The hot topic in education today is how technology is going to shape, track and modify student behavior, especially in areas that are typically hard to control. The NYT writes about e-textbooks that will track student engagement in real time for professors to view. However, how we interpret this data is not so clear cut.
Adrian Guardia, a Texas A&M instructor in management, took notice the other day of a student who was apparently doing well. His quiz grades were solid, and so was what CourseSmart calls his “engagement index.” But Mr. Guardia also saw something else: that the student had opened his textbook only once.
“It was one of those aha moments,” said Mr. Guardia, who is tracking 70 students in three classes. “Are you really learning if you only open the book the night before the test? I knew I had to reach out to him to discuss his studying habits.”
Here are my questions: who among us hasn’t been that student, where everything you needed to know was discussed in lectures, and the reading so thoroughly reviewed that a sharp student didn’t need to do it in the first place? But more importantly, doesn’t this also point to a greater problem with how the course itself is designed? In other words, if that student can pass that class without opening the book, then hasn’t the teacher gone wrong somewhere in designing the course, the content, the lectures, the assignments and/or the choice of book?
Later in the article, everyone involved acknowledges that students will still continue to be inventive:
students could easily game the highlighting or note-taking functions. Or a student might improve his score by leaving his textbook open and doing something else.
Apparently, students taking paper notes are also penalized because the system can’t track them.
Finally, one of the professors seems to engage in some self-reflection toward the end:
“Maybe the course is too easy and I need to challenge them a bit more,” Mr. Guardia said. “Or maybe the textbooks are not as good as I thought.”
If our students aren’t engaged, aren’t challenged, aren’t paying attention, they certainly own part of that responsibility. But we do too, as it is our job to track and reflect and engage, even without any high-powered software to help us.
- New Technology Allows Professors To Track Who Is Actually Reading (mi021.wordpress.com)
- What is your student’s engagement index? (edtech2learn.wordpress.com)
- CourseSmart Grows, Looks to Analytics (insidehighered.com)