New Literacies, Old Problems

Reading comprehension in the US varies across socioeconomic status, and several national assessments of eighth graders have found that the difference between lower- and higher-income students is roughly the difference of two to three years of middle/high school. These figures represent reading comprehension generally, but might there be an even greater difference when it comes to the new literacies of online reading and research? The importance of these new literacies skills—e.g., finding, generating, and communicating information online—in a knowledge-based society like our own cannot be overstated, and so researchers from the University of Connecticut, Storrs investigated whether an achievement gap in online reading comprehension exists independently of the gap in print-based literacy.

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The Future of the Digital Book, Columbia University’s Butler Library

Tonight I dropped by Butler Library to attend the Book History Colloquium-sponsored talk, The Future of the (Digital) Book by NYU’s Latin American Studies and Performance professor Diana Taylor and her son Alexei Taylor, an interaction designer.

The talk addressed two major quandaries regarding the future of the (digital) scholarly book. The first had to do with the concept of “book” when applied to books written for the screen and read on phones by generations that have grown up with the internet and touch screen devices, and the role of a publishing press when books are predominately designed and coded by technologists to be preserved on the cloud.

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Moving & Shaking in the Library

How can movement be incorporated into academic activities like studying or reading? This question comes on the heels of research regarding the health risks of sedentary behavior—especially sitting for long stretches of time. It’s particularly relevant to academic libraries, which frequently serve as study spaces for students on campus. The built environment of a typical campus—the libraries, classrooms, and common areas—is filled with places to sit, and reaffirms the assumption that academic activities are sedentary. Yet, what if redesigning the learning environment to include space for movement is enough to shift our thinking and create a healthier campus space for students? Researchers from the UC Berkeley Department of Architecture observed and evaluated behaviors in a campus library: interior and exterior architectural details, lighting, who uses the library, where people go and what they do in the library, how many hours are spent sitting, and the range of postures people assume while in the library and around campus. They were surprised

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Mobile Expectations

What do students want from mobile learning platforms? Though there are a multitude of mobile content management systems, content providers, and digital libraries, there are few studies that focus on the user’s expectations and intent towards digital content within a formal learning environment. To address this gap, a recent study investigated graduate students’ perspectives on using mobile devices in an online course. The authors also discuss critical success factors in the context of a research framework for using instructional technologies.

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Designing Tablets for Reading

Can a tablet help cultivate positive attitudes towards reading and even improve reading skills? Although digital texts have dramatically shifted the way students engage with learning materials, readers often have negative opinions of using tablets and e-reading platforms. To test if reader acceptance could be enhanced by greater usability, researchers prototyped a new tablet interface to capitalize on existing advantages and foster reading strategies and skills. The new design was created using criteria based on an assessment of users’ wants and needs during the process of in-depth reading.

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Paper v. Screens

Students of all ages are increasingly adopting tablets and e-readers to access textbooks and other reading materials, and it’s important to assess how people process and understand digital text as compared to text on paper. Does the medium affect how people synthesize information, and do digital distractions play a role when using devices with internet access?

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DPLA

Apart from providing access to one of the largest digital collections, DPLA also hosts DPLAfest; the annual series of workshops, presentations, and discussions are centered on using DPLA’s open API for transformative uses of digitized cultural heritage. DPLAfest is more than an annual celebration—participants are encouraged to sketch, prototype, and build out educational tools using DPLA’s resources.

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Exploring Computational Thinking

Computational thinking involves problem-solving skills and techniques like decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalization, and algorithm design. It’s a critical 21st century skill, but how are educators effectively incorporating computational thinking in the K-12 curriculum? A recent study analyzes current trends in empirical research on developing computational thinking through programming, and discusses implications for research and instruction.

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Multimedia Matters

How do you engage students and encourage critical thinking in the classroom and beyond? Previous research shows a link between high levels of engagement and improved learning outcomes, as well as positive college experiences in general. The proliferation of social media tools and inexpensive video technologies makes it easier than ever for students to create multimedia projects, and media literacy can be used as a springboard for students to explore a variety of topics in deep and challenging ways. A recent study examined how to integrate multimedia assignments in an introductory college course, and focused on engaging students, promoting media literacy, and advancing critical thinking.

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