March 24, 2009

So what do I DO with it?

Filed under: education,learning,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:27 pm

Reading has definitely changed. Trent Batson and Nicholas Carr both know it, and so do all of us who pass through places like Think Like a TeacherBatson’s response and the original Carr piece, ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’ have me ready to click “write a post” before I finish bouncing between them. As soon as one piece has my attention (I found it on a trusted RSS feed),  I mentally highlight favorite quotes a la English major  and look for juicy bits to read and re-read. Carr is right that I am “power browsing,” but Batson is also right that the “loss” of books is actually a gain for critical thinking. I would go even further and say that reading has become an invitation to DO something.

When I taught elementary gifted kids, there were two distinct groups that emerged during independent project season each year: the Tell-alls  and the Sponges. The Tell-alls wanted to tell everyone everything they read and could not enjoy learning without the telling. During quiet research time in class, they called out, narrating each new discovery as they read or browsed the web. It wasn’t new knowledge until they shared it. The Sponges worked alone, never speaking a word, often so absorbed that they lost all their notes and personal belongings as if transported to an entirely separate location, living among the subjects of their research. When called back to our world and asked to prepare their choice of presentation to “show what you know,” the Sponges were at a loss and uttered malformed bits and pieces until I squeezed the sponge of their awkwardness with many prompts. The Sponges saw no need to DO anything with what they learned. The pleasure was purely personal.

I see the new way we read– thanks to technology — as a cure to both. The Tell-alls are web 1.0. They get their pleasure from the suck-in-and-spit-out of info, but the rest of us gain little from their pleasure. The Sponges are stand-alone processors without a network. Only with the evolution of multiple-tabs (I still have Carr and Batson open right now), feeds, blogs, and doo-dads can I have the very real pleasure of reading until I feel I must DO something. I once had a prof who always asked, “Now what will you DO with it?” as he handed back a good paper. The web (and email and RSS feeds and Facebook and cell phones…) ask that every time we READ.

Now what will you DO with this?

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