Tag Archives: hyperlinks

Reading in a whole new way

Photo courtesy of Darren Kuropatwa on Flickr in the group Great quotes about learning and change

Debates about whether reading and writing are going to suffer in the digital age open up opportunities for reflection and discussion.  I was interested to read the Smithsonian article Reading in a whole new way about the way that reading and writing have changed and how they will continue to change.

Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write.

What really interests me is the change in the way the mind works with online reading, and I think it’s very well expressed here:

Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it. Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time. We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do.

It’s important to understand the positive changes in the way we read so that we don’t get stuck in lamenting the loss of old ways of reading. Certainly I can identify with the reflex to do something while reading online. Interrupting reading to look up a definition, investigate something for deeper understanding or find others’ opinions may be mistaken for a lack of focus. Is this kind of reading really a lack of concentration or is it actually a new and different way of understanding information?

Some people never read news anywhere but online. When you read news online you can fine-tune your control of what you want to read. Hyperlinks take you straight to the source; tags and keywords make searching and finding easy. But even this kind of reading would be enriched by some form of teaching.

I think that in many ways it’s more demanding than traditional reading, and I also expect that future generations will adapt as people have always adapted to new challenges. I believe that we have the opportunity to become less passive as readers and more discerning, more willing to seek out others’ understandings and views. Again, a great teaching opportunity.

How do we as teachers help students to read fluently, thoughtfully and informatively? I hope to encourage students to use the collaborative annotation facility on Diigo to annotate and share their understandings and questions of texts. What other ways can you think of which push reading into a more connected experience?

Yes, things are changing. We’d better start thinking about the implications and reflect on what’s most important in our role as teachers.

Photo courtesy of Langwitches on Flickr

The new citation

Photo courtesy of kharied on Flickr

As we continue to teach students how to seamlessly embed quotations into their writing, it occurs to me that we have developed a new way to cite our sources, namely online and using hyperlinks.

The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from a  blog post I was reading this morning:

(Brian Lamb is writing about the notion of curation as a model for teaching)

Yet again, I’m reminded of my favorite band of mad, bad content curators at WFMU (this year’s fundraising marathon is over, but they’ll still take your money), and how its Free Music Archive places curation at the centre of its mission. There’s an interesting interview on 3 Quarks Daily with WFMU station manager (and killer OpenEd 2009 keynoter) Ken Freedman that cuts to the intersection between freeform weirdness and careful curation.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

I’m thinking that this hyperlinked writing should be the way of student resources at school and universities. How much richer and more efficient would online resources be which embedded background knowledge and served as a model for referencing sources?

What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.

Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?

Different kinds of reading – internet and literature


 Photo courtesy of imago2007

I’m aware that my reading behaviour on the internet is different from when I read a book, in particular fiction. In addition, I think that my book reading focus has altered since I’ve discovered hyperlinked online reading.

I’ve included a paragraph from a piece written by Sven Birkerts on Britannica blog, Reading in the open-ended information zone called cyberspace.

Again, I’m not saying good or bad, I’m just saying. When I am online I am perpetually aware of open-endedness, of potentiality, and psychologically I am fragmented. I make my way forward through whatever text is in front of me factoring in not just the indeterminacy of whatever is next on the page, I am also alert, even if subliminally, to the idea of the whole, the adjacency of all information. However determined I am to focus on the task at hand, I am haunted by this idea of the whole. Which is different than what I might experience sitting in a library chair knowing that I’m in the midst of three floors of stacks. The difference has to do with permeability, with the imminence of linkage, and it is decisive.

 Here is the complete article.

I’d like to explore this topic to gain an understanding of something that affects our students and us as teachers.

What do others think about the author’s views? What are your thoughts about the different kinds of reading? Do you think our generation of online students are affected, and is this positive or negative?