Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blog Post #14

CourseSmart

In Dr. Streitfield's article, Teacher Knows if You Have Done the E-Reading, he describes a new software that is being implemented at Texas A&M in which the professors are able view the engagement of their students in the textbook. Professors are given the ability to view how often their students view the text, how long, what they highlight, and other tasks involving the text. One instructor, Adrian Guardia, has taken notice of the different responses given from students if scores are not satisfactory, as well as some possible confounding variables such as notes being taken on paper or other programs. Many responses regarding this new program, supported by some of the major publishers, like Pearson and Mcgraw-Hill, joke that it is the hand of "Big Brother". Institutions are in favor of this new technology. Texas A & M claims that if CourseSmart is offered to all courses, they will willingly accept the offer.

From a teacher's point of view, I find that although it still may be flawed, as is any new technology, CourseSmart could be beneficial to monitoring student interaction with the text. It causes students to be held accountable for their studies, or lack thereof. If they are not experiencing the results they desire, and cannot back up that they are doing the work in other forms if that is the claim, it could be a sort of insurance policy as to the effectiveness of the educator. Along those lines, CourseSmart can allow us to take a look into the interaction of the students and compare these "engagement indexes" with the exams in order to find any places that may require further explanation and attention if a class wide downward slope were to occur. It is not uncommon for students to try and place blame on something else for their lack of organization and dedication to their course. This program will be able to clear up some possible fibs similar to the already quoted "my dog ate my homework" excuse in most cases, especially if a parent became involved.

As a student, I am extremely iffy in regards to my feelings about CourseSmart. On one hand I find that it may be an incentive to ensure that I complete my reading assignments. If I know that someone is keeping track, especially if it were to affect my grade like teachers often use attendance, I will be more driven to read all assignments in a more timely manner. I am a student that benefits from having a set reading schedule, so to speak, that may be followed by an assignment reviewing the material. However, I feel that education has become too reliant on technology when it comes to assignments. I will learn more material if I am assigned a lesson that I must complete physically by hand rather than on a computer. As a college student, I have yet to be in a course that still applies this traditional way of teaching. On the other hand, since we are college students, I feel that we must also hold ourselves to a certain standard in regard to completing our work. We cannot expect our professors to hold our hands and lead us through our courses. This will only continue the dead end that is rote memorization. I continue to struggle with the concept of critical thinking because I was never taught this vital skill. Due to the fact that both sides of my opinion seem to clash with one another, I cannot come to a set conclusion about CourseSmart. It may be a technology that will always remain bittersweet.

If I were able to talk to the instructor, there is really only one question I would like to ask: -Has there been a significant change in the students' success in his course? If the answer is yes, then it may be safe to assume that CourseSmart is a program that is for the better. Regardless of what the occasional "slackers" may complain about. There is no way to appeal to the entire student body, but the proof will lie within if the students' scores are in positive correlation to the amount of interaction they engage themselves in.

In response to the article itself, and after reading some of the comments left by others, I must agree with some that this program would not be required in smaller courses that allow for more physical interaction in the classroom between student and educator. However, these things would be possible in a perfect world in which we do not live. The possible confounding variables are numerous, but we must create a level of intimacy with our students in a way that allows us to pick up on these discrepancies. The sad fact of the matter is that some students could succeed if they spent the same amount of time spent finding a way to cheat applied to actually studying their material. If this technology does become readily available to most major universities, only time will tell whether it is truly effective or not.

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