Can Students Have Too Much Tech? – NYTimes.com

For those who question why I have yet to adopt “adaptive learning interactive ebooks” or similar “innovations”…

You can’t microwave education. I encourage students to spend time in the library “oven” baking in understanding. Enjoy the cake…

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/opinion/can-students-have-too-much-tech.html?_r=0&referrer=

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One thought on “Can Students Have Too Much Tech? – NYTimes.com

  1. In response to the actual article, it seems like technology for education was an over-simplification of the issue of so many people lacking education; another attempt to place a band-aid on a gaping wound.

    In regard to your comment about “adaptive learning interactive ebooks,” I will share my thoughts and personal experience relating to the matter. In the fall, I was a student in a Managerial Accounting course which required the use of the publisher’s interactive website provided as a supplement to the textbook. The cost of access to the website seemed to be the driving determinant in purchasing the book. The access code alone was more expensive than purchasing a loose-leaf edition of the book which included the access code.

    The website provided access to a virtual edition of the hard copy text which was broken into chapter and sub-sections. Unfortunately, the user interface was rather clunky and searching for anything in the text was somewhat cumbersome. The website tried to promote a way of scanning a chapter and thereafter leading the reader through the sections in way which was supposed to aid learning. However, for me personally, the hard copy proved to be a more effective and efficient resource.

    The publisher’s website also had the capability to offer quizzes as well as homework assignments, which the professor utilized. While quizzes could have been administered through the school’s CMS, the professor opted to use the publisher’s website. The quiz interface was based directly on the reading. In fact, the reading could be opened to the relevant area for reference during the quiz. This “quiz” feature was much more a learning aid than it was ever intended to be a litmus test of comprehension. However, the quiz feature was based on a rather advanced algorithm based on learning and retention concepts. Questions were answered by selecting the potential answer and then selecting a confidence rating for how confident the student was about the correctness of the answer selected. Based on whether the answer was actually correct and the stated confidence level, the algorithm would determine the frequency with which that topic, or even the same or similar questions would be present throughout the remainder of the quiz. Correct answers with high confidence would generally be repeated only once more. Uncertain and incorrect answers would be repeated with a much higher frequency. One could not complete this quiz without eventually getting the questions right through repetition. This system was rather efficacious.

    The merit of such an intelligent system is also tempered by its reality. While this system really prepared students for exams (based on a similar test bank), it also seems to teach directly to the exams. The understanding promoted and achieved wasn’t always a lasting one, especially for students who took each quiz once. Reviewing the quiz two or even three times before an exam helped. In such a manner, it helped reinforce long-term retention, but for the majority of students it was merely a means to an end (as the quizzes were required for points and otherwise the feature may have been completely underutilized.

    Another major issue with such interactive websites could be their downfall. While these websites/systems are hailed as a great boon to student learning and marketed as an advantage over traditional books (or other systems), this benefit as a selling/marketing point has become the focus of publishers over actually providing the purported benefits (in my opinion). The system I used was not user-friendly or intuitive, and did not always function was it was supposed to. The homework/assignment aspect of the system was somewhat broken. More than half of the assignments had errors either in the actual calculations performed by their system or in the information presented in the assignment. Apparently, according to the professor, previous editions did not have those sorts of content errors and very rarely had calculation errors. The professor speculated that when the publisher released the latest edition, they did not seem to actually completely update their assignment bank. Even though some of the data was updated, they did not rework the assignment pages to match the actual assignments. These broken assignment pages caused great frustration among many students, including myself. If this website were free, it would be easily tolerated. When it seemed like the price paid for the book was actually paying for their service, and a seemingly broken one at that, it was somewhat infuriating. The assignment pages also featured inconsistent rounding and decimal placement errors, which were sometimes noted, and other times had to be guessed. With my experience of the publisher’s website not functioning properly, and not functioning well, I make the claim that this publisher seemed to abandon ensuring that their website was updated and functioning properly as soon as they implemented it and could use it as a selling/promotional feature.

    I applaud you, Dr. Moore, for using a physical textbook which provides free supplements online, but does not require them nor the use of any interactive websites.

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