Technology no substitute for good study habits

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Remember when you traded in your oversized black pencil for a slick new No. 2 yellow model?

How about the smell of a fresh Big Chief notebook or the feel of a unsullied pink rubber eraser?

You'll still find pencils and notebooks in the school supplies, but their days may be numbered.

That's especially true at Northwest Kansas Technical College, where, come Thursday, with an Apple executive on hand, all incoming students will receive a slick new iPad computer.

The college has been involved with Apple's iTunes University program, and when the company debuted its slick glass-slab tablet computer, decided to incorporate it into the college's curriculum instead of the iPod media player.

Students use the iPad to stay connected to campus e-mail and calendar, as well as receiving class syllabi, a student handbook and other material.

The college also hopes to reduce the cost of textbooks, since some of them are available electronically, and sees the move as "going green" be reducing the amount of paper used on campus.

NKTC officials are enthusiastic about the project, of course, but we're sure they realize new technology is no substitute for good study habits.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers say they've proven that, saying a new study method will keep students from falling into the same bad habits as their paper-and-pencil predecessors.

Ken Kiewra, one of the researchers, said as students move to more computer-based learning, they need to learn to organize information graphically and practice it to retain the information.

Called S.O.A.R., the method teaches students to Select key lesson ideas; Organize information with comparative charts and illustrations; Associating ideas to create meaningful connections; and Regulating learning through practice.

The method, he said, complements the way the brain processes information and can be used by teachers to organize their lessons and by students to better absorb them.

Does it work? Yes, according to the study. Students scored 29 to 63 percentage points higher on tests when they used the study techniques, such as recording complete notes, creating comparative charts, building associations and crafting practice questions on their screens.

If students need motivation, they need to take another look at Mike Hendricks' column from last week. Hendricks, a McCook Community College instructor, pointed out that a college degree is equivalent to hitting a million-dollar jackpot.

How so? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hendricks pointed out, the average high school graduate makes $30,000 a year. An associate's degree is worth $38,000, bachelor's $52,000, a master's $62,000 and a doctorate $90,000. "Over a lifetime of work, a person with a bachelor's degree will make a cool million dollars more than a person with only a high school diploma," he wrote.

College even pays off in time of recession, Hendricks noted; college graduates have unemployment rates less than a third that of the workforce in general.

The message is clear: Whether it's on the latest laptop or with pencil and paper, it's a smart time to hit the books.

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