At Least They’re Reading Something – Pt. 2

I’ve written before about some of these ideas when I was thinking about multitasking. Multitasking and Internet skimming seem to be two facets of the same problem. In some ways they both combine to reduce our ability to sustain focused concentration over time. I don’t mean to say that they’re all bad. Multitasking and skimming both have their place, and – like it or not – they’re both part of 21st century worklife. I worry though, that that we are rapidly becoming a society of skimmers, and the youngest readers are the ones who are most at risk

So what is the solution to this problem? Libraries have always sponsored reading programs, and that includes some built-in know-how. Combine that with some of the new information literacy programs, and I think a lot of people are on the right track. Teaching people to evaluate information is increasingly important. I think that libraries have a great opportunity to develop solid information literacy skills with the upcoming generation. Adding an Internet component to this is a logical extension. I’m trying to envision a good elementary or jr. high school reading program that combines Internet reading (not skimming) with thoughtful consideration of the content as well as careful questioning of the content’s authority and accuracy. What would that look like? Maybe someone has already built the ideal program and I just haven’t seen it yet.

The New York Times article I referenced in the previous post mentioned one thing that I found to be very encouraging. Many of the teens who are heavy Internet users are also writing a lot. They’re posting on message boards. They’re contributing to fan fiction sites. And if they’re writing on any level, hopefully they’re thinking about their content and how to present it. There is good writing and there is bad writing, but all writing can benefit from practice.

I would even venture to suggest that many of today’s teens are doing more writing than I did at that age. I wrote the papers that were required in classes, but that’s just about all I wrote. The nature of the Internet and particularly Web 2.0 applications drives participation. It demands putting something in – not just taking something out. I do have my concerns about teens’ Internet reading/skimming habits, but more writing is definitely a good thing!

2 thoughts on “At Least They’re Reading Something – Pt. 2”

  1. I think you’re right. Before internet, the average person did not write nearly as much. Now, anyone can stumble upon a random article or blog, and write in their opinion on it. That used to be just something to do in a tedious school exercise. Everyone has to have their say on everything, however short. And the skimming and multitasking isn’t so bad. After all, it gives you time to get more information into your head!

  2. That’s an interesting point. I hadn’t really thought of it, but everyone is writing more because of the Internet – not just teens. This increase in writing SHOULD contribute to a more literate society (even allowing for the garbage that makes it onto the Internet).

    I wonder though, what is the quality of all this reading (or skimming) and writing (or posting)? Do we wind up with higher literacy rates? People who are at higher levels of literacy? Or do we wind up with more people who are literate but functioning at a lower level? I don’t know the answers, but it’s definitely worth watching and researching.

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