Students Beware: Your Books Are Watching You!

As the world goes more and more digital, a publishing company has come up with textbooks books that teachers can use to tell when -- or if -- they've been opened.

According to David Streitfeld of The New York Times, teachers can now see exactly how much studying -- or how many times the e-book has been opened -- to check on whether students are doing their homework.

And, of course, where there's any kind of accountability, there's gaming of the system, too.  "They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all," Streitfeld writes.

The goal?  For students to do better on tests, of course.  But that's not always the case.  Streitfeld reports about one student who opened the e-book only one time -- the night before the test.  Yet, he did brilliantly.

But that's not always the case, according to the story.

The software, made by Pearson, McGraw-Hill, is ultimately aimed at cementing "their dominance in digital textbooks by offering administrators and faculty a constant stream of data about how students are doing."  Oh, and,  by the way, the data will be used to prepare new editions.

Streitfeld comments that teachers, in the past, knew a student was getting something by the expression on his face.  But these days, where much of communication takes place online, that's no longer a hint for teachers.

And does it really help? Or could it possibly hurt, this academic "Big Brotherism"?

"The possibilities of harm are tremendous if teachers are na├»ve enough to think these scores mean anything for the vast majority of students,” Chris Dede, a professor of learning technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told Streitfeld in an interview.

The idea behind the whole thing is to find under-performing students teachers might not know are struggling until their grades show up on tests.  It's to be preemptive, I guess.  But what's to prevent students from just opening the book while they're texting friends or watching TV or doing any of a dozen other things students do when they're not in school?


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