Archive for the ‘Exam Preparation’ Category




Why memorize when you can Googleize?

posted: September 21, 2010 by

In the age of Google, do we still have to memorize things? Seems like a strange question, but many educators are experiencing significant pushback from students who resist memorizing information that can be found online in an instant. What’s the point? ask students, who complain about what they see as “an incredible waste of time,” when facing rote memorization or similar seemingly repetitious assignments.

A few years back, Don Tapscott (author of Wikinomics, Growing Up Digital, Grown Up Digital) made headlines with his pronouncement that for the “net generation…memorizing facts and figures is a waste of time.” Most faculty in med school, law school, engineering, history, music, and well, just about every department and program across every higher ed campus would likely disagree with Tapscott’s blanket statement. But his observations are (as always) insightful and provocative, and surely most educators would agree that ideally, creative, applied, problem-based pedagogies are preferable to rote memorization. And as Tapscott points out, today professors and students alike are letting the internet do some of the cognitive heavy lifting when it comes to fact-checking. But memorization still has a time and place in school and out, in the age of Google and even for those with the smartest of smartphones.

Speed-dial Memory

For example, last week The New York Times profiled a typical case that illustrates the importance of memorization for those (perhaps infrequent) times when even the most highly wired among us are unexpectedly unplugged, gadgetless and disconnected from the information superhighway and off the grid of our friend networks. When “Travis Erickson, 21, discovered that his cellphone had been either stolen or lost in the sand he also discovered that he was stranded.” Why? Because he didn’t know his girlfriend’s cell phone number. “I never had to know it,” Mr. Erickson told The New York Times, “because it was always in my pocket on my phone.” The journalist suggests that as “cellphone address books and other technological advances do our remembering for us” there may be a negative “impact on our ability to memorize” information. Not knowing his girlfriend’s phone number certainly had a negative effect for Mr. Erickson. She broke up with him.

The Times offered Travis Erikson’s story as one thread in the fabric of our information culture, where high-speed connectivity spreads far and wide, and more consumers opting for feature-rich, web-ready smartphones and dataplans. Today, access to basic information, fast facts, phone numbers, simple calculations, and real-time updates, are all readily on screen, at hand. Why memorize, when you can speed-dial or Google-it? Why memorize, when there’s Wikipedia and YouTube, crowdsourced sites rich with up-to-date information and history? Why remember when a quick status update nets your information courtesy of trusted sources on Facebook or Twitter?

External Memory

Clearly this perspective is more likely to be heard from the connected class, millennials, digital natives, urbanites, and lifehackers among us. Armed with multifunctional handheld consumer electronics in pockets and purses, we’re outsourcing our digits and data to Google, Facebook, Apple, and RIM. The result is increased productivity and pace in a culture characterized by instantaneity and information overload–but the flipside is decreased cognitive workouts.

Between mobile technologies, cloud computing, and Google-cached culture, it seems we are forgetting how to remember, and opting out of everyday memory work—with many none too worried about it. But back on campus, many are concerned with the cost of digitizing memory and resistance to rote memorization activities in the classroom.

Memorization and Analytic Thinking

When students ask, What’s the point? We might wonder, is there a negative impact on intelligence when we trust Google and Android have our back? In response, scientists are quick to weigh in on the importance of working memory workouts to keep the brain healthy.

And educators point out that memorizing basic building blocks of data is the foundation for constructing advanced knowledge and sharp analytic ability. “Having a foundation of knowledge is necessary for more complex thinking,” observes educator Chris Fritz. “If a student does not know and cannot discuss very basic concepts,” writes one insightful educator on Yahoo! Answers, “then that student will never be able to get to higher level critical thinking.”

Digital Tools and Memory Work

To combine the best of both worlds then, mixing digital and traditional learning styles, technoprofs and digital natives could consider using flashcard apps on their iPhones/iPads, their Androids/BlackBerrys, or any laptop a digital tool to help students memorize facts and figures while on-the-go.

As well, infographics may make memorizing information easier for students who respond well to visual learning methods. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then infographics are an ideal, data-dense, mobile-friendly learning tool.

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Categories: Exam Preparation
Read All Sidneyeve Matrix

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Capture your lecture for posterity

posted: April 9, 2010 by

lecturecaptureI first learned about lecture capture at a physics education research conference.  The poor presenter didn’t quite seem to know his audience.  He explained, enthusiastically, how the system that he’d developed tracked the instructor with a robotic camera, based on infrared technology.  Everything that an instructor said or wrote would be recorded on camera, so students could watch it later on their own time.  He seemed a bit confused that we weren’t as thrilled as he was about this great new technology.  The audience asked a few polite questions, but overall there was an embarrassed silence.

“You’re talking to us about lecturing at a conference focused on active learning?” The silence seemed to say.

My colleague leaned towards me, “If students learned from lecture, then this would be a great tool.”

I think that’s too harsh, and missing the point.  Lecture capture can be a great resource, if used correctly.  If you hang around education researchers, you may think that instructors who lecture do students grave harm. However, I know that those same colleagues who roll their eyes at the idea of lecture capture pride themselves on well-organized and carefully planned lectures.

That’s because lectures can be a great learning tool. Didactic lecture isn’t likely to go away anytime soon – it’s an efficient mode of outlining the information that students are expected to know.  But it’s important to remember how people learn new information:

Learning does not happen, for example, through some kind of   literal recording process. Rather, learning is an interpretive process: new information is stored by relating it to, or linking it up with, what is already known. – deWinstanley and Bjork, “Successful Lecturing:  Presenting Information in Ways that Engage Effective Processing

This can be accomplished, for example, by using clickers in conjunction with shorter chunks of lecture, showing concepts in different ways, or using visuals (read more).  There is a time for telling – it’s just that it’s best done after students have had a chance to wrestle with the ideas first.

After all, what’s the point of coming to class if you can get the same benefit from watching it on tape?  This is the fear of many instructors – will students still come to class if they can watch the lecture from the comfort of their room?  I think that lecture should offer more value than just a didactic transmission of information from instructor to students.  And some early results show that most students do come to class when lectures are captured, but over half use the recorded lectures as well.  This is the next generation of audio recorders – you get the whole shebang for your buck.

What are the benefits of capturing these presentations in recorded form?

  • Missed class? Students can see the whole lecture.
  • Zoned out? If a student misses a point, or was sleepy in class, they can see the presentation again.
  • Moving too quickly? If the instructor lectures faster than they can write, students can go back and see it again.  If they’re unable to follow the instructor’s point, or focus on the visuals, because they’re too busy writing notes, they can listen during lecture and take notes at home.  This is particularly important for students for whom English is not their first language or those who need a little extra time to think.  Some students may be struggling in class because lecture moves too quickly for them to process the ideas. The ability to pause, go back, replay, and take notes may be crucial for these students’ success.
  • Exam time? Students can review lectures on difficult points in order to study for an exam.
  • One of a kind? Lecture capture can also be incredibly useful for capturing demonstrations that can’t be easily repeated (as in medical programs).
  • Online course development. Recorded lectures can be easily used to put together online course offerings, long after the fact.  In general, any stellar lecture can be assigned as a “watch-at-home” instead of given again.
  • Professional development. Watching yourself teach is a surefire way to help improve your practice.  It can also be useful for future instructors to have an archive of how a course was taught previously.

Most students are likely to use lectures as some sort of study tool.  One pitfall, however, is that students are generally not aware of how to most effectively study.  Re-reading lecture notes does not engage a student in processing ideas in a way that helps them understand the material deeply – but this is the primary way that many students study for an exam.  Lecture capture may offer a seemingly university-sanctioned method to continue this relatively ineffective method of studying.

Even though straight lecture isn’t the most effective way to teach, capturing that portion of a class period can be incredibly helpful.  If your campus doesn’t automatically capture lectures, there are several simple ways that you can, at least, record your slides and audio presentations using screen recording software.

Relevant links:

7 Things you should know about lecture capture (from Educause)

Lecture Capture:  Augmenting the Traditional Lecture

If you build it, will they still come to class?

MScribe – The pilot robotic lecture capture camera described in the post

Photo credit:

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Categories: 21st Century Teaching, Classroom Response Systems, Exam Preparation, Higher Education, Lecture Capture
Read All Stephanie Chasteen

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