Friday, May 7, 2010

Monitoring of Reading - Reactions from Gordon

I promised to follow up on a question from Bob Franks. He wrote, "Would you ever push the tech/ethics limits by having the systems monitor reading/reading time/pages addressed? Not trying to be overly directive, but would faculty ever want to get that kind of data. I assume there will be links between iPADS/Kindles and LMS programs?"

I believe we have at least two different sets of problems here.

First, if a student downloads a book from Amazon or Apple, it's their private property. As long as students are able to answer questions about the subject matter of a class, faculty will be happy. Consequently, in a significant majority of the time, I believe faculty will NOT want to monitor the amount of time that students spend reading specific books, chapters, articles, or even pages.

Second, when students read material that I've generated in the form of webpages, I can easily access how many hits my webpages receive; but I have no need to know whether every student in the class has accessed the page. Indeed, students are very social and, as a result, they often review material in groups in one student's room around their computer. iPads, of course, allow much more individualized content consumption; but, as others in this blog have noted, the iPad can also be a center of intense social interaction.

Finally, I can see how with some very specific content, we would want to know whether a student has opened a document and how long they've spent with that document open. For example, we want to know that they have read their contracts with the college. That's the one area where we would want to be sure that they have acknowledged their responsibilities and obligations to the community.


  1. As a middle school teacher, I actually like the idea of being able to track and monitor reading. This is a bit of what we call "future tripping" or dreaming about ideas that are yet to come, but it may be closer than we might think.

    If, instead of distributing novels, all students had an iPad with the novels loaded…
    1) they could suddenly mark the text with highlighting and notes that school paper versions of the novel don't allow.
    2) if there was a way for me to easily track and monitor their reading habits, it would give me another diagnostics piece of information.

    Right now, I give reading quizzes to both encourage them to read and to assess their ability to think critical about what they are reading. In reality, these quizzes aren’t really able to tell me which of these two issues may be the result of a low score. I can't really determine if they failed because they didn't read or because they haven't mastered the active thinking skills embedded in the questions. However, if I could look at when they read, how long the spent reading the selection, etc. I could draw better conclusions about why they’re struggling with the quizzes.

    Furthermore, if students are reading “too fast,” I could help them see the correlation between their reading speed and their comprehension. Or if a student is reading “too slow” then I can begin to drill down on why (vocabulary, ability to focus, etc.).

    As students enter middle and high school, it grows increasingly harder for teachers to monitor things like reading fluency. This idea of monitoring students reading habits scares me from a big brother point of view, but it excites me as an educational tool.

    I just received funding to purchase a single iPad for the students in my classroom to use. I don’t expect a single device to dramatic change student learning. But I hope that it begins to show how this type of technology can reshape teaching and learning. Until I can put one in every students hands, I have to just keep on “future tripping.”

    Aaron Hansen
    Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher
    Foothills Middle School
    Wenatchee WA

  2. Aaron,

    I can see how you might apply progress monitoring in a middle-school environment. My perspective is at the college/university level where an important part of what I do is help students develop independence. In many ways, I have the goal of educating students so that they no longer need me. That means giving them responsibility for their own progress, even while I structure requirements so I know whether or not they're having trouble.

    As I've said, I like the idea of readings on these electronic devices. Moreover, I think they have great potential for an educational model where students have fun interacting with data.