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.

Einstein on Capitalism and Education

From an essay by Albert Einstein on capitalism:

“This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.”

I disagree with Einstein about the viability of socialism for the reasons that he describes in his closing paragraphs: it will just degenerate into a massive bureaucracy that employs the same mechanisms of control that he says are at work transforming democratic capitalism into oligarchy.

What I think we need instead is a minimally but carefully regulated grassroots capitalism.

Great Description of the Problems in a View of Students as Customers

Good essay describing a corrosive trend. I think it needs to consider one more element: how many of its faculty are full time, tenure track, have terminal degrees, and what’s their teaching load? If you have well-supported faculty, and if more than 90% of your courses are taught by full time, tenure track faculty, and if your college has the money, then investment in amenities isn’t a bad thing. Environment matters.

But if most of your courses are taught by adjuncts and administrative costs keep going up? There’s a real problem: the school has abandoned education as its primary mission.

Essay critiques how ‘student as customer’ idea erodes key values in higher education | Inside Higher Ed.

Latest Poll Tells Us What We Already Knew

Septem-artes-liberales_Herrad-von-Landsberg_Hortus-deliciarum_1180But, of course, the latest poll doesn’t tell us how to get decision makers within the higher ed industry to listen to these polls that tell us what we already knew.

The poll of which I speak is “Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes,” which polled the general public as well as employers about a range of subjects important to higher education today. There was actually a great deal of ambivalence about a number of subjects (such as online learning and MOOCs), but there was very little ambivalence at all about what matters most in an education, especially to employers: communication skills (writing and speaking), critical thinking skills, and problem solving skills are more important in a college education than job-related knowledge:

In fact, nearly two-thirds of adults and three-quarters of employers agreed with the following statement: ‘Being well-rounded with a range of abilities is more important than having industry expertise because job-specific skills can be learned at work.’

The survey results, which were described in the presentation ‘Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes,’ support the conclusions of a poll of employers that the Association of American Colleges and Universities released earlier this year. That poll found broad support for the idea that students should learn to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems, or what the association described as ‘a 21st-century liberal education.’

Let me put it another way: businesses won’t take your business or vocational training seriously if you can’t read well, can’t speak or write coherently, can’t think for yourself, and can’t solve your own problems, much less problems faced by businesses regularly. Businesses do not feel, generally, that they can teach graduates how to read or write or how to do math, and more importantly, they do not feel that they should have to do so, but they do feel that they can teach their employees their own business. In short, your degree won’t be taken more seriously than your foundational skills. It doesn’t matter how many or what kind of upper division courses that you’ve taken if you aren’t competent in the basics.

These same results come up again and again, in survey after survey. Here are just two others:

It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success” (April 2013)

Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out” (Sept. 2004)

How colleges and universities should respond:

1. Colleges need to reinvest in the general education curriculum. That means putting highly qualified and well-supported professors in freshmen level classes. No, MOOCs are generally not a good idea for freshmen classes, and especially not for remedial courses, as recent experiments at San Jose State University and elsewhere have demonstrated:

In July, San Jose State University suspended its experiment with offering MOOCs for credit after only half of credit-seeking students who took the online courses passed, compared to three-quarters of those who took the traditional versions. In one of the three pilot classes, which were offered during the spring, fewer than 30 percent of the online students passed.

2. Colleges need to emphasize writing in upper division courses, even in quantitative courses. Ideally, at least two to three out of four upper division courses taken in any given semester should be writing intensive. In the best schools, all classes have writing requirements, even math classes.

3. Upper division courses need to emphasize analysis and thesis development.  Knowing how to get the right answer isn’t enough. Thinking about what that answer means is more important. That’s why many of the best math instructors assign writing.

4. The value of a liberal arts education needs to be revisited. Remember that the original liberal arts were considered the skills that a free person or a citizen needed to know to take an active part in civic life. These consisted of the trivium: grammar, rhetoric, and logic; and the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. These subjects represent exactly the skills that employers are looking for: oral and written communication (grammar and rhetoric), critical thinking (logic), math or quantitative reasoning (arithmetic and geometry), creativity and the fine arts (music), and physical sciences (astronomy). These subjects happen to make up most of the core curriculum at most schools.

The best education might then be a liberal arts degree supplemented by business or other vocationally-focused classes (a minor), rather than our current model, which is using a badly undersupported general education curriculum to serve upper division courses that tend to lack rigor unless they are in the humanities or sciences. We already know that students aren’t developing as they should in college:

  • 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
  • 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.
  • Students majoring in liberal arts fields see “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.” Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains.

We keep hearing the same thing over and over again. It’s time we did something about it. Most importantly, it’s time we did the right thing about it.