Can e-Books Revive the Lost Art of Reading?

The Teacher & The Student

Every teacher, in the not too distant future, will be forced by the market forces to embrace e-Books. The options are clear indeed: practice or perish. There is no middle ground in which to take cover.
It is not what the teacher likes, but what the students want and demand vehemently. Indeed students are at the threshold of discovering the treasure of reading and learning through e-Books. The student community are more adept to embracing e-Books by a very large margin compared to teachers. It is safe to claim that e-Books will take the credit for restoring the lost art of reading among the netizens.

Poor Reading Skills: Is the Internet to Blame?
Ability to read effectively is an important prerequisite for learners. Yet many face serious hurdles in mastering this critical skill. In fact, the problem is more alarming among students when it boils down to reading text books and academic papers. I take liberty in labeling this phenomenon the lost art of reading.
It is customary to place the blame for the sorry state of reading skills on the advent of Internet. Internet is alleged to encourage quick, careless and shallow reading. The web takes the blame for distracting the readers’ mind through links, video clips, photographs and pop-ups which can dilute comprehension and retention.
Is it likely that the Internet which often takes the blame for the lost art of reading, is poised to revive reading skills through-Books?

The e-Book Era
What started as a fad through launch of e-Books has come a long way to take the world by storm. In May 2011, reported that after only 4 years of selling e-Books, it is now selling more e-Books than printed books. After being in continuous print since 1768, Britannica Encyclopedia announced in 2012 that it will end publication of printed editions and move to digital online version. It is highly likely, that Libraries around the world are acquiring a larger proportion of e-Books compared to paper books.
Strangely, much of the spectacular growth of e-Books was witnessed under the PC (desk-based and notebook) era. Gartner research shows that PC’s coveted place is being fast replaced by devices like tablets and smart phones in the last 2-3 years. With the continued growth in the shipment of devices, it is fair to expect the student community to embrace tablets and smartphones in lieu of PC or notebooks. Moreover, the devices are becoming increasingly versatile and more student-friendly due to its unique benifits.

Why e-Books will prevail?
e-Books hold distinct advantages over paper books. They provide ability to highlight passages, look for the most highlighted passages by other readers, create and retrieve archived notes, easy search feature, definition display function, as well as ability to Tweet or Facebook passages. In addition, some e-Books allow interaction, 3D imaging, flexibility to embed audio and video clips and updates. In contrast paper books are bulky and heavy, which is one of the prime reasons for students not carrying it to schools/colleges. They are more expensive compared to e-Books. Above all, e-Books score very high in term of saving the environment. These factors enhance the reading and learning experience for students.

Those in the teaching profession for sufficiently long time remember the slow and painful process of moving from blackboard to overhead projector and then to PowerPoint. Some teachers vehemently swore that they will not change. Unfortunately change overtook them. The same fate awaits teachers who now refuse to embrace e-Books.
e-Books of the future, especially educational ones, will likely be vastly different from what we use today. The scope is enormous going by the advances in Information and Communications Technology.

The Winner
The outcome for the education sector is enormous. For the teachers, it gives them greater control over how they wish to teach. For learners, it will restore the lost art of learning and bring enormous learning benefits. This is also bound to change the structure and outlook of our libraries. Overall, everyone wins!


Reflective Learning

Reflect or Respond?

It is imprudent to respond without reflecting whether it be after reading a piece of news, watching a movie, or answering the teacher’s question, not to speak of many other circumstances of life.

Let us reflect on this issue by evaluating the benefits of reacting after due reflection. “I exist, therefore I reflect” reflects the underlying philosophy of this blog. Humans are uniquely endowed with the ability to reflect–a skill grossly underused by students. It is rather easy to react instantaneously, but requires training and discipline to engage in reflection.

Objective of Reflection

There is no better way to make good decisions than to reflect well before responding. The quality of the decision is only as good as the degree of reflection that goes into it. While reflection is not rocket science, its seeds ought to sown when children are young. Consequently they get a chance to learn and apply this skills for the rest of their lives.

Reflection in Education

Let us explore a practical scenario.

It is common for the teachers to expect learners to respond to a given question or issue.  If the question is simple, requiring recall of memory (lower order thinking skills), responding instantly is probably acceptable. Educational institution’s primary goal is to hone in higher order skills like: analysis, evaluation, synthesis, especially on issues where there is no one correct answer.  Given this scenario, the teacher should nurture students to apply the skills of reflection.

The issues require careful consideration all relevant factors–weighing the pros and cons, opportunities and threats, asking the “what if” questions, apart from considering alternatives. No doubt, these require of the learners to reflect and cannot be expected to post an instant response.

Reflective Process

Reflection is akin to what happens inside a tumble dryer.  It is the putting of certain issues or questions in our mind and going over it, like inside a tumble dryer–up and down, down and up, left to right and right to left. Like the clothes in the dryer, the issue or idea is tossed around, in our mind, in all directions. Overall, the reflective process helps one to better perceive the issue and see the possible implications and outcomes in a clearer way.

The answer that evolves as a result of the reflective process is bound to be far better in quality and more valuable. In other words, there is no learning that is devoid of reflection.

Fosteringreflective learning is one of the most valuable lessons that teachers can inculcate.  The outcome is worthwhile and long lasting. Students will be wiser and learn to think for themselves. In short, this is lifelong learning.

Teachers, how do you instill reflection in learners? I am keen to hear your ideas.

Students how do you practice reflection? Tell me your experience.

Publisher PowerPoint: Teacher to Adopt or Adapt?

Book publishers render a handy service to the teaching community–gifting readymade PowerPoint that accompany textbooks adopted for the courses. While they render valuable help to busy teachers, it comes with a downside issue that require ironing out by teachers. Let’s explore the two options facing teachers viz., should I adopt or adapt these PowerPoint.

Why ‘adopt’ is not the preferred choice?

Publisher PowerPoint is not intentionally designed with the aim of engaging students in the learning process. They play a good role in capturing the key points and concepts to be covered in the classroom. While coverage is its strength, coverage by itself is inadequate to engage learners. No thoughtful teacher, you will agree, steps into the classroom presuming that coverage is the prime responsibility. Teaching is an art that demands more than information presenting or coverage. If, engaging student is the way to foster learning, outright adoption of publisher PowerPoints is not the best approach.

Why ‘adapt’ is a prudent option?

Teachers are constantly faced with the challenge of making sense of the content to be taught so that students gain a deeper understanding and are better equipped to apply the learning. This naturally calls for the teacher to reflect and figure out meaningful and innovative ways to teach the content that goes beyond the mundane task of covering the content using the publisher resource. The teacher, therefore, may opt the prudent option of adapting publisher PowerPoint by modifying, dropping, adding, and tweaking the content to meet the intended goal of learning. No doubt, this calls for investment of time and effort. The pay-off can be substantial.

Tricky issue of how to ‘adapt’

Chip and Dan Heath in ‘Made to Stick‘ propound 6 excellent principles using the acronym SUCCESs. Sticky Learning, in their view, is driven by Sticky Teaching. This happens when students are able to remember, understand, apply and change their behavior or opinion or value. In other words, adapting publisher provided PowerPoint is the best way to facilitate sticky learning. Try adapting using these 6 principles of SUCCESs.

The way forward?

What should teachers do? Ditch publisher PowerPoint? Not at all! They have value, though not to the extent desired by students and teachers. The motto: adapt not adopt  when embraced help personalize the publisher PowerPoint and put the interest of the students above everything–mark of a Great Teacher!