Cheating (?) with Audiobooks

Saw a post by an editor at Digital Book World, “Audiobooks Make Me Feel Like I’m Cheating.” The premise of the post is that when we listen to books, we aren’t really “reading” — we’re cheating. His main argument is that when he listens to books, he’s always doing something else. When he’s reading a book, it’s the only thing he’s doing and his focus is just on the book.

Whoa. Seriously? I’m gonna just call it like I see it –  pretentious and elitist.

This guy is a word person. He learns through words. Fair enough, and I don’t discount this. For him, this may very be true.

HOWEVER – this is not true for everyone. There are many people – perhaps they have a form of a reading disability, or a audio learners, or are visual thinkers or have ADHD – who actually concentrate better on an audio book than a print book. Perhaps the letters jump around in a print book, perhaps their mind wanders when trying really hard to focus on text. Some people might be able to concentrate better when they are doing something like, like exercising, knitting, doing a puzzle, drawing. Just because the author doesn’t learn this way, doesn’t mean he can say that listening to audio books is cheating.

Audio books provide these learners – finally – with a mainstream way of reading — yes, reading. It’s no less valid. It’s not cheating. It’s reading.

The author argues that when he listens to audio books, he’s always doing something else: commuting, exercising, etc. I don’t know about you, but I see plenty of people reading books while commuting on public transportation or while on the treadmill at the gym. Does that mean they, too, are cheating? or are they really reading?

A few weeks ago, I was meeting with a digital game developer. This guy is amazingly intelligent, academic, creative, intense, and pushes boundaries in how to engage students in learning. He has a PhD. He is deeply immersed in the research around learning theory and game theory. During the middle of our discussion, he brought up a few books he’d recently read – all academic level books about his field. He talked about how he’d recently read them, and that they were all available on Audible.com. It was clear that he’d listened to them – and was surprised when someone else in the room said they had read the physical book. He just assumed that everyone would listen to the books. I’m guessing he listens to most of the many books he reads. I don’t think you could ever accuse him of “cheating” on his reading. I was so impressed and pleased to learn that he listens to books. I’m guessing he is one of those people who learns differently — but that does not  make him any less intelligent. In fact, it’s what allows him to push boundaries and think outside the traditional academic box and create new things. It’s impressive.

Listening to audio books is not not cheating. It’s reading.

 

Treatise on Audio Books

One of my all time favorite bloggers, Pernille Ripp, wrote about audio books, a pet topic for me: “Why Audio Books in the Classroom?” (Read this, but read all of her blog. It’s wonderful.)

I cannot believe I haven’t written about audio books before. They have been a huge part of my family’s life for the last 10 years, and is what started me on the path to working in education technology.

boxcarIt all started on a car trip. The kids were little (probably 8 & 5 years old) and antsy. We stopped at a bookstore. I spotted a CD of The Boxcar Children. Aha! Perfect for a car trip. The kids were hooked, and our adventure with audio books began.

My daughter has never liked to read – with her eyes. She was not a natural reader, she has never liked to read. It has always been a struggle. However – as Ms Ripp describes her student doing, my daughter INHALED audio books. We couldn’t keep up – it involved many trips to the library and finding affordable books on CD (and yes, even on cassette!) The arrival of the iPod and downloadable audio books was a game changer.

Yet, we still struggled to get school to accept audio books as books. My daughter’s 4th grade teacher flat out told us they didn’t count. Well, I flat out lied about it on those stupid reading logs we were supposed to do. (This teacher wouldn’t let kids read graphic novels either, but that’s another post.)

Thank goodness for the 5th grade teacher who not only accepted, but encouraged the audio books! Turns out her daughter is legally blind and consumes audio books at an amazing rate. At that point, the audio books were written into the 504, and although we have had to keep fighting for acceptance, we had documentation in our court. My daughter now gets all her college books in an audio version and it’s not an issue.

I get why people struggled to accept audio books as legitimate, but it’s time to change. The skills of listening to a text are just as necessary as reading with your eyes. Just as the world is moving quickly to more visual literacy (meaning learning to “read” images, data visualizations, etc.,) we also need to teach audio skills. We get information in so many ways now that we cannot limit it to reading with our eyes.

It is always expected that my daughter has a print book in front of her while she listens. She can’t do that. She needs to have her fingers busy. While listening, she often does a puzzle, knits or plays sudoku. It’s how she listens deeply. We’ve learned that this is how she learns best — not the way school thinks she should learn. I think the visual decoding is really difficult and distracting for her.

Sometimes, my son does listen to a book with the print book in front of him, if he’s doing heavy reading for school. He takes notes, marks the text. It’s how he learns. For him, using both audio and visual works.

One of my recent work projects  was producing a digital curriculum. We fought hard to have all the text narrated by professional actors. And guess what — it is probably the biggest selling point of the digital product. When we did early testing, I had the opportunity to test it with all levels of readers. Even the “high” readers – those reading far above grade level – loved the audio. It isn’t just for “special ed” (I HATE that term) or kids with LDs.

Give them a shot — while I love reading the Harry Potter series, I also love listening to Jim Dale read it to me. And how about celebrity bios? Nothing funnier than listening to Ellen DeGeneris reading you her book, or nothing more enjoyable than listening to Rob Lowe read his. Seriously. Try it.

 

“Fear and Anxiety in Learning”

Wow – to think that grading might be interfering with  learning rather than encouraging it! What a concept!

A thoughtful post, “When Grading Harms Student Learning” by Andrew Miller, points out the aspects of grade grubbing that not only disrupt learning for learning’s sake, but are downright harmful.

We see this in kids with various learning disabilities, or kids who learn experientially, or who are creative. When we rely on teacher imposed/created evaluations, we really learn more about that teacher than about what the student learned. Of course we need some sort of assessment. But why does it have to be like always trying to keep your head above water instead of a positive environment? Students study to  avoid losing points — not to learn.

Zeros do not reflect student learning. They reflect compliance.

How does it encourage learning when students are always in the hole in terms of points? Can they ever pull themselves out of a bad situation? Students who perhaps have a learning disability, who had to work the night before a test, who might have test anxiety, etc., may not get great grades on a test. How does that motivate them to do better next time? I think it does exactly the opposite – many students would see this as a detriment. Why try?

I constantly go back to the story about a student who wrote a fantastic skit based on concepts learned in a history class. The teacher talked about how fantastic the skit was: it demonstrated complete understanding of the concept, the students were able to communicate the concept and apply it to another situation. It was worth a whole TEN points! The next day, the students had a 60 point multiple choice test. Huh. I know which thing I think shows more understanding, yet that was worth 1/6 of the multiple choice test.

Shut-Down Learners

I have never posted just about the Shut-Down Learner concept by Dr. Richard Selznick. I’ve referred to it, but need a more thorough post.

I ran across Dr Selznick’s concept of the Shut-Down Learner about a year ago. It completely fits.

From his article, “When Learners Shut Down,” these are characteristics of a shut-down learner (before shutting down):

  • Tuning out in circle time
  • Highly spatial and visual learners
  • Active or over-active
  • Difficulty with language-based activities such as reading and writing

We’ve got three of the four.

Watch this video for an overview.

Screenshot of his PowerPoint that is it in a nutshell.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.28.53 AM

“Fixing” ADHD

Love this NYT article (A Natural Fix for ADHD) about ADHD and how it was an evolutionary advantage back in the days of nomadic living. ADHD is NOT an illness — it’s our culture that makes it so.

Interesting theory about the recent “rise” in diagnosis:

I think another social factor that, in part, may be driving the “epidemic” of A.D.H.D. has gone unnoticed: the increasingly stark contrast between the regimented and demanding school environment and the highly stimulating digital world, where young people spend their time outside school. Digital life, with its vivid gaming and exciting social media, is a world of immediate gratification where practically any desire or fantasy can be realized in the blink of an eye. By comparison, school would seem even duller to a novelty-seeking kid living in the early 21st century than in previous decades, and the comparatively boring school environment might accentuate students’ inattentive behavior, making their teachers more likely to see it and driving up the number of diagnoses.

Why are there not so many adult cases? Because adults get to choose their careers. You don’t choose a desk job of routine tasks if you are ADHD. You chose to start a small company or do something stimulating, like an ER doctor or firefighter.

School gives kids so little choice. It forces them to sit still — awful — for far too long during the day. They are fed information, and sit passively in school — no wonder kids with ADHD have trouble. Even kids without ADHD have trouble.

As the article suggests, let’s put kids with ADHD in situations in which they can thrive. And they can. Reinforce the positives of this, take advantage of it. Don’t keep crushing these poor kids by putting the round peg in the square hole!

ENFP

Oh my goodness — I have to post this blog: “25 Struggles Only ENFP’s will Understand” by Heidi Priebe.

I am a confirmed ENFP, very strong on the E and the P for sure. This post cracked me up. I also really appreciate it  because it explains things and maybe will let me feel less guilty!

Take #4:”Having a thousand great ideas that you never follow through on.” That would be me. And then I feel guilty about never finishing anything.

Or #12: “Stressing out friends and acquaintances who don’t like straying from the original plan.” That’s work – I am always more of a “we’ll do what seems right when we get there” rather than setting out solid, unmoving goals. I know people get frustrated with that, but then again, I get frustrated when those solid goals turn out to not be the right ones and there isn’t any flexibility.

At home, I am lucky enough to have a husband who goes with the flow. He’s a saint.

#14: “When you have to complete a task that you simply cannot find a way to make fun.” Yup. Enough said.

#18 – not so true: “Others being surprised that you hold such strong opinions and beliefs, despite your easy-going nature.” I’m pretty loud and outspoken about things I believe in strongly…..

Not sure if this all is ENFP or ADHD. Who cares!