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Education Ticker: The textbook that watches you

A woman holds up an iPad with the iTunes U app after a news conference introducing a digital textbook service.

SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

The best of the web on education from kindergarten to postsecondary, as chosen daily by Globe and Mail education editor Simona Chiose.

No lying about doing homework now

Think that electronic textbooks are a boon to students, cheaper and far more portable than their print counterparts? Not so fast. E-textbooks can now be used to snoop on reading habits, measuring how much time students spend reading, how many notes they take and the data used to produce an engagement score. The company marketing the digital tracking argues that it can help universities assess the return on their investment and that students can opt out.

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The high-school that tags its students

Monitoring reading is lightweight compared to the actions of a high school in Texas that issued ID cards with a radio frequency identification chip that allowed the school to know what students were doing in their time on campus. The school receives government funding based on the number of students it can show are attending; it suspended one girl when she refused to wear the ID card.

Better ways to promote engagement

Perhaps a superior way to encourage students to engage than monitoring their reading or their location is by asking them serious questions and encouraging them to respond seriously. Some questions that get a philosophical ball rolling and can be adapted to just about any age group are: Is the table in front of you real? Are you the very same person as you were when you were born?

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About the Author
Postsecondary Education Reporter

Simona Chiose covers postsecondary education for The Globe and Mail. She was previously the paper’s Education Editor, coordinating coverage of all aspects of education, from kindergarten to college and university. She has a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto. More

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