My reading methods class best prepared me to teach. I learned some students needed to be coached on how to vary their reading style depending on the medium. Last weekend, I was talking to a friend who is a very thorough reader about all the wonderful resources for teachers in the form of blogs, and she was frustrated she couldn’t keep up with the reading. Later on, I realized, although she is a good reader, she is applying the same type of reading skills she used during graduate school to the blogs on her RSS feed. She hadn’t adapted her reading skills for the skimming and scanning necessary on some internet pages. The opposite holds true for some of my students. Many are expert scanners, but don’t read information for detail. They are used to skimming, picking up key words and moving on to the next link.
In an interview with Wired magazine, Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, talks about how the digital world is changing our brain. Jackson says there are studies that show how the environment shapes brain development in kids. The kind of reading material my students have been exposed to largely determines the kind of reader they are. As a teacher I need to be aware of two things. First, I do not have the same kind of reader in my classroom I had ten years ago. Second, my methods class on reading is even more important now, because there is a wider variety of written media out there for kids to sort through, and they may not naturally know how to vary their reading style to fit the medium.
I see some of the same issues with their writing. They write a lot. They text, and journal, and post to Face Book, but many of my students don’t naturally go back to edit or revise. Because of the multitasking environment they live in, they chose not to go back and look over their work. In an informal medium like a social network site, that is quite appropriate, however, in a more formal medium like a blog or wiki, editing and proofreading is needed.
In the last couple of days, my students made me realize I need to be more proactive in my approach to the quality of reading and writing my students do. The class was working on two separate tasks. One group was reading what is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs for class, while the second group recorded a Voicethread presentation. Many students approached the blog as a scan and skim activity, to the point they didn’t read the follow up questions, and neglected to respond fully to them. Some of the students read the blog, and answered the follow up questions quite thoroughly, but they published their reply without editing. Today I pointed out the different types of reading, giving them examples of when scanning is the best way to approach a web page, and when a closer reading would be a better tactic. We also talked about quick writing and polished writing. I’m going to encourage and provide my students the opportunity to read and respond to blogs and discussion threads, but for the next few weeks, I will ask them to be mindful of the kind of reading and writing they are doing. My hope is this practice will help them discern the appropriate reading and writing skills they need to use.