Online skimming vs. reading Middlemarch

Skimming online makes “deep reading” more difficult, according to the Washington Post. As adults spend five hours a day on laptops or mobile devices, we’re developing “digital brains.”

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. 

College students can’t read the classics, professors tell Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.

 “They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.’ They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.”

. . . “My worry is we will lose the ability to express or read this convoluted prose. Will we become Twitter brains?”

Daniel Willingham, also a cognitive scientist, doesn’t think brains change that easily. Don’t blame the Internet, he writes on Real Clear Education. We Can Still Think and Read Critically, We Just Don’t Want to

A more plausible possibility is that we’re not less capable of reading complex prose, but less willing to put in the work. Our criterion for concluding, “this is boring, this is not paying off,” has been lowered because the Web makes it so easy to find something else to read, watch, or listen to.

“The good news is that our brains are not being deep-fried by the Web; we can still read deeply and think carefully,” he concludes. “The bad news is that we don’t want to.”

Readers don’t understand more when they read for pleasure on paper versus on screen, he writes. Comprehension is the same for textbook reading too, though on-screen reading takes longer.

10 tech trends in education

10 Major Technology Trends in Education include the rise of mobile computing and teachers assigning video lessons, according to the 2013 Speak Up Survey from Project Tomorrow.

Eighty-nine percent of high school students and 50 percent of upper-elementary students have access to Internet-connected smart phones, the survey reports. 

Sixty-four percent of students use 3G- or 4G-enabled devices as their primary means of connecting to the Internet; another 23 percent connect through an Internet-enabled TV or Wii console.

Forty-six percent of teachers are using video in in the classroom. One-third of students watch online video lessons to help with their homework — the “Khan Academy effect” — and 23 percent of students watch video created by their teachers.

For techno-skeptics:

Cheating is easy in digital age

Chalkboards, pencils, e-readers

We’ve come a long way since the chalkboard replaced the laptop slate board in 1801..

The great questions

By cartoonist Signe Wilkinson

Connected kids

Today’s children are Always Connected, reports Sesame Street Workship and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Nearly one quarter of young children (ages 0 to 5) use the Internet at least once a week and just under half of all 6-year-olds play video games.
Almost nine out of ten children over age 5 watch television, averaging at least three hours of television a day.

Co-viewing — children watching TV with a parent — promotes learning, the report advises. But parents should make sure children don’t spend too much time “connected” to media.

WiFi turns bus ride into study hall

Wi-fi fi Turns Arizona Bus Ride Into a Rolling Study Hall, reports the New York Times.

Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

The router costs $200; monthly Internet service is $60. Even if some students are playing games instead of doing homework, it’s not a bad deal.

My stepson commutes to his job at Google on a wi-fi-equipped bus. It’s a great way to extend the day.