Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Reprise Series #4: Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (a book on paper) (an ebook)!

Summer Reprise Series #4: Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (a book on paper) (an ebook)!
First published January 20, 2015

Looks like the real deal, right?

I decided to see how research actually supported this claim.

So I followed the link:

What I found was a listing of pseudo science claims with no link to the actual study referred to throughout the article.

So, I followed this link to see if I could get actual data.

Again, there was no link to the study mentioned. I did find what was provided as the basic study design:
The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.
The study is small, and the author of this post did use this as a tagline of the title: Research suggests [emphasis mine] that recall of plot after using an e-reader is poorer than with traditional books.

Since I like the use of “suggests” rather than proves, I followed yet another link to a website listing one of the researchers cited—turns out the researcher has published lots of articles.

I rummaged through the papers listed, and I thought I found the one referenced in the article… Here’s the abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of reading medium and a paratext manipulation on aspects of narrative engagement. In a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design, the study combined state oriented measures of narrative engagement and a newly developed measure of interface interference. Results indicated that, independently of prior experience with reading on electronic media, readers in the iPad condition reported dislocation within the text and awkwardness in handling their medium. Also, iPad readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were less likely to report narrative coherence and transportation, while booklet readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were, if anything, more likely to report narrative coherence. Finally, booklet (but not iPad) readers were more likely to report a close association between transportation and empathy. Implications of these findings for cognitive and emotional engagement with textual narratives on paper and tablet are discussed.

Today, July 4, 2016, I found the paper: Lost in an iPad - Narrative engagement on paper and tablet. It was published in 2014.

One hundred and forty-five participants (38 men, 107 women) were recruited on the campus of a large North-American university (52 were psychology undergraduate students who participated for partial course credit; the remaining 93 were volunteers who participated for compensation).

Design summary 
All participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design.
Participants were told that they were going to read a short text and then answer some questions. They were also asked to start a stopwatch when they started reading, and to stop it when they had finished. The participants’ task was not time-constrained, and they were told that they could go back and forth in the text as they wished. Ten participants in all conditions read the same short narrative text before completing a series of questionnaires, including (1) a state oriented adaptation of Busselle and Bilandzic’s Narrative Engagement Scale (2009); (2) a questionnaire (created specifically for this experiment) assessing Interface Interference; and(3) a series of items assessing prior experience with electronic media, such as an iPad or similar tablet technologies. We also included questions about participants’ estimated reading time and estimated text length, as well as a set of word and sentence recognition tasks and questions measuring inference-based comprehension.

  • If this is the paper referred to in the original blog post, the reported population of test subjects does not match. 
Using what I did find today as the actual study:
  • I’m not sure why only 40 of the 145 participants completed all the procedural steps.
  • The discussion reports that it appears that from this study that some aspects of reading comprehension and cognition may be affected by the media format used for reading.
  • Some of the disparity in comprehension and other targeted aspects of engagement were dependent on whether subjects thought they were reading fiction—the largest differences in comprehension were in non-fiction reader groups.
  • More discussion indicates concern about the future of “hypertext literature” as a means of continuing the reading of fictional text. I did not find much data that supports that concern.

Two “takeaways” from my experience:

       1. Just because a posting implies (or even states) that something is
           supported by science, that doesn’t mean it is.
  • While there might be support for the premise/claim, there might only be a vague reference to some undescribed “research.”
     2. Beware of claims that “science has proven” anything.
  • Legitimate researchers will never claim proof of a hypothesis. 
  • Data supports or refutes ideas.
  • Proof is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a researcher.

A single experiment or study that does not support a hypothesis disproves it.

Overall, the claim in the tweet was loosely based on data. However, after spending nearly 40 years working with high school and college students, I can say that anecdotal evidence supports that, 
  • “back in the day,” a classroom of students working from printed books were more focused, more often, than in later years. 

More such observational data implies to me that 
  • the most noticeable difference in students of today than in yesteryear is today’s students exhibit a decrease in desire to interact with other students directly as their predecessors.

I cannot provide empirical data in support of either of the above comments. However, I do know that, for a fact, my teaching style changed over time in response to changes I noticed in students.

For me, these are the three bottom lines: 

Reading is an excellent way to embed linear thinking patterns into a brain. 
So, read. 
Print or ebook, reading is a good thing!

Next blog: It doesn’t matter what you write… PRO

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

My website is: www.crdowning.com

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Science Guy’s Almanac - A Room with Tables: Part 1 – Identifying the Need

A Science Guy’s Almanac #29. Year 2. July 25,  2016

A Room with Tables: Part 1 – Identifying the Need

When I started teaching in 1973, the Grossmont Union High School District’s (GUHSD) science graduation requirement was:
Driver’s Education and Health.

From today’s perspective, that seems almost criminal. However, when you consider that every true science class was an elective, taken by students who actually wanted to be there, it made my early teaching experience very pleasant. Threatening a recalcitrant student with “I’ll transfer you to health class,” was a most effective final discipline step.

In the mid-1980s, California passed a law requiring one year of life science and one year of physical science for all students to graduate from high school. Driver’s Education and Health became the electives and true science classes—Biology and Chemistry or Earth/Physical Science—became the requirements. New science teachers were an immediate need.

The in-district pool for the necessary science teachers consisted of the teachers who’d been teaching Driver’s Ed and Health. Since those classes were now electives, enrollment dropped like a rock in both. At least 25 teachers were looking for teaching assignments in the district. Most of them were PE majors, so the depth of science knowledge was, well, shallow.

GUHSD provided 40 contact hours of training. Most of that training was done in classrooms at Monte Vista. To their credit, many of the cross-trained individuals became solid science teachers. One of them taught science at Monte Vista for nearly 20 years after he completed the training. He was even elected as the Science Department Chair for a couple of terms.

We also got to hire some new teachers. That was an experience. Two short asides.
  1. One interviewee was asked by our principal as the first question of the interview to, “tell us something about yourself that makes you the best qualified applicant for this position.” As he answered, the candidate reached into his oversized valise and pulled out one stack of documents after another until he had five piles in front of him. After straightening each pile, while continuing to talk, he pulled out a stapler. His answer droned on while he made and distributed a stapled set of the documents to each of us interviewers. After twenty minutes, the principal interrupted him, thanked him for his time, and dismissed him. He didn’t make the list of candidates for whom we checked references.
  2. The principal at Monte Vista during this time was a conservative man. We were almost always among the last two schools to post openings. This meant that we had shorter lists of candidates to interview than other schools. We hired Teacher X for an 80% assignment the week before school started one year. It was soon obvious that we’d made a mistake. By the end of the semester, the Assistant Principal had campus supervisors staked out in the office at the back of X’s room. They were tasked to determine which student(s) were drinking beer during X’s class and hiding the cans in the lab tables’ drawers. X was released at the semester, and we hired an outstanding young teacher who went on to do great things in her career at the middle school level.

Now back to the blog . . .

Our most animated new teacher was Mary. She was born and raised in New Jersey. Everyone knew that by her speech and mannerisms within minutes of meeting her. She described herself as a “Jewish mother type.” Short, round, and highly animated, Mary’s class was almost always a show. To this day, I consider her to be one of the best teachers of low-level, low-motivated students I’ve ever worked with. She could guilt almost any student into turning assignments in by her persistent— No, she just nagged the kids. But they knew she cared, and most of them responded positively.

Unfortunately, Mary had only two emotional states: calm and volcanic.

My room shared a common door with Mary’s. At least once a day for the first several weeks of school, my class and I would experience an eruption of Mount Mary. It got so bad that students established a daily monetary pool as to the time of the first eruption of each class.

Imagine you have money in the pool and it was one minute until the time you’d paid for. What would you be tempted to do?

Many students did not resist that temptation. There was an ongoing competition to set off the eruption as each pool time approached. By the sixth or seventh week, Mary had a permanent eye twitch.
   “Mary, What’s wrong with your eye?” I remember asking one morning.

   “Oh, it’s nothing,” she assured me as she tried unsuccessfully to hold her eyelid in position.
   After some prodding, she admitted that she was very stressed. I suggested that it might be because of her periodic explosive reactions to situations in her room. She admitted that sometimes the kids seemed to be intentionally trying to goad her. With some reluctance, I explained to her about the daily pool. She was mortified.
   Together we decided that she needed to become a three-position switch: calm, agitated but controlled, and volcanic. By adding this middle ground, she could diffuse the class situation before it got out of control. Her goal was to avoid the third option entirely.
   “However,” I added, “you might have to sacrifice a student to get this to work.”
   Her stunned look indicated I needed to explain.
   “On Monday, you need to pretend it’s the first day of school all over again. This time, you will explain that you have three levels of emotion; call them whatever you want. Be sure that students understand that the second level—agitated but controlled from above—is as far as you are willing to allow any situation to escalate before consequences are applied.”
   She nodded.
   “The sacrifice of the kid,” I continued, “will most likely be required the first or second day when some of your chief adversaries want to test the new you. When they continue to goad you after you reach your new intermediate stage, refer them to the assistant principal. Request them to be suspended from your class for disrespectful behavior.”
   Mary nodded but did not appear convinced.
   “Write up a referral form for each class for what we just talked about. Leave the name blank. If, or more likely, when you have to issue the referral, you’ll only need to fill in the name and date. Show the referral form to each class on Monday to let them know you mean business.”

A light clicked on in Mary’s eyes. The next Monday, a new Mary arrived at school. It was third period that the student sacrifice occurred. After that, I heard only a very occasional volcanic eruption for the rest of the two years she taught at Monte Vista.

Next Almanac: A Room with Tables: Part 2 – Identifying the Room
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

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