So, it is Week 4 of ‘Rhizomatic Learning’ and the focus is whether ‘books are making us stupid?’. The questions posed are what the medium of print done to learning? What are the implications of this objective distance? How does it impact what we believe is valid in our society both inside learning and outside of it?
In a recent post, I posed the question, ‘What’s so Digital about Literacy Anyway?’ One of my concerns was that in all of the reading practises that I have been a part of, digital texts are too often frowned upon, a poor distant relative to the exemplary printed text. The argument usually stated to me is that it just isn’t the same to read a text on a screen as it is to feel the texture of the paper, to flick the pages. It just isn’t organic. It is not how it is done. I couldn’t agree more, it is not how it is done, it is different, but just because it is different, does that make mean that it is better or worse?
This brings me to my other concern, that of ‘reading’. One of the things that I think is often overlooked in the whole process is the place of the response. Whenever we read we respond, the only question is whether we are willing to engage with that inner voice. So often students are indoctrinated from a young age that reading is what is important, that dedicating regular time to the cause is somehow what makes someone a good reader. I feel that although reading is important, responding is great. This may be as simple as asking a question spurred on by a book or sharing a quick summary with someone else.
What I find sad is that this denial of digital literacy as a part of ‘reading’ denies such a powerful opportunity to respond to the text and take action. What I love about reading something an ebook or a blog post is that there are various ways in which I can capture my thinking and then collate it afterwards. Whether this be collecting my highlights and digital notes or using a social bookmarking tool like Diigo to capture annotations and ideas. On top of this, it is so easy to then share these ideas and pieces of information to a blog or a tweet.
Now, I am not saying that books make us stupid, but prioritising one medium over another is stupid. In the end, anything that limits the conversation is nonsensical, for as +Doug Belshaw pointed out in his ebook The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, “I would argue that literacy is inherently a social phenomenon. In fact, I’d argue that, in isolation, an individual cannot be literate at all”
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