Really, Audiobooks do not make you a bad person

I recently ranted about post from an editor at Digital Book World thoroughly dumping on audiobooks.  Seriously? From someone who works in the  digital  publishing industry? Unless, of course, it was a plant to put down another format of book that competes with the ebook industry that publishes in text only – -the one that refuses to come up with a standard way of delivering books that have something besides boring black text, and isn’t doing very well when compared to the booming audiobook business….. (OK – that maybe needs to be a rant for another day.)

I just saw a reference to another post about the value of audiobooks (thanks to Blogging through the Fourth Dimension. She even calls audiobooks “gifts to all learners!”)  It’s even from a scientific perspective! “As far as your brain is concerned, listening to audiobooks isn’t cheating” by Melissa Dahl outlines exactly why reading books doesn’t prove you are  better person, as our society would make us all believe,

If, he argues, you take the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology — that is, the mental processes involved — there is no real difference between listening to a book and reading it.

The “he” referenced above is Daniel Willingham, a Psychology professor who studies and writes about education. His post is awesome – he wrote it because he’s tired of being asked if audiobooks are cheating. He says, “The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”Agreed.

He also says that once a person has learned to decode words, reading print is no more work than listening, i.e., it doesn’t make you a better, smarter person.  . The comments at the end of his blog illustrate this view that somehow reading in print makes you a better person than listening to books. It seems there is really very little scientific study about which way of gathering knowledge is “better.”

For a less academic view about audiobooks, see this Reddit thread. (found through Dahl’s article.) I love the snark and, again, the pointed elitism we have about print being a “better” medium than audio.

Mind you, I am not arguing that audio is better than print. It’s like many debates: let’s stop the debating and let people consume knowledge/enjoy a story in whatever manner they prefer. Stop judging and making people feel like cheaters if they, in fact, prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.

Elephants

Will Richardson is one of my favorite bloggers. Awesome post about the Elephants in the Classroom

In summary (in my words, not his), his elephants are:

  • We forget the specific content we are taught
  • Students are not connecting to school – the content isn’t relevant to them
  • Traditional schools don’t foster learning the way real world learning happens.
  • The stuff on tests doesn’t really matter
  • Grades are valued more than learning
  • “Curriculum” is random (can you say calculus and no statistics? stupid)
  • School is the only place subjects are taught in silos. In reality , subjects aren’t separate.

Just read Will’s post.

More Cs!

2 Layers of Learning and Teaching with Technology | IGNITEducation.

Great post with a new framework for thinking about teaching and technology. To summarize: Three Cs for students, Three for Teachers.

Student: Collect, Create and Contribute

Teachers: Curate, Conduct and Connect

(We are, of course, familiar with the other Cs – collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. In my work, we add content and context!)

From a personal point of view, I definitely don’t see this happening in my daughter’s school. It’s more like memorize, regurgitate and fill in a bubble.

Professionally, I can see keeping this framework in mind as a model for building content for schools. How do we make content available that students can collect? that teachers can curate (although we do the initial curation for them)? How do we make it available that it can be repurposed into various types of projects?

How can we finance the time it takes to curate the content into something manageable for teachers or students? How do we finance the tech infrastructure that is necessary to deliver this content in a manner that is usable? How do we find tools that all schools/students can work with? In this era of ever-shifting platforms, tools and approaches, it’s impossible to land on one solution that fits every need.

dy/dan » Blog Archive » Waterline & Taking Textbooks Out Of Airplane Mode

I’ll show you what I mean while simultaneously badgering publishers of digital textbooks. (As I do.)

Think about the stretches of time when your smartphone or tablet is in airplane mode.

Without any connection to the Internet, you can read articles you’ve saved but you can’t visit any links inside those articles. You can’t text your friends. You can’t share photos of cats wearing mittens or tweet your funny thoughts to anybody.

In airplane mode, your phone is worth less. You paid for the wireless antenna in your tablet. Perhaps you’re paying for an extra data plan. Airplane mode shuts both of them down and dials the return on those investments down to zero.

Airplane mode sucks.

Most digital textbooks are in airplane mode:

Textbooks authored in Apple’s iBooks Author don’t send data from the student’s iPad anywhere else. Not to her teacher and not to other students.

HMH Fuse includes some basic student response functionality, sending data from the student to the teacher, but not between students.

In the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout, administrators were surprised to find that “300 students at three high schools almost immediately removed security filters so they could freely browse the Internet.” Well of course they did. Airplane mode sucks.

The prize I’m chasing is curriculum where students share with other students, where I see your thoughts and you see mine and we both become smarter and life becomes more interesting because of that interaction. That’s how the rest of the Internet works because the Internet is out of airplane mode.

via dy/dan » Blog Archive » Waterline & Taking Textbooks Out Of Airplane Mode.

This is an awesome post by one of my favorite bloggers. He was one of the bloggers I found early on in this research, and his approach really pushed me out of my box. I continue to find his work motivating and inspiring – even if he does teach math and I‘m in social studies!

This chunk of his post is especially relevent to my world right now…. I wish it was easy to create this, as he wants. But it isn’t — yet. I know it’ll get better, easier to do. And I will keep pushing for it. Just can’t quite get there yet. The technology just isn’t there to do in a large scale (at least in a way for a small publisher to do), and honestly, not all teachers are at this place yet. 

Thankfully, he’ll keep asking. That’s what will get content to the right place.

 

A Better Experience

Thankfully, we’ve had a better experience (so far, at least) than Lisa McElroy’s family (see Standardized testing: I opted my kids out. The schools freaked out. Now I know why..) in opting out. There are many differences, including state (we’re in Minnesota), grade (my daughter is in 11th) and tests (only math at 11th grade.)

As much frustration as I have with my daughter’s school, they were very accommodating with this request. I expect I’m not the first — they knew exactly what to do, and did not give me any grief. In Lisa’s post, the principals and others came after them to encourage them to test. I’ve had none of that, thankfully.

In Minnesota, it is legal for a parent’s to opt out of the test. In my case, it’ll show up on my daughter’s transcript a “parent refusal.” OK, that part is totally annoying and irritating, but better than putting her through the test.

I know testing is crucial to teacher evaluation, and as Lisa points out, who’d ever want to penalize the teachers? In my daughter’s case, I’m not sure how it impacts teachers. At 11th grade, just for math – I’m not sure what it does. In addition, her test score is not likely to be stellar. She hates math and does not test well. Maybe that’s why they aren’t giving me any resistance!

When I first discussed this with my daughter, she was not excited about opting out of the test. However, before we made the final decision, we had a long talk with her. She’s quite supportive of the idea now. I just hope they don’t try to give her the test, but if they do, she’s well armed with the fact that her parents opted her out.

Lisa’s post is an excellent reminder that the schools and district aren’t the ones making the testing decisions, at least for the statewide tests. It’s coming from the legislature. I will write our legislators and tell them of our decision and why. Will post that letter later!

5 Things Innovative Schools Do Differently – A.J. Juliani

Interesting blog post about innovative schools. It is an interesting list to have in front of me as we look for a high school for our son, especially in comparison to the high school my daughter currently attends. 5 Things Innovative Schools Do Differently – A.J. Juliani.

According to Juliani, “Innovative Schools” have the following characteristics

1. They aren’t afraid of change. They see change as a good thing.

2. They make mistakes. They learn from mistakes.

3. They are transparent. They let community members know what’s happening: students, teachers, parents.

4. They use technology to expand learning.

5. They are connected. They learn from other educators and schools around the country.

On my most cynical days, I would argue that my daughter’s school does none of these, with a few exceptions.

Change: there are a few teachers who just do things differently because they are driven to, and for them, I am grateful. Sadly, most of what I see her doing is the same. The same fill-in-the-bubble test, the same policies, the same refusal to look into new solutions to problems. When new ideas are suggested, they are quickly dismissed.

Mistakes: her school would never admit to a mistake. They have an edge, a need to maintain PERFECTION and not admit mistakes. It’s off-putting, elitist and condescending.

Transparent: Oh my. Let’s not even start on this. A weekly paragraph emailed to parents who subscribe is considered transparent. Facebook is district wide, and totally run by the PR folks. There is this need to keep a perfectly made-up face. It’s not a conversation. It’s a finely orchestrated commercial.

Using technology. Fortunately, there are a few teachers who use this well. There are many more who don’t. There are signs everywhere about no cell phones in class. There is very little PD (from what I hear from teachers). They have put small pilot projects into classes, and this is encouraging. I will be happier when I see the right kind of PD, the teaching students about using tech and the involvement of families.

Connected. How about not connected? Not at all. My daughter finally has one teacher using Twitter to communicate with students. Administrators? Nope. Not at all.