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Wednesday , June 26 2019
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Home | Tag Archives: teachers

Tag Archives: teachers

Op-Ed: Digital Textbooks are Better Than Paper Textbooks

“Kids must use paper texts. Period.” the teacher said to me.

“Why? “What is it that makes paper superior to digital texts?”

She then led me onto a long litany of reasons why students need paper texts:

  • They are tactile: Student need to feel the book and the pages.
  • They can underline the words.
  • They can point to the words.
  • They can turn the pages.
  • There is a noise the the page turns.

Her arguments, no matter how passionate were based on HER experience with reading, not with students. It was about how SHE learned to read, decades ago. It wasn’t about how students today experience reading. She had no idea that most of those can be done on an text reader.

For adults of a certain age, the reading experience is intimately tied to the physical act of reading, the holding of the book, the turning of the page, the smell of the paper. How can students possibly learn to read and later enjoy reading, if the physical experience is lacking? Why when I was a kid…

In the digital age, most information, including the information students receive, is delivered via screen: laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Less information is delivered by paper textbooks, maps, or workbooks. (Ask any teenager when was the last time they read a PAPER newspaper.)

While I will grant that there are tactile sensory properties to paper texts that screen based texts cannot provide, there are inherent advantages to digital that simply leave traditional print in the the dustbin of technology history.

Using Apple’s iBooks as an example for all digital readers, it is easy to create a cursory list of things that ereaders can do that a paper text cannot:

  • The ability to change font size for students that have sight issues.
  • Built in dictionaries where students no longer need to go look up a difficult word in a separate book. With a control-click, the word is defined, a thesaurus gives the antonym, and a link is created to a Wikipedia page. The dictionary can also read aloud the word for the student, assuring proper pronunciation.
  • The ability to read aloud the passage. This is a boon for visually impaired students or students that are learning to read or even second language learners.
  • Ability to add notes, bookmarks and annotations. While you might say, yes, a regular text can do that, a regular text cannot add, with ease, an audio note, or a picture note, or a hyperlink to an online article about that topic.

While each one is not a singularly compelling reason to use a digital text over a paper text, combined they make an irrefutable argument of digital texts superiority, as much as Gutenberg’s movable type was superior to wood blocks or vellum scrolls. ebooks have the ability to embed videos, audios, interactive graphs and slideshows.

A printed History textbook can explain about Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech and maybe show a picture. An eHistory textbook book can PLAY the speech. Students can see the crowds , hears his words. The abstract becomes real in the digital world. You simply cannot do that in a paper world.

There have been efforts lately, mostly by older researchers and those with limited understanding of how today’s student’s get and share information, to pooh-pooh screen time and electronic texts. Some studies suggest that students reading from screens do not learn as much as they do from printed books.

These studies all point out however that students are distracted by “other things”on the screen. In other words, the studies are not looking at the ebook reader itself, but rather the behavior of the student.

I don’t suppose my teacher friend will change her mind about ebooks. There is an old adage that we teach as we were taught. She, sadly, is no exception to that rule.

That is unfortunate, because students today have much richer, deeper experience awaiting them inside the pages of digital texts and her students will miss out on them all because of tradition and trying to cling to a world that no longer exists.


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Teachers Who Don’t Value Learning New Things

I once had an office that was right outside the door where people would bring their district issued laptops in for servicing. A regular phrase that I would hear explained to the technician particularly when a teacher was trying to explain their laptop issue was “I am not a techie.”

  • “I am not a techie, so I don’t know what is wrong with this.“
  • “I am not a techie, so I don’t even want to try to fix it by myself.”
  • “I am not a techie, I never learned this stuff.”
  • “I am not a techie, I use this just to enter grades and surf the internet.”

Those were just a sampling of the the various phrases I heard them give technicians on why, in many cases, they simply couldn’t even consider basic troubleshooting for their laptop before bringing it in. In many cases, the “problems” to be fixed were not true problems, but rather a lack of user knowledge about how the computer worked.

In one instance, a teacher brought in a laptop and told the technician that the screen was broken and she needed a new laptop. She had tried turning it on and off a dozen times, there just was nothing showing up on the screen. Obviously, the device was defective or maybe it had a virus. Besides, she said, “I’m not a techie and I don’t know how to fix these things.”

After about a minute, the technician had fixed the problem. She had somehow turned the screen brightness to it’s lowest possible setting, essentially black. A very cursory knowledge of the operating system of the laptop would have told her that, saved her a trip, some time, and a bit of embarrassment.

I tell this story not to make fun, nor to embarrass anyone. I tell this story because it is indicative of a pervasive attitude I have noticed among many teachers: a simple refusal to learn a new technology skill unless absolutely forced to do so.

I have heard many of the arguments on why teachers don’t learn new technology skills: Usually, it has to do with feeling overwhelmed with “stuff,” be it testing, differentiating lessons, etc. I get it. (The phrase, “too much on my plate right now” should be a t-shirt sold at every staff development meeting. Whoever sells them would make a fortune. )

I have also heard the excuse that “I am too old to learn this stuff” “I am too close to retirement” or the famous “Kids know this already, I don’t have to teach them.”

Even more disturbing is the phrase “I’ll have my kids show me.” What other course would a teacher use that phrase in if they did not understand a concept? “I don’t understand the symbolism in Moby Dick, I’ll have my kids teach me.” “I am not quite sure about Differentials in Calculus. I will have my students show me, they are so much better at this than I am.”

I have always found those particular attitudes disturbingly ironic, especially concerning the business we are in, which is to teach, and to instill an attitude of lifelong learning.

We, as educators, are supposed to set the example to our students, that learning NEW things is a good thing, we value it and we do it regularly throughout our lives. We make time for the things we value. If the very people that are supposed to be instilling that foundational belief don’t believe it themselves, then why are we teaching in the first place?

I have always wondered what we would say to students if they used the exact same phrases back on us when we were trying to teach them something:

  • “Sorry Miss, I’m not a language person, I don’t have time to learn prepositions.”
  • “I’m not good at math, I just need to know addition, so I think I will skip all this geometry stuff.”
  • “I’ve got too much on my plate right now. I think I might be able to learn the water cycle this summer when I am not so busy. Besides, I am not a science person actually. But my friend is. He can show me.”

We would probably not accept those types of responses, tell them to try harder, call the parents, send the kids to intervention classes, and see if they qualify for special ed.

Why is all this important in a more and more ed tech rich environment? Because educators need to be able to show students many of the deep, often hidden tools that are available to them. Just as having a rich understanding of physics makes someone a better Physics teacher, having a deep understanding of the capabilities of technology makes one a better at using that technology beyond simply having students Google an answer.

How can you show a student that is struggling with reading that a computer can read aloud a highlighted passage if you have no idea that capability is there? How can you show a student that is struggling with writing that a laptop will allow them to dictate a paper, using only their speech, if you have no idea that is written into an operating system?

I once was in a training where the trainer, made an aside remark about the iPhone built-in calculator being able to change from a simple 4 function calculator to a scientific calculator simply by moving from portrait to landscape mode.

There was an audible gasp in the audience as if she had demonstrated changing lead into gold. The trainer then showed them how to move from the built in compass to a built in level by doing the exact same maneuver. Lead into gold. Again, gasps. The point was that they had been aware of PART of the tool, unaware that there was a whole other portion waiting to be used.

How many half tools are we showing our students because we don’t have time, or are “not techies?”


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

UTEP Athletics Recognizes SISD Teachers for Going the Extra Yard for Students

Twelve Team SISD teachers were selected by former students to be recognized in the College Football Playoff Foundation Extra Yard for Teachers initiative, which was supported by the University of Texas at El Paso Athletics Department and Conference USA.

The Extra Yard for Teachers initiative aims to reward outstanding teachers in the community who inspire UTEP student-athletes from the El Paso area and contribute to their academic success.

“Through the CFP foundation everyone across the country is inspiring and empowering quality teachers,” said UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull. “Utilizing our student-athletes to recommend the recipients was a lot of fun.”

To champion their great teachers, the student athletes wrote stories on how their educators helped transform their lives.

“Albert Martinez, my high school band director, is one of the most influential individuals I have gratefully come by,” said track athlete Markos Lujan. “He made me realize my potential and was the reason I continued on to college knowing that I had what it takes to be successful.”

Another student-athlete, Ana Molinar, said it was her teacher, Patricia Arellano, who prepared her for the real-world, and thanks to her, she is now successful.

“I am a successful college-athlete because she pushed me to break my personal limits and helped me reach my goals,” Molinar said. “She remains being a motivation because she still believes in me.”

The Extra Yard recipients were: Carol Hardee, John Espinoza and Michelle Luna from Americas High School, Oscar McLure, Patricia Arellano, Roman Hernandez and Aurea Herrera from Montwood High School, Timothy McDonald, Barbara Wright and Kenta Matsuda from Socorro High School, along with Albert Martinez from Eastlake High School and Katerina Lopez from Sun Ridge Middle School.

The educators were honored by the SISD school board, Dr. Espinoza, Bob Stull, and student athletes at the board meeting Dec. 12.

“It means a lot that a student took time to recognize me,” Wright said. “I’m happy that I was able to make an impression and positive impact in her life by sharing my knowledge and helping her move forward.”

As part of the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative, the recipients were awarded with $100 gift cards from Michael’s store as an appreciation for their dedication to their students and to help decrease out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies.

In addition, UTEP and Conference USA provided Team SISD with 20 extra gift cards to reward more teachers in the district for their outstanding service and commitment.

“I felt very honored to be remembered by a student,” Lopez said. “Knowing I made a change in her life reaffirms that I am in the right profession. With this gift card I plan to buy supplies for my kiddos and use it to buy a happy planner.”

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