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View Diary: Global Warming: What Can I Do? (137 comments)

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  •  What I do: OceanWeb student resources & projects (4+ / 0-)

    I teach college level intro oceanography (which includes a good deal of climate science) and have been experimenting in recent semesters with not requiring a textbook.  As part of the course I developed a web site with links to information on major topics in these fields.  Most are sites of research organizations with educational pages, articles, or current data, and are grouped together so they can be used instead of a chapter in a standard textbook presentation of the course.  

    I also set up part of the site as a guided tour through climate change science for students or the public.

    OceanWeb: Links to ocean, climate and related sciences -- from the scientists who do it

    Climate Change & the Ocean: A Journey Through the Science

    I'm very interested in open ed materials.

    In my experiments with no-textbook-required classes, I have seen no real difference between students' performance on standard exams in classes with or without textbooks.  Until this past semester, when students in classes with very strict textbook reading requirements did much worse.  Of course there are many other factors that can affect outcomes each semester.  But in my own classes I have yet to see anything that convinces me there is justification for students paying $100-200 for something that does not seem to help their understanding of the subject, and may even reduce the time they can spend learning in more productive ways.

    As for "What You Can Do" -- that is a question I got so often from students that I replaced student "term papers" with projects where they either write letters to the editor, write govt reppresentatives, or come up with a hands-on activity that will have a lasting effect on the health of the ocean.  Among these I have had students convince coffee shop owners to stop using styrofoam and plastic, conduct entertaining presentations and activities to educate kids groups, and initiate changes on campus to increase energy efficiency and conservation.  

    It often has the side benefit of empowering students who never realized they could go out and actually do something that makes a difference.  And on my end, there is no paper to grade!

    Correlation may not cause causation, but I find that they often occur together. -- Mike the Krugman commenter

    by carlylu on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 11:51:44 PM PST

    •  No-text is best (0+ / 0-)

      1) Your students probably don't even read the book. I'm an avid reader. I don't read textbooks, whether reading is 'required' or not. I have yet to meet a student who actually sits down and reads a textbook. (Sitting there with a book open highlighting semi-random sentences that look like they might be on the test is not reading.) Actual books that are made for reading are different; if you're assigning real books, more power to you.

      2) Modern textbooks suck. They contain far too much information, packed far too densely, for anyone to reasonably retain from reading. Compare the physical size of modern textbooks to the ones used in similar classes before 1950 or so. Most have multiplied by a factor of 4 or more. We're not that much smarter. Some of my instructors who have used textbooks effectively have done so by using the same book for 2-3 consecutive terms, and even then, they don't usually cover the whole book.

      3) Book format isn't great for modern students, if in fact it ever was great for course materials. The linear approach doesn't fit with the way we think and remember stuff. A 'web' model of related and interconnected information, like the Internet, works much better (which is why young people can spend hours at a time reading Wikipedia or TvTropes but can't sit down and read Intro to Oceanography.) It also doesn't help that most instructors don't cover the material in the same order as it's presented in the book, so what little help the linear format might have provided in building connected understanding is lost.

      4) Students who think they ought to be studying a textbook waste a bunch of time doing useless things (like the above-mentioned highlighting) when they could be doing something productive (like reading primary sources and writing research papers, or doing problems, or collecting and analyzing data).

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:58:13 AM PST

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