Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Take charge of your e-book learning - a metaphor

The recent discussions on training and education pose interesting questions on how these disciplines are defined. I recently put a sheet together for use as a training aid, but perhaps it's more education. Reading some of the opinion commented on blog posts recently I wonder how others may define this. What do you think?

Take Charge Of Your E-Book Learning

“You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once.” Oprah Winfrey

Complaints and objections:

The technological advancements of the latter part of last century, such as electronic computers and the Internet, have made learning more accessible to us all. Among the innovations that came with these developments is the e-book but it is not always looked upon as a helpful invention. Common grumbles about e-books are:

  • Too difficult to read – ‘I get sore eyes peering at the screen.’
  • Too unwieldy – ‘l can’t flick through the file like a book.’
  • Too many pages – ‘I haven’t time to read all that!’

The list goes on. The fact is we are living in the 21st Century. People do learn from the computer screen and some of the most up-to-date learning can happen this way. Most e-books are not intended to be read from start to finish but that is a poor learning habit whatever the medium that’s used.

Just as there are smart ways to learn from a hard-copy resource book, there are effective ways to learn from an e-book. The techniques can be applied as much to gleaning what’s new on this morning’s intranet as gathering useful information from a weighty text file.

Windscreen wipers:

Rule number one is optimise your viewing.

Grime on the screen limits ease of reading. You should clean your screen regularly and this is simply good practice. Correct adjustment of the brightness and contrast settings of your monitor can also go a long way to improving the readability of information on the screen.

Unwanted reflections and glare from nearby lights or windows can interfere with your ease of viewing so adjust the monitor position to reduce or if possible eliminate these. Though liquid crystal displays do not show the same annoying array of reflections so common with convex glass monitors they still need regular cleaning.

Text size:

Text that’s too small to read comfortably can make learning a real effort but there are many adjustments that can be done to help with this. You may have to think about your PC display settings for instance but it could be as easy as looking for the text option on the application you’re using, like the zoom button shown above and that's available on most tool bars or using a browser menu option to alter the text size.

Contents, indices, bookmarks, & other features:

Use the contents list or index if there is one. Just as in any hard copy book, a directory in an e-book gives a summary of what’s contained there. It pays to scan through a directory before you begin study reading and this is just good practice when using any resource book. If you are lucky to have a directory that’s equipped with hyperlinks you can be taken to the start of relevant sections on a click. The width of a directory frame is usually adjustable so that it doesn’t encroach on your text space and it can often be closed or hidden when not in use.

Most e-books have powerful summary links such as bookmarks included in the left frame. They’re a real lifesaver for those who can’t stand scanning hundreds of pages of boring text to find the interesting parts. Though bookmarks may not present a comprehensive inventory, they usually point to the beginning of key sections and therefore save time.

Links within a text can help you flick swiftly to important parts. Most texts provided with those also have ‘Return to Top’ links at convenient positions, permitting the reader to return immediately to a key starting point.

Some e-books permit you to re-open them where you left off. For instance, in Adobe Reader the page-holder is switched on by choosing the settings:

Edit (Windows) or Adobe Reader (Macintosh) >
Preferences >Startup > Reopen Documents to Last Viewed Page > All files.


Many applications have search capability. Some are more sophisticated than others but usually the quick keys Ctrl F bring up a plain search window, like the one shown above, to allow a keyword to be entered when looking for a specific item or reference to it. A few slick searches with careful keyword selections and using the ‘next’ function can frequently save time otherwise spent exploring a large directory.

Learning needs energy:

The environment must be right for effective learning so you have to choose the appropriate time and have the right headspace. When the delivery is very low energy, as with information viewed from a file, you must bring energy to the process. Learning from the screen requires high energy – a passive approach doesn’t work. Many learners have difficulty knowing what parts of an e-book to scan through and what parts should be studied in detail.

Scan sections that seem to have parts you may find useful.
Study parts that have specific information you need to remember.

Printing a section of text:

When there’s a need to work with a section of information repeatedly it’s sometimes easier to pick up a printed copy than it is to keep accessing a file. Though this is not recommended as a standard practice, it is an option that may present some relief for those who must have a hard copy of a chunk of text. But before sending part of a text file to the printer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I sure the printed text is going to be useful?
  • Are there any pages that I don’t need?
  • How often am I likely to use the copy after I’ve read it?
  • Am I likely to pass the copy on to someone else?

Having considered answers to all of these and you still wish to print, take care to select only the pages you need. Some e-books can run to more than 500 pages. Imagine your embarrassment if you accidentally lock up the printer as people wait for the next quarter hour while you waste a bucket of paper.

If this happens, switch off the printer and cancel your print order. If you don’t know how to do this, ask around for help.

Perhaps it’s best to find out how to learn from the screen.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later


BK said...

I don't know if this is appropriate to the conversation but I'm a proud owner of the Amazon's new Kindle, the stand-alone e-book, where books come to you is seconds directly from a wireless mobile connection with amazon.com.
You can control the font size and it allows for highlighting and notes to be included in the text.
While the selection doesn't include every book, it's growing all the time. It's not cheap, but the books cost on an average $10.00 a download.
I'm finding that I can be more focused with few words on the page, and it's comfortable to move back and forth and the the page itself is created to look like paper.
It would be a great way for kids to trade in those enormous textbooks. One very light Kindle can hold 200 books.
I am NOT an employee of Amazon or a relative of Jeff Bezos, but for me, his creation is perfect.
Of course I haven't given up on books, but I only buy a new one when I can't get it for my Kindle.
And that's that.
Hope you are planning for another Photo Friday,

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Bonnie

What fun to have one of these devices. I've read about them. Apparently you can get a converter that can permit html, pdf and the like to be accepted by the Kindle and kept as a book.

$10 does seem a bit expensive though. I would think you'd need to be sure of what you'd be buying.

Who knows? These could be prototypes for the 'books' of the future.

I'm keeping Photo Friday in mind.

Ka kite

BK said...

Hi Ken,
Hope to see more of your images and words appear at the Flickr site now that your up and running there.
As for the Kindle, the initial price for the gadget is $400.00
But no matter what, they also have all your book purchases archived and if you want to sample a book before purchasing it, you can request a free chapter and if you click incorrectly you can cancel.
What I love is taking it on a trip. The battery life is great and the now I don't have to fill my suitcase with "rocks".