Reading is key to personal and professional development. It provides us with a window into the outer world and expands our insights and shapes our beliefs. It takes us from a simple state of being informed to a deeper and nuanced state of being illuminated. At a digital era where digital text reigns, it seems like we are doing a great deal of reading and in fact we really are. We are surrounded by all kinds of texts all day along and more than anytime in history we have an unrestricted access to a wide variety of reading materials. But the thing is most of what we read online is shaped by the medium through which it is communicated. Let’s take the example of social media websites.
A lot of people spend a decent amount of time perusing their Facebook feeds, reading tweets, or going through short ‘newsy’ blog posts that are tailored specifically to attend to their short attention span. All of these social media platforms are designed in such a way to encourage short bursts of attention. Tweets can be digested in a couple of saccades, a Facebook update takes a few seconds or so to read. The problem is when people interiorize these technologies, their reading habits change accordingly. And this is exactly what Marshal Mcluhan meant by his popular aphorism ‘ The medium is the message’. When you get used to reading brief and abridged digital text such as the ones populating the virtual world, it becomes hard for you to read a longish article or a lengthy essay. The reading mindset you developed through interacting with digital texts shapes your reading habits even when you are offline. Deep and immersed reading becomes a rare currency. Some people find it hard to read past the third page of a book before succumbing to digital distractions. We become scatterbrains.
As teachers and educators we need to be critically conscious of how the technology we use in our daily lives influence our literacy practices. Reading in short burst of attention as we do on social media platforms does not help us become deep and critical readers. We need sustained focus to read deeply and unless we stop media from rewiring our minds we will definitely loose this asset once for all. For those of you keen on learning more about the impact of technology on our intellect, we highly recommend this wonderful work from Nicholas Carr entitled The Shallows What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
In the context of deep reading, we are sharing with you some excellent books we have reviewed in the last few years. These are works guaranteed to stretch your intellectual muscles and elevate you to a state of illumination. We invite you to check them out and share with your colleagues.