Reading Print Books Is Better than Reading E-Books

Yes, it’s true: the latest research indicates that reading material in print rather than in an electronic reader is better for you in the following ways:

  • Increased comprehension. The tactile experience of reading a printed book actually matters. Check out the research.
  • Related to the above, we’re more likely to read every line of printed material. When we read e-books, we tend to read the first line and then just the words near the beginning of the line after that.
  • We lose the ability to engage in linear reading if we don’t do it often.
  • Reading printed material for about an hour before bedtime helps us sleep. Reading ebooks keeps us awake.

I read both e-books and print books, and I’m grateful for my e-readers (really, the apps on my iPad) when I’m traveling. It’s easier to carry 1000 books on one iPad than it is to carry five in a backpack.

But I know what the researchers mean by the tactile elements of memory, the feeling of better control over your media with pages, etc. I do remember where to find things in books by their physical location in the book, which isn’t possible with an e-reader: you can only search terms and page numbers. I think the point here isn’t which search method is more efficient, but which reading style engages more of the brain by engaging more of our physical senses.

I’d like you to consider a few things about the way we developed our technologies:

  • The people who developed our technologies didn’t have our technologies. In other words, the people who built the first computer didn’t have computers.
  • The engineers who landed men on the moon did most of their work on slide rules.
  • The computers that they did use had less computing power than our telephones.

LJN Radio Interview — Technically Speaking: Utilizing Technology in Education

I’m happy to announce that my second interview with LJN Radio, “Technically Speaking: Utilizing Technology in Education” is now available on the LJN Radio website.

From the website:

Various uses of technology can be invaluable when it comes to educational success and improved learning. At the same time, people need to be cautious in seeing all forms of technology as an easy fix to how people are taught. Jim Rovira, associate professor of English at Tiffin University, explains to Tim Muma how important it is to ensure students are matched with the appropriate use of technology. Whether it’s taking online classes or utilizing in-class technology for lessons and assessment, it’s imperative educators understand that each student has different needs and will succeed or fail based on the fit of the technology they use.

On Technically Speaking, we explore the latest social media applications for the modern day workplace. Together we’ll discover the hottest technology jobs on the market and keep up with the latest high-tech trends.

Duration: 18 Minutes

Yes, Employers Still Want Writing Skills…

The truth is that employers have been complaining about M.B.A. writing skills for more than ten years now. And not just M.B.As.

But the problem is not that writing and communication skills are “difficult skills to teach,” as the article suggests. I think this kind of claim comes from a panacea view of writing instruction: students take a writing class, so they learn how to write. Writing instruction doesn’t usually work that way. Developing writing ability is a matter of cognitive development, not just a matter of taking in information, so it takes time to develop. If a program wants to develop students’ writing skills, students need to be made to read and write and to receive writing instruction in most of their classes, not just their English classes. The problem is that business and other programs don’t invest in practices that develop communication skills; e.g., high reading and writing requirements.

 

One Skill Recruiters Say Is Lacking With Recent M.B.A. ….

Evaluating Course Evaluations

There’s a recent interesting study out of UC Berkeley evaluating the validity of student course evaluations in measuring teaching effectiveness. The results are similar to the results of the many other studies conducted in the past: student course evaluations are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness:

Student ratings of teaching have been used, studied, and debated for almost a century. This article examines student ratings of teaching from a statistical perspective. The common practice of relying on averages of student teaching evaluation scores as the primary measure of teaching effectiveness for promotion and tenure decisions should be abandoned for substantive and statistical reasons: There is strong evidence that student responses to questions of “effectiveness” do  not measure teaching effectiveness. Response rates and response variability  matter. And comparing averages of categorical responses, even if the categories  are represented by numbers, makes little sense. Student ratings of teaching are valuable when they ask the right questions, report response rates and score distributions, and are balanced by a variety of other sources and methods to evaluate teaching.

What do student course evaluations measure, then? The authors of this study summarize the findings of previous studies here:

  • Student teaching evaluation scores are highly correlated with students’ grade expectations (Marsh and Cooper 1980; Short et al. 2012; Worthington 2002). WHAT THIS MEANS:
    • If you’re an instructor and want high course evaluations, pass out As like candy.
    • Adjunct instructors, having the least job security and the most job retention anxiety, are most likely to inflate grades to get high course evaluations.
    • Net result: over-reliance on adjunct instructors and on student course evaluations to evaluate teachers leads to grade inflation and low course rigor; i.e., poor educational quality.
  • Effectiveness scores and enjoyment scores  are related. In a pilot of online  course evaluations in the UC Berkeley Department of Statistics in Fall 2012, among the 1486 students who rated the instructor’s overall effectiveness and their enjoyment of the  course on a 7-point scale, the correlation between instructor effectiveness and course enjoyment was 0.75, and the correlation between course effectiveness and course enjoyment was 0.8.
    • WHAT THIS MEANS: If students enjoyed the course, they will rate it highly. But enjoyment by itself isn’t a measure of learning. The instructor may just be a good performer.
    • Conversely, lack of enjoyment doesn’t mean the student didn’t learn. The types of assessments and activities that promote long term retention, in fact, lead to low course evaluations. The practices that students like the least actually help them learn and retain the most. See the link right above.
  • Students’ ratings of instructors  can be predicted from the students’ reaction to 30 seconds of silent video of the instructor: first impressions may dictate end-of-course evaluation scores, and physical attractiveness matters (Ambady and Rosenthal 1993).
    • WHAT THIS MEANS: student course evaluations are, more than anything else, superficial measures of instructor popularity.
  • Gender, ethnicity, and the instructor’s age matter (Anderson and Miller 1997;  Basow 1995; Cramer and  Alexitch 2000; Marsh and Dunkin 1992;  Wachtel 1998; Weinberg et al. 2007; Worthington 2002).
    • WHAT THIS MEANS: student course evaluations are, more than anything else, racist, elitist, ageist, and sexist superficial measures of instructor popularity.

So how do we rate teaching effectiveness? I’d recommend the following:

  • Worry less about evaluating the teacher for promotion and focus on gauging effectiveness for the sake of seeking out the most effective strategies for that specific student population.
  • Rely in part on peer evaluations — teachers in the field conducting this evaluation. Field specific knowledge matters, as teaching isn’t just a matter of technique, but of careful selection of content.
  • We still do want to hear from students, of course, so use course evaluation tools that focus on teaching effectiveness, such as those provided by the IDEA Center.

Just for the record, I’m an engaging instructor who generally gets high course evaluations, so I’m not worried about myself here. I am, however, worried about how effectively students are being educated. Reliance on student course evaluations, at present, is working against educational quality.

You can read the study below:

Teaching on 9-11

Dusting of NYC on 9-11I’m not interested here in “Remember 9-11” jingoism or patriotic speeches. I do want us to remember 9-11, of course. I want us to never forget what it must be like to be a bombing victim. I want us to remember how that event brought us all together. I want us to remember what we are still sacrificing in terms of privacy and liberty for a feeling of greater safety. I would like us to remember that we live in a dangerous world, what it feels like to confront that danger up close and personally, and I would like us to ask ourselves what we’re doing as a country to make this world either safer or more dangerous than it already is. But that’s not my focus right now.

What I would like to write about instead is my personal memory of the events of 9-11, particularly teaching college during 9-11. The Fall semester of 2001 was my first semester teaching a college course all by myself as a third-year graduate student. It was Freshman Composition, of course: first year college writing. Freshman Comp. courses aren’t so much content oriented as skill oriented: students need to learn to write certain kinds of essays, and that’s it, so once they learn content related directly to that skill, they can write about whatever they want. Instructors then pick whatever readings they decide are the best and most interesting for that particular class, and students do their writing assignments based on those readings.

For further context, I would like to place myself geographically. I attended graduate school at Drew University, which is located In Madison, NJ. Drew is about thirty miles due west of lower Manhattan, so it takes about an hour to get to Penn Station by train from Madison’s train station, making Madison a commuter town for people working in lower Manhattan. When I first researched the area, I found out it was one of the top ten most expensive places to live in the US at the time. IT and Finance people who work in NYC live in Madison and commute there daily. At least some of my students were local and had parents who worked in the financial district in NYC.

Now, can you guess what I’d assigned that semester? Among all of my readings, I’d assigned readings from Salman Rushdie and Edward Said, both of which related to western imperialism and the Middle East. And can you guess what we were discussing the first day of class after 9-11? You got it. Yes, I was discussing Middle Eastern postcolonial theory in class my first class meeting after 9-11 during my first semester teaching.

Now forget the content for a minute. I had students in class that day who knew someone who died when the Twin Towers collapsed. Everyone was in shock — the whole world was in shock. But it hit my students literally close to home. We could see the smoke rising from the collapsed buildings for weeks after the event. It seemed like it was just always there. I remember hating the sight of it after about a week but not being able to ignore it or look away.

What did I do in class that day? I barely remember. This was my first semester teaching college. I remember I let students express their grief. I remember carefully discussing the content of the readings. I remember more shock and grief than anger at the time. I remember sitting down at the front of the class to talk rather than standing up. I remember over the next few weeks talking to angry male students who wanted to drop out of college to join the Army, and I remember trying to talk them out of it, or at least delay: If you join ROTC now and then finish college you can join as an officer and do more good.

But looking back, I think I got my first experience, without knowing it, of what college classes are really for.