Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Versus Scroll

Over the years my English department has tried to incorporate tech in our classrooms, especially when it makes learning better and more economical for our students. This is all made easier as I teach in a one-to-one laptop school. I have used a program called Vital Source, but I have found that the texts are not always accurate or as complete as their printed counterparts; for example no line numbers on epic poem texts. I have also used some e-texts with my classes but haven't always gotten the best feedback from students when I use these resources. We can't annotate them as we can a book. They are not as easily referenced during class discussions, although when the Ctrl F search feature works finding the same place to discuss is quick and easy. Of course, managing distractions is always an issue when anyone, not just students, are working online. Learning to self discipline in this area is a life skill that I encourage my students to practice. Ignoring Facebook, chat pop ups, constant checking of email, and more are all real distractions which I find myself falling into often, so I certainly sympathize with my students struggles in this area as well. For example, I set aside some time to grade lovely satires written by my sophomores and here I am writing a blog post (for the first time in three months!). An advantage to the e-text, besides the free price, is also the ease of access-no book to forget at school.

This morning I found some recent research that describes my biggest struggle with using online texts. As someone who has always studied books, I find it difficult to find my place in online texts. Maybe I need to use resources like Diigo and its annotation feature more often. I have also thought that this is because I am a strongly visual learner and "see" where on the page I am looking for in order to locate a relevant quote or section when analyzing a text. But this research suggests that another factor is memory processing.
So my questions are:
  • Do students of this new generation have different memory functioning than I do? Am I just getting old and losing it!
  • Is the digital world that they are growing up in changing how their brains develop (I know that there is research on this out there)?
  • Should I use online texts in order to facilitate this development, continue using a combination of print and online sources, or go back to the "good old days" of tattered, well read paperbacks?
I hope that teachers who have used scrolling texts share what they do in order to use this resource effectively as a learning tool. And I hope that students also share their perspectives on these questions as well.

One more thought, more than anything I have found that variety is not only the spice of life but also the best way to teach. Whether for "keeping it fresh" and interesting or to reach students with multiple learning styles in the same 45 minutes. So I guess I'm leaning toward sticking to the combination (I have turned in my book list for next year), but what about the year after that (do teachers plan two years in advance?!) I'm also always open to change, which helps adapting to this whole new world of teaching a bit easier.

1 comment:

reeseme7 said...

Yeah I'd say use both. =D I know I'd get sort of distracted reading a book on my computer but, like you said, there are benefits to it. I don't think I'd want to read all of the books on the computer though so a combination would be my choice.