There’s an interesting piece at Mind/Shift about how K-12 educators are beginning to rethink policies for allowing technology in class. A study by The Consortium of School Networking published a study saying that the story considers in part:
“The advantages of digital media now greatly outweigh the disadvantages and require that schools update their thinking and policies to provide guidance on the use of these tools to improve student learning and achievement,” the paper says.
It simply makes no sense, the paper argues, to try and keep students out of a world – a digital world – that is going to be paramount to how they live and work as adults. In fact, says [Principal Investigator Steven] Bosco, it’s not even possible to keep them out.
There are also details on how a school district in Texas handed out 3,200 Android phones to its students with pre-approved apps that could be used to take quizzes and view educational videos.
I’m fascinated by what this could mean when these kids hit college age. They’ll walk into a classroom expecting technology to be incorporated and necessary in each class. Will they find a barrier to learning when their phones are technology non grata? Will teachers have to adapt to their expectations and learning plans?
Twenty years after laptops became affordable, it’s still very rare to see them appear in a classroom at the schools where I teach — at least during lectures. Yet I see cell phones every day; 100 percent of my current writing class wrote “texting” was one of their primary means of writing. The explosion in use of smart phones has got to be the next animating change in college education — and the next point of tension, I’d imagine, since instructors already uncomfortable with bringing online readings into class are likely to die upon the hill of “no texting.”
I played with MERLOT a bit last term and over the break to see what I could find. The initial choices for college-appropriate, developmental-level writing and reading modules seems pretty slim, though they do have several solid 121-level resources available.
So, I added a few links I found on my own to get started. The first is a writing guide dealing with different types of paragraphs from the University of Victoria. The advantage to the site is in its simplicity: pages are simple text and easy to read (and print for readers who prefer paper). The table of contents offers a few short pieces on constructing a topic sentence, 5 different types of paragraphs, and a pretty thorough discussion of different organization choices that one can make.
The downside? This site is under copyright by UVic, not openly shared. I need to research (and read up after next week’s meeting) to see how limiting this would be if this was a one- or two-week resource for class.
I gave this three stars (average) rating on MERLOT.
LINK: Text-Neck strikes:
Text neck results from frequent texting or looking down at your mobile device for extended periods of time and chiropractors say it is on the rise and is quickly becoming a global epidemic.The repetitive stress injury caused by flexing of the neck for prolonged periods can result in tightness across the shoulder, cause headaches and neck soreness and can even result in permanent arthritic damage if left untreated.
Some of them also suffer from a related disease, I Believe You Can’t See Me Texting If I Hide The Phone Under My Desk-itis, which is easily preventable by pointing out none of the desks have front panels on the first day of class.
I’ve realized a bad habit of mine. I often turn to my partner, also a college instructor, and say the following: “Does this make sense to you?” Inevitably, I then show him an assignment or a set of instructions, and usually, he says, “Yeah, that’s totally clear.”
The problem, of course, is that my classes are populated not by English-major professors but by just-starting college students. Things that click for me, or for C, do not automatically come across very clearly for my students.
One of the ways one of my departments has proposed to combat this trouble is to allow/encourage teachers to send their syllabi and assignments to another faculty member with some experience in “grade leveling.” The idea is that she’ll read your papers and tell you what “level” they’re written at. I like this idea, in a way, and I did send my papers off (though did not receive a response), but I also think it may, again, be a circular, insular process.
Far better, probably, would be to hand out syllabi and let students edit and reword them (without changing the content) until they make sense to them.
Oh. Hey. First day activity?
I’m reviewing and revising my syllabi for the next term (which begins Monday). This shouldn’t take much work, but it always does because I always end up tinkering with things. The policy I have in mind to change this term is my late work policy. For several years, my late work policy has been one of the most forgiving policies around. Basically, I accept late work — any late work — with no penalty if a student contacts me before the deadline (even the morning of) to request an extension. I take late work otherwise with a 10 percent penalty within a week of the deadline. I do this because I see three main reasons to penalize late work:
- Late work inconveniences, mostly, the instructor. Since I’m always grading something, it’s not usually much of an inconvenience for me to receive a new paper at a later date. I also don’t really want to punish students for making me work harder, since there are sometimes stretches where they’re working very hard and I’m twiddling my thumbs.
- Late work offers a student an unfair advantage (of time) over students who submit their work on time. Yes, it does — but this seems to even out in the fact that it puts students who turn in late work at a disadvantage on the next assignment they turn in, for which they’ll have less time. Also, because the late option is available to everyone, I don’t think it’s inherently unfair.
- Late work demonstrates a student’s unwillingness or inability to prioritize or meet deadlines. Perhaps this is true, in some cases, but I have two problems with this. First, if a student can contact me in advance and admit that he/she can’t finish his/her assignment on time, that is a form of recognizing limits, and I want to reward that honesty. Second, I bristle at the idea that my job should include explicit instruction in time management, in part because it is so often expressed as a “desirable job trait,” and I do not work as a teacher to better prepare students for jobs. That is what on-the-job training is for.
I do, however, work as a teacher to help students succeed further in their academic career, and time management is a necessary skill for academic success. To this end, I’m not sure my policy is very effective, and I sometimes worry that students come out of my class feeling they’ve gotten away with something by turning in late work. This is usually not true. My one best reason for accepting work past the deadline is that my actual goal in every class is to encourage students to learn certain skills and make their best effort at every assignment. Often, for some students, an extension of a week can mean the difference between turning in a D paper that’s dashed off the night before and that neither of us really understands and a B paper that’s taken enough work that the student actually manages to imbibe some of what I’m trying to pass along.
Sometimes, of course, that week-long extension just leads to a student writing a paper in one night one week later than they would have. Are they getting away with something then? No: that paper still gets graded as it would have. (It is those papers, though, that make my quick dismissal of the inconvenience feel very thin).
Anyway, this term, I’m probably moving to a one-late-paper pass system instead of the old way. This is mostly because I’ve seen too many students now sink too far behind once they’ve turned in a first late paper. I’m not terribly pleased with this policy, though. I’d welcome any other good ideas on how to deal with delays.
When You Teach Someone Else You Learn Better
Over at Time, Annie Murphy Paul writes about the “Protégé Effect”, or why first-born children are given tools to learn that their younger siblings don’t have, or why teaching someone else is the best way to deeply learn a subject.
Students enlisted to tutor others, these researchers have found, work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. In what scientists have dubbed “the protégé effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning only for their own sake. But how can children, still learning themselves, teach others? One answer: They can tutor younger kids. The benefits of this practice were indicated by a pair of articles published in 2007 in the journals Science and Intelligence. The studies concluded that first-born children are more intelligent than their later-born brothers and sisters and suggested that their higher IQs result from the time they spend showing their younger siblings the ropes. Educators are experimenting with ways to apply this model to academic subjects. In an ingenious program at the University of Pennsylvania, a “cascading mentoring program” engages college undergraduates to teach computer science to high school students, who in turn instruct middle school students on the topic.
I experimented broadly with having students lead discussions, work in small and mid-sized groups on quizzes, and take charge of certain lessons in class this term. The results were very positive. I’ll be doing more of it next term.
So, if the previous post on textbook pricing discusses ways not to save students money, how can one actually do this?
- OBVIOUS: Order cheaper books. It is astounding the number of professors who don’t know what their books cost students. It’s very easy to figure this out. Campus bookstores are pretty high-tech these days — check their prices online. Then, with the click of the mouse, you can easily find other texts with similar readings. Amazon is happy to provide you with a “People who bought this also bought that” list. Publishers list similar titles, too. Most departments keep libraries of textbooks that instructors use and have used. Oh, and there’s this thing called the library. More on it in a moment.
- Get electronic desk copies instead of hard-cover desk copies of books you want to sample. This saves the publisher the cost of ink, paper, publishing, and mailing, and it’s a great way to sample a ton of books. Coursesmart.com, which I’ve mentioned before (I swear they don’t pay me), has a ton of texts on offer for browsing, long- and short-term.
- Find books that the campus store can rent to students. Textbook rental is still kind of new, but it works much the way that car rental does: students pay a much lower rate for the book, promise to care for it, and return it at term’s end. Students in my classes have reported saving anywhere from $20 to $40 on their readers by renting — and this is a cost covered on student account funding at the bookstore.
- Place your book on library reserve. The more copies that are available in the library, the more students will be able to actually use them. Give a reasonable reserve window — 2-3 hours — and figure at least 1 book per 20 people. Mention this option on the first day of class. Students who really don’t have the money for the book but are able to plan ahead can benefit.
- Find out your library’s policy on electronic reserves — and offer them. Some libraries will allow for scanned material to be loaned out for an hour or two at a time. This is a great way to provide the textbook to students for little or no cost without breaking copyright.
- Use OER. Open Education Resources are Creative Commons-licensed works made especially for educators and designed to replace textbooks. That means you can select them and include them in a course pack or just link to them from your course management system without worrying about legal ramifications.
- Understand copyright. You can link to about nine articles per term under fair use — nine, and only nine. That’s nearly one a week for me.
- Understand student printing costs. The beauty of online resources is that they’re free! The bad news is that students will still, often, have to print them out to bring them to class — and hardly any campuses still allow free printing. If your school charges $.05 a page for printing and you assign 20 pages of reading a week for 10 weeks, that’s $20. $.08 = 16. $.10 = $20. And so on until a book may be cheaper. (Plus binder cost!) Beyond this, printing is often an out-of-pocket expense for students, not something that can be charged to a student account. If there’s no money for books, there’s likely not money for printing, either.
Or, the shorter version: There’s a lot you can do to reduce costs. It all takes some effort, of course, and some practice, but it’s very likely someone down the hall is already doing these things. If we learn nothing else as teachers, surely, we should learn how to share what’s working.
Anyone else have good tips on reducing cost to students?