Learn More With Less

Including lots of learning experiences is good, but watch out for the content coverage trap. If you assign less reading, students have time to really use what they read, and they'll remember so much more. [next]

A big book is a big evil.

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For a great overview of the content coverage trap, see this article by Steve Mintz in Inside Higher Ed: Four Traps. Here's a quote from the "coverage trap" section of the article: Coverage can inhibit learning by causing cognitive overload. A fixation upon content knowledge can produce students unable to apply knowledge and skills. 

I'm very much prone to fall into this coverage trap because I really do love to read. Over the years, though, I've learned that many students are not enthusiastic readers. Some of them will even admit that they "hate" to read. In the past, I used to do a start-of-semester survey to ask students about the best book they read in the past year, along with the best movie they saw and their favorite television show. There was always a group of students who wrote "N/A" or "none" for the best book, but no one ever did that for favorite movies and television shows. So, based on the realization that not all students are enthusiastic readers, I've had to think carefully about the reading I assign in my classes, making sure that the reading really is important for what the students are going to be learning.

During the summer of 2014, I completely revised the readings for my Myth-Folklore class by building an UnTextbook online: each week the students get to choose what they read from a wide range of choices, with each reading option being about 15,000 words in length. You can see how that works here: Myth-Folklore UnTextbook.

This summer, I'm redoing my Indian Epics class so that it will also offer a wide range of reading options each week, and thanks to a generous grant from the OER program in the OU Library, I'm going to be able to include the Amar Chitra Katha comic books as part of those reading options; that is something new for my classes that I am really excited about. The widget belows shows some the comic books at random (how to make a randomizer) along with a "Reading Guide" for each comic book that is full of links to additional reading so that students can follow their own curiosity to read more.

The image above is another one of the LatinLOLCatsMagnus liber magnum malum. A big book is a big evil.

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