Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What are Your Reading Habits?

What are your reading habits?

It takes me a great deal of time to get through one book and this has always been the case. I especially find it very difficult to stay focused when reading online because I can't jot on the paper or in the margins. I read with a pen in hand and in all of my books I have key phrases underlined, interesting words circled, questions in the margins, and ideas that I get that are written all over the pages. This "active" reading process allows me to stay focused, concentrate, and contemplate while I am reading and I simply have an incredibly challenging time doing this while online.

What have I tried?

To keep reading as much an active process as possible, I use Google docs, Google Notebook, and wiki's a lot and "jot" down ideas as I am reading but it's still not the same for me. I am looking for ways to help me deep read while online so I can then transfer this knowledge into my classroom to help my students and ultimately my own children overcome this great challenge as well.

Also, I find myself printing off those articles I really want to deep read as well. I then able to have a conversation with the author while "jotting" on the page, but this isn't really helping me while online.

The Internet is not going anywhere and it is certainly changing our lives in a multitude of ways and one of which is the way we read. I have just finished reading Is Google Making us Stupid? and it reminded me of an article I wrote about a month ago, Get Into Your Bubble, that fits in nicely with Nicholas Carr's premise that the way we read is evolving.

As educators, we are living during extraordinary times where we are charged with the responsibility to help students navigate and become successful in this 21st Century landscape while holding fast to tested and proven instructional strategies, especially in literacy. How then can we transfer those skills that effective readers use while reading online?

What have I tried?

We talk openly as a class about "deep reading" from day one until the end of the year and how easy it can be for our minds to wander when we are reading. The question then becomes, "what do we do when we realize we have no idea what we have just read?" Each day I provide the students with sustained silent reading where they can continually practice deep reading, and getting into what I call The Bubble.

However, I taught a "Tech Class" this year and noticed very quickly that students were not transferring those same skills that effective readers use while sitting at the computer.

I would see screens being scrolled up and down and up and down, students clicking from link to link and very quickly losing focus and attention. So, I would find myself stopping the class and bringing this to their attention. The message was driven home but I would still see most students skimming the surface of what they were reading.

What else have I done?

I have setup a discussion board where I would link to a particular article from Time for Kids and then provide a couple of open ended questions for them to respond to after they read, and this gave me a chance to see their thinking and ideas that came out of this reading. They then had the opportunity to see what others have answered and generate conversations within the class using the technology.

This was a nice scaffolding piece for me to evaluate students reading skills while online. The interesting piece was however, that those struggling readers very quickly realized that this was going to be work and had a hard time with this activity despite the fact that it was on the computer. Once the novelty of the computer wears off we as educators are then challenged with helping students continue to transfer what they know about good reading while sitting in front of the computer.

Deep reading is hard for me while online and I am still trying to figure it out for myself. I think to be a better teacher of the 21st Century Skills that will be needed I first must experience this overload and figure out how to manage it for myself before I can ever help my students.

So, what are your reading habit and how do you manage to concentrate in the midst of all of the distractors?

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