Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Textbook, online or both ?

1. Origin source for this article
This is the age of electronics and internet. Whether to use textbook only, online only or both is a question that everyone involved in the teaching-learning process must face and find a solution that can ensure fruitful learning.

I decided to share with you sources and thoughts contained therein. The idea came to me as I was perusing through my copy-pasted collection of threads from ELT Resources at Linkedin. In ELT Resources, Nick Edwards raised this issue of position of textbook in the classroom in a thread with this blog post: So is the ELT textbook dead, or not?

Using Pearson as a sample, John H Walsh, Managing Director of The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC), hints at the emerging attitude of all concerned towards the death of books and arrival of the tablet, invites visitors to the blog to share their thoughts and views on how ready teachers are for the tablet and whether teachers and their institutions have the necessary skills, broadband speed, budget and inclination to go wholly or partly digital.

Here is the summary of the responses:
    1. Interesting
     2. As far as books being dead is concerned, I think they’re safe until a way is found for
        apps to get the student interaction element right.
   3. There are certainly challenges to be overcome with regard to training and costs when
       using tablets. While textbook may continue in the classroom, it cannot be said learning is
       difficult using tablets.
   4. The use of one does not rule out the use of the other, the trick being to use tablets to
       supplement and consolidate the more “traditional” methodologies.
   5. Using a tablet instead of a course book is an interesting thought. But how far it’ll be a
       viable substitution or addition is a question, especially in a country like India where
       majority of learners even in cities come from very poor financial background. This
       situation is not going to change any time soon, which might be the case in most
       developing countries.           
       The other conditions like educating learners and teachers in the employment of
       the tablet as a learning and teaching tool come into the picture only later. (mine)

 2. Websites 
I took a look at several websites related to this topic. I provide below thought essence as expressed in these sources.

     In a workshop on Reconsidering the Textbook in 2006 attended by faculty, publishing 
     houses including Google and Microsoft decided to include resources from the internet. 

B. a UNESCO report
     The report recommends a comprehensive programme in every country to improve the
     quality of textbook writing:
     a. The establishment of national clearing houses of information for the improvement of
     b. The establishment of national clearing houses of information for the improvement of
        textbook; for instance Bibliographies of the textbooks used in each country, with an
        indication of the grades and age levels for which each textbook is intended.
     c. The preparation of source books
     d. The preparation of new materials
     e. Projects in textbook analysis
     f. The distribution oj the results of efforts to improve textbooks and teaching material
     g. Actions by individual teachers, institutions, authors and publishers, educational
         organisations, scholars, governments

C. A study in Africa by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) recommends
     a research that looks at the correlation between textbook use and student performance.

D. A blog: Literacy, families and learning, on published January 5, 2009 posted “Online
     reading is different” posted by Trevor Cairny 
     Cairny warns teachers and parents that reading only via the internet may result in the 
     disappearance of ‘close’ reading, reading literature, critical reading which are essential in
     developing ‘discerning’ readers, and thus ‘scholarship’ is likely to be lost to humanity.

     For those of you who may be interested to read further, he provides other links; you can
     read them by opening Cairny’s post and clicking on the links.

Reading a book versus a screen: Different reading devices, different modes of reading?
Date: October 21, 2011 Source: Universit├Ąt Mainz
The study analyzed the differences in reading from various kinds of media (e-book, tablet PC, paper) in two sample groups, young and elderly adults. Each participant read various texts with different levels of complexity on an e-book reader (Kindle 3), on a tablet PC (iPad), and on paper. The reading behavior and the participants' corresponding neural processes were assessed by means of concurrent measures of eye movements (eye tracking) and electrophysiological brain activity (EEG). The criteria that were taken into account and analyzed were changes in the theta frequency band power, reading behavior, text comprehension, and information recall as well as the participants' preferences for the respective medium.

Though almost all participants stated that reading from paper was more comfortable than from an e-ink reader the study actually showed that there was no difference in terms of reading performance between reading from paper and from an e-ink reader. "We have thus demonstrated that the subjective preference for the printed book is not an indicator of how fast and how well the information is processed," concludes Professor Schlesewsky.

For Many Students, Print Is Still King
By Jennifer Howard JANUARY 27, 2013
Despite the hype about e-books, the classic textbook hasn't gone away. In fact, the hold-it-in-your-hands book remains the first choice for many instructors and students.

The writer quotes teachers of several knowledge disciplines who indicate that students still prefer printed books though digital versions are available.

Here’s a summary of the responses from readers of this post:
1.  With a paper text, it’s easier to flip back and forth any number of times
2. With a paper text it’s easier to annotate, write notes.
3. You don't need margins (which is, I take it, what you mean by "open space" in ebooks to take notes. You just highlight the text on which you want to comment and then start typing your note. You get an entirely new screen in which to type your note. 
4. When reading from a computer screen we tend to "skim" and constantly have to go back to reread parts for comprehension or depth.
5. kongzi  the_truth_ferret I'm also interested in finding studies (if there are any) that don't necessarily conclude that electronic is inferior. My own personal experience suggests that reading electronic texts often has disadvantages relative to printed text.
6. Students will select a digital format if it's free, BECAUSE it's free, not because they really prefer it.
7. Unlike digital sources, several paper texts can be used at a time and cross-referring is smoother. They are always available. Digital ‘data bases’ can disappear ; however, digital is good for portability.
8. Kindle for light reading and paper text for serious reading
9. print for anything with graphs, sidebars, images with captions, etc., because ebooks and ebook readers don't display those things very well yet in my experience.
10. New paper on user's ability to remember and comprehend online text vs. printed text: 
In the first two experiments, participants’ memory for Facebook posts was found to be strikingly stronger than their memory for human faces or sentences from books …
Reading Printed versus Online Texts. A Study of EFL Learners' Strategic Reading Behavior
Uso-Juan, Esther; Ruiz-Madrid, Ma. Noelia
International Journal of English Studies, v9 n2 p59-79 2009
Fifty university students from the discipline of Tourism read a research article in English taken from an online journal. Half the students read it in a printed format and the other half  read it in its online version. The results of an English academic reading test revealed that the hypertextual medium 1) did not affect learners' overall reading comprehension, and 2) promoted the use of reading strategies, including both top-down and bottom-up strategies. These results are discussed and suggestions for further research are given.
12. The Propaganda Campaign Against Ebooks!
The writer lists advantages of ebooks:
1) less expensive than regular books, 2) take up no space, 3) far more convenient in that I can carry almost my entire library with me everywhere, 4) searchable (a tremendous boon to my research), and 5) much easier to read in bed 6) instant availability of ebooks accelerates the speed of my research activity.
Is the textbook dead? POSTED BY: John Watson
The blog quotes conclusion from Slate’s article: No More Pencils, No More Books: Artificially intelligent software is replacing the textbook—and reshaping American education: while technology is not a panacea as yet, proponents of paper text have to explain why the status quo is good enough.
14. Factors that influence online Reading: An Investigation into EFL Students’ Perceptions
By Min-chen Tseng, National Taiwan University of Arts published in The Reading Matrix, Volume 10, Number 1, April 2010
This study investigated how online reading affected EFL students’ reading comprehension and reported the difficulties eighty-eight first year Taiwanese EFL students. The major difficulties included eyestrain, inability to take notes or underline text, and skipping lines when reading hypertext on computer screens.  
Possible solution are also offered: 1. Teachers should choose appropriate web sites so students do not waste time and can focus on reading. 2. Adjusting the setting of computer screens and of web pages is equally important. Results obtained in this study clearly suggest that students experienced eye strain, felt visibly tired and this affected their reading performance. There are several tips for reducing eyestrain (Natural Eye Care, 2009; Poynton, 1997; Ankrum, n.d.). 3. Schools could provide custom-made courses to train students how to look for and mine information on the Internet and how to read through its many hyperlinks.

3. my observations
Here there are two groups of people: one personal thoughts based on their classroom experience, and the other results from studies. We need to take the ‘thoughts’ with a pinch of salt. In these studies where students have been involved in investigations or studies indicate preference to one or the other or both.

How far do we give credence to the results? The samples have not been huge, the right questions may not have been asked, the day they were tested may or may not have the best day for them, if these tests were conducted in another batch of students of the same institution, in another institution, in another district, in another country, the results could be very different.

The other aspect is the question in the title. This is appropriate only in those environments where electronic facilities are within the reach of students and institutions. The debate can go on and based on their local philosophies, the decision can be one way or the other. But the question doesn’t apply to those environments where electronic facilities are not within the reach of students and institutions.

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