Teaching with Moodle

Article: What I Learned about Computers and Paper in My Classroom (Steve Cannici)

Matt Bury
Article: What I Learned about Computers and Paper in My Classroom (Steve Cannici)
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Hi Moodlers,

Here's a guest article (on Larry Cuban's blog) about a Masters project case study by Steve Cannici which compared using paper vs. Google services (Drive, Classroom, etc.), in terms of how easy each was to use. The conclusion:

"It turned out that students were able to retrieve artifacts more frequently and more quickly compared to when they had to use a computer, accessing Google Drive for instance. It wasn’t even close either. Artifacts from a binder were retrieved in seconds compared to minutes with Google Drive (if they were retrieved at all). Here’s the kicker, the survey results showed that most students preferred using the computer and felt they worked more efficiently with it. Go figure…"

Full article: https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/what-i-learned-about-computers-and-paper-in-my-classroom-steve-cannici/ 

I'm wondering how using Moodle would compare to Google's Ed/file storage services. Moodle has activity completion and student file management built in at a course level. It seems like an ideal candidate to re-run this experiment and see what the differences are. Ultimately, the idea is to be more convenient and helpful to use than paper.

What do you think?

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Picture of Andy Chaplin
Re: Article: What I Learned about Computers and Paper in My Classroom (Steve Cannici)

Hi Matt,

I can't say I'm really surprised by this.  I've experienced this first hand in classes where I've tried to instil a more digital approach.  The one consistent issue I've come up against is that students are terrible at categorising digital resources.  I regularly see students placing all the documents for one course (or even for a year) in one directory - no sub folders whatsoever.  I suspect something like that is at the root of the problem here.

If the paper folders had all the dividers removed and everything was simply put in chronologically, the results might well be different. 

In my opinion, one of the biggest misconceptions is that kids are in some way more skilled at using computers - they have fewer inhibitions, but that's not the same thing and it in no way replaces the "old" skills of filing and labeling which seem to get overlooked by most teachers.

Thanks for the link,


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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Article: What I Learned about Computers and Paper in My Classroom (Steve Cannici)
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Hi Matt

How timely! We are going through a BYOD evaluation, I think it is the fourth in a decade. (Well, it was Bring Your Own Laptop those days.) My experience is well summarized in the German proverb "Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn" (Out of sight, out of mind).

The cause happens at two levels. At the practical level, these devices, even if they have fantastic resolutions in millions of pixels, can display only one document at a time, even that only in part. The computer driven teaching adds more documents to the collection if they had anyway, names the instructions themselves need the illuminated real estate! Compare that to a school desk, or to the luxury desks they have in the labs of the first world.

At the cognitive level, the information appearing and disappearing on a screen, irrespective of whether smart phone or screen of a projector, shakes the brain cells so much, that their pattern falls back to where it came from.

Of course one can learn from anywhere at any time. Notice the stress on _can_.

@Helen, please don't delete that German quote. It is really related to the topic. (See the translation.) If, in your judgement it is inappropriate, please delete the whole post.
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Matt Bury
Re: Article: What I Learned about Computers and Paper in My Classroom (Steve Cannici)
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Hi Andy & Visvanath,

Thanks for your contributions and insights smile

Cognitive cost of screens

I have to agree that digital devices (and screens in general) are a poor substitute for printed resources in many cases (but not all). I've read more studies than I can remember that point out that reading on screen comes at a significantly higher cognitive cost than reading on the printed page. Then there's the organisational aspects that the article I linked to focused on.

Both printed and electronic resources have their affordances and constraints. I suspect that in most cases, course materials are changed little in the transfer from print to screen and so lose the many affordances of print and gain the constraints of screens. Many post-secondary online courses (that I've seen) tend to be reading courses, i.e. reading papers, articles, and chapters from books and then answering questions/prompts about the topics and/or having discussions with classmates in forums (and very often, little else!). Based on what I understand of the cognitive cost of reading on screen, I'd recommend that students print out any electronic documents in order to read them, especially if the subject matter is difficult/challenging.

Managing documents

Personally, I use a bibliography manager ( https://www.zotero.org/ ) to manage my text files on my laptop (research papers, ebooks, articles, etc.). It's a bit like iTunes for documents, with some good search and filtering functions and makes finding stuff really easy. I think Mendeley ( https://www.mendeley.com/ ) is a more popular app that does similar things.

Just like learning to manage paper and books, students and teachers have to learn to manage electronic documents. I think having good software helps to a degree but we still have to learn to use it effectively.

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