: neighborhoodscout.com says the chance of being a victim of violent crime in Boise is about 1 in 337, which is higher than usual for the US. In comparison, the chance of being a victim of violent crime in Bothell is about 1 in 1406, which is well below average. Combined with traditional campus safety and security resources, Rave Guardian might drastically improve the well-being of both students and staff on campus.

For more info here.

Video Observation is helping Professors Grade Themselves

Video observation is not a new concept on a college campus; though typically, it’s used for athletes, rather than professors. But this could be changing, according to a study done at Harvard University that suggests that this same tactic could benefit educators. In an article by Erin McIntyre, in Harvard’s two-year study, video observation was found to improve a teacher’s evaluation in several ways. Additionally, video-recorded performances were found to be more productive rather than on an in-person review. Feedback was more specific and educators got the chance to watch themselves interact with students. While Harvard’s studies focused only on the educators of K-12, there are several colleges and universities that already offer video observations to their faculty in order to improve their teaching.

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At the University of Michigan, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) encourages faculty members to obtain feedback in several ways.  These include student questionnaires, self-reflection and peer observation, as well as video observation and confidential reviews with its staff to faculty throughout the university.

At Harvard, through their Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, any educator can request a video recording that they can then review it with a trained consultant.

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, they consider video observations so important that students are required to do two in order to complete the Graduate Teacher Program. Students use the videos as a basis for a self-assessment and an improvement plan.

As research continues to strongly support the value observations, a video camera in the classroom may be just as common as a camera on the football field.

For more information, please visit the article here