School librarian Thomas Washington’s essay in the Christian Science Monitor strikes a chord:
I suspect that the tipping point in information overload has tipped.
Students’ aversion to reading does not necessarily signal a weakness,
much less a dislike of reading. For them, and now maybe for me, moving
on to something else is an adaptive tactic for negotiating the jungle
that is our information-besotted culture of verbiage.
The pursuit of knowledge in the age of information overload is less about
a process of acquisition than about proficiency in tossing stuff out. By necessity, we spend more time quickly scanning manuals, king-size
novels, the blogosphere, and poems in The New Yorker than we do
scrutinizing their contents for deeper meaning.
Yesterday I did a couple of RSS sessions in Elluminate for the PLP cohorts and I found myself talking more about what I don’t read than what I do read. I’m guessing that I scan through about 80% of what comes into my Google Reader, actually read a few full paragraphs and note or tag or move another 15%, and do a “deep” read (and perhaps write, as in this case) of the remainder.
I’m feeling guilty about much of this, though Washington is nice enough to let me off the hook. But I still wonder how much of this is just angst about the shifts, the transition to different reading space that might be as wonderful and valuable as the old one, just different. (I will admit, however, that the fact that my kids are currently engrossed and engaged in 400-page fantasy novels makes my heart soar and even leaves me a tad jealous.)
What I like about this essay (aside from that it’s relatively short) is that it nails the friction of our collective educator unease about the direction this is taking.
Reading is all about testing these days. As the NEA reports, it is
also about some prospective employer who ranks reading comprehension as
“very important.” Students know this. It’s part of the reason they’re
in SAT preparation overdrive in their freshman year. Living in the era of information overload forces
a few key questions on all readers. What do we need to know? Why do we
need to know it? And, given that by the end of our lives we will have
absorbed and converted to knowledge only a sliver of the information
available, should we bother knowing it?
So, assuming you’ve read this, what do you think?
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