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Is our children learning?

The NYTimes (also International Herald Tribune which I mentioned before) piece on book-reading, the Web and literacy of the new generation, has provoked quite a lot of interesting responses:


But this change in internet language has happened very quickly, almost as as fast an an invading force. Is it here to stay? Is I gonna haf 2 strt riteing all my posts liek this? And is this an acceptable change to the language? Are these new grammar and spelling rules that we should teach in the schools as evidence of language evolution?


My one issue with printed media is that I don’t like being immersed in the author’s bias for too long when it comes to contentious issues in religion, sexuality, gender/race issues, culture, philosophy, or even some scientific theories. I remember being frustrated with this in grade school, which is why I spent so much time on the internet reading articles and online discussions. There, my opinions could coalesce and shift in a more meaningful way because everything was being challenged in real time. I’d read something, and just when a hint of doubt or suspicion about an idea entered my mind, I’d find someone else had refuted the troubling point quite elegantly. In this way, and by way of several online primers on basic logic, I was able to hone my critical thinking skills. I have always preferred any format where two or more sides of an issue are being presented, and quite frankly it’s difficult for me to find that in a book. I often use online reviews to let me know which books are even worth my time because this stuff pisses me off so much.

Geeky Mom:

I get the feeling that we’re trying to pidgeonhole, to say that learning is this or that, that literacy is this or that, instead of looking at what’s out there for people to engage with and figure out how to leverage that for learning.

Chad Orzel:

Look, I’m as big a fan of books as anyone– I’m writing one, and I do it sitting in a room with several hundred hardcovers (the paperbacks are upstairs). But this is idiotic. Reading is reading, even if it’s done on a computer. Even if it’s done on fanfiction.net.

Update – there’s more:

David Warlick:

What struck me as I read through the article on my phone, was something that somebody said to me many weeks ago, about today’s dramatic generation gap. I dismissed the notion because I was part of the highly contentious generation gap of the late ’60s and early ’70s. By comparison, our relationship with our children across all endeavors is fine and friendly.

Yet, as I read through the Times article, It seemed to be pointing at a vast gap between my generation’s notions of education and literacy, and that which our children practice as part of their millennial culture?

What struck me as ludicrice was the conviction that test scores are the true indication of whether our children are being appropriately prepared for their future, or even that government test scores are any better at predicting future prosperity than establishing a successful presence on a social network, garnering a readership on FanFiction, or earning a respectable number of experience points in World of Warcraft. I do not think we even know.

Jessica Palmer:

Yes. . . the salient thing about this NYT article is that, although it’s a well-written discussion of a controversial question, it also shows how little data is out there to feed this important conversation. There’s a serious need for measurable benchmarks and well-defined criteria. What exactly is that clear difference between reading online and on paper? And what learning outcomes can we use to objectively determine, anecdotes aside, if one is “better” than the other? (Presumably neither will be better – each will have different strengths).

Will Richardson:

I think that we have to help our kids navigate online reading spaces and provide an appropriate balance between print and digital environments. I think we have to help kids process and track and organized the things that they read, teach them to respond in effective ways, teach them to interact and become participants in the process in ways that don’t restrict their passion and creativity but also give them some context for what they are doing.

He’s read all the Great Books at Yale:


  1. #1 llewelly
    July 30, 2008

    Of all of the above, it is Chad Orzel who addressed the most important issue: Reading does not suddenly become non-reading just because the text is printed in a book instead of written by hand with a quill pen on a vellum scroll. Reading does not become non-reading just because the text is accessed via the internet instead of being printed in book. This should be so obvious that we should question the competency and the education of the author of the original article.

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