Sunday, January 15, 2017

Kids with lower vocabularies using e-books learn more with adult than pre-recorded voice

Ok, here are not unexpected results from research, but it is still important to trust (or in this case expect) but verify. Books are books, be they ebooks, popup books or printed chapter books, and with books interaction helps, creates more engagement and motivation. What I'm hoping from this is also the research on the books without parent (or other person) interaction, then does having the book read itself help there. Reading to children is great, but not all adults do read to their children, and many children live in a text sparse environment.  Does the book reading aloud help those students with the lower vocabulary when there is no one to read to them? As for comprehension, the study also found that the "children with above-average vocabularies did well on the camouflage post-test regardless of whether the adult or the book read to them." But again, what about a non-read to group? Well ebook research continues.

Kids with lower vocabularies using e-books learn more with adult than pre-recorded voice


Overall, preschoolers learned about camouflage from both books. But, when researchers divided the four-year-olds into two groups - one group with children of higher than average vocabulary level, and one group of children with average and lower English vocabularies - they found that the children with average and lower English vocabularies showed poorer comprehension when the book read itself.

Friday, January 6, 2017

eTextbook Use

According to the survey results in the UK, student generally had positive responses about their etextbook experiences. They authors go on to state they differences and key factors that influenced the student's engagement included: training, integration into the curriculum and functionality.

"Sixty-one percent of surveyed students said they used eTextbooks during their university studies. The majority of students borrowed one from the library (65 percent) or received one through their institution (55 percent), while 35 percent purchased a copy for themselves."

"All participants own at least one portable digital device, most commonly a smartphone, followed by a laptop. More significantly, 89 percent take their devices to lectures. "
The first Kindle, released November 2007.

What I'm taking from this is a few things. First there is the integration of the tools that students are using already and prefer, such as their phone or other portable device. These are the tools that students are use to and use continually in their daily life. Recently watching my nephew, who is graduating from college this year, I noted that he spent over three hours each day communicating on his phone with his friends. So today, this kind of tool, the smart phone, has become a common reading tool used by college students. As they have gotten more used to reading from such a screen, it will no longer seem like a stretch to read their assigned reading from it either. Next is the mere-exposure effect. Along with how much they already do, they have now been exposed to "text" reading from devices for a good amount of time. The first Kindle Reader was released over nine years ago, so reading devices for freshman college students have been around as common items since they were in the third grade. So following the exposure effect, each repeated exposure to the "novel" stimulus will cause less fear, and after repeated exposure the individual will begin to react fondly to the once novel stimulus. So, after so many years of digital reading, students kind of like it.

eCampus News
A recent survey gauges student satisfaction with the digital programs, focusing specifically on eTextbook programs, offered by universities 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Listening Reading

I find it interesting how many times I have discussions with others about what classifies as "reading". So many don't include other forms, such as audio although they get very hesitant when I ask about braille. I do understand that with print, such as you are reading now, it is the combination of the saccades and fixations to combine the elements into a whole word, and the words into sentences, and on and on. But if part of that "literacy" is the understanding, then listening to the words, or feeling the letters and words should also count. In one of my classes the students are required to "read" a book by listening. One good thing that I think that they experience is the struggle in "learning to read" as an adult. For most of us, learning to read occurred so long ago that you don't remember what it was like to learn that. Now as my students as adults are trying to read their audio book they talk about the fatigue they experiences through extended listening, how easy they were distract, and more. So here are my beginning strategies for learning to listen read:

  1. Start by listening to a book that you have already read and liked. You already know the story and liked it, so you should enjoy it again. You will now just be concentrating on learning the new format, and not also trying to learn new content. 
  2. For a story, make sure that the person reading the story has a good "voice" - even "voices" - the reading needs to have a good sound, you don't want to listen to someone read a book in a single tone, the voice should be interesting. An interesting note though, I've listened to some textbooks being machine read and had no problem with those, but for a novel, you really want that difference between characters. 
  3. For non-fiction, start small, like for between 10 and 20 minutes, then take a break and listen to music, then switch back for another 10 min. While it will take 30 to 40 minutes to get 20 min of content, you won't get lost and lose the content because of listening fatigue. 
  4. Don't try to start listening reading while doing something else that takes much concentration. You might have gotten use to listening while reading, or talking while reading, but when you started, multitasking wasn't going to help, so to begin listen reading I would suggest you try it with something that you do that doesn't take much thinking, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, using an exercise machine, even a nice walk. 

Listening to a book while riding the tram to the mountain top. 

Can audiobooks, podcasts improve literacy?Listening to stories can help improve literacy skills among students who dislike or struggle with reading, according to the educators and experts mentioned in this blog post. They offer a list of recommended audiobooks and podcasts. (10/23/2016)  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Traveling with an Ebook - China

Teaching and traveling again this summer. This time to Kunming, China, with a stop off in Hong Kong. Ending up reading thirty books (including plane time) this trip and once again this was made easier by traveling with an ebook reader. Considering that the average paperback weighs between half and a pound, and the average hardback is about 1-1.5 pounds, that would have been a least an extra 20 pounds of books to carry, instead just carried a device that weighed less that one pound and fit in my pocket (and I can honestly tell you that the book stores in Kunming don't have books in English-nor did I expect them to).  One other great thing was I converted things that I needed, like maps of towns, subways, and other documents into PDFs, and then moved them into my e-reader, so that I always had them available that way, right in my pocket.

Reading with the Big Buddha :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Free Open Textbooks and Resources

If you are planning your next semester for your students, you might want to consider using some open source textbooks for them to use instead of purchasing or renting. I know that my students have commented on their appreciation of me providing them a free open source text over them having to purchase an additional book. I believe that the numbers that I read before were along the line of undergraduates having an ongoing credit card debt of over $5K, and graduate students of over $8K, a good portion of which was attributed to extra costs at college/university of which a big part was textbooks. I know that the college board estimates that the average student spends about $1200 on books and supplies and that a single book can cost as much as $200. I read that according to National Association of College Stores, the average price of a new textbook increased from $57 in 2007 to $65 in 2010 and to $79 in 2013, which would include some pretty low cost required reading like paperback novels, so book costs on campus are up. While open source textbooks won't solve all your student texts issues (like you will need to remind them that they should read the book - but you can often link sections in your online class space), it can save quite a bit of cost for the students. As faculty though, you will have to take the steps and explore the book options available for you and your classes, there will be no book rep coming by to show you what would work for your class load.
 With that in mind here are some places that provide open source textbooks:

BCcampus OpenEd: 
Center for Open Education:
College Open Textbooks:
Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources:
Global Text Project:
Lumen Learning: 
Melot II:
MIT Open Course Ware: 
OER Commons:
Open Culture: 
Open SUNY Textbooks: 
Open Textbook Library: 

OER K12 Resources/Textbooks
CK-12 Foundation:
Kahn Academy:
Knovation Content Collection:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Writing for others beyond the classroom

Perhaps it is familiarity breeds contempt, or maybe it is just familiarity breeds a giving break. Either way, we do know that students will work harder on their writing when they know that what they are writing is going to be read by more than just their teacher, their parent, or the student next to them. So as the school year is ending and you are thinking about what to do next year, think about having your students produce and publish their work and put it out to the world. Below are two articles about how teachers have gotten their students to activity publish their work either as books or magazines. If you want to try some book publishing yourself (or with your students), you might want to start with a tool like StoryBird (, there you can write your story, then have it published into their digital library, and if you really want to you can even buy a printed (soft- or hard-cover) copy of the book for your shelves - or the school library's collection.

Ill. preschoolers develop literacy skills by creating books Preschool students at an Illinois school have written and illustrated two storybooks as part of a two-month project about story elements. After studying author Mo Willems' books, students wrote the books, learning about characters and plot to develop stories using Willems' character, "Pigeon."
Morris Herald-News (Ill.) (4/29/2016)

Ideas for using zines to teach communication skills Having students publish zines, or mini-magazines, gives them a creative project to develop visual and written communication skills, middle-grades writing teacher John DePasquale writes in this blog post. He shares several ideas and templates for zine projects. (4/29/2016)  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Vision and School Success

As a child who had print disabilities and did in fact need glasses, I can attest that I'm not surprised about this. While my own vision was good till about 6th grade, then I was involved in an accident that detached a retina and started deteriorating, giving me conflicting vision between my eyes, when in 7th grade led to failing spelling. Today, while the conflict is gone, I still use larger print as it is so much easier to read (than a size 10 or 12 font), which is a great thing about ebooks. I also now teach my own students about how they should check their students for things like both eyes tracking and convergence just by watching a student's eyes.

Just 15 states require that preschool students be screened for vision problems, according to a report released today by the National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health. Research has shown that vision problems can affect students' academic performance.