Friday, September 11, 2009

What’s Happening to Our Reading Skills?!

I found this article, Is Google Making Us Stupid, in The Atlantic Monthly and began to wonder about how being online so often is changing our cognitive processing and whether we are finding it harder and harder to concentrate on reading books in print form. The article has two premises: one relates to how spending time online has affected our reading processes and the other is the possibility that the way we think might be speeding up to accommodate working online. There are some interesting parallels made to the way the invention of the printing press changed cognitive processes, as well. Some noted scholars are cited in the article, and some prolific readers are claiming that their brains have changed sufficiently to make it difficult to concentrate on reading full-length books and retain what is read. Here is one comment in the article that sums up one of the premises: “The more [we] use the Web, the more [we] have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.” The article is intriguing, so take the time to read it and comment. The image is taken directly from the article and is attributed to: Illustration by Guy Billout


Lilly Lew said...

I don't think google is dumbing down society. From my own observation and personal experience it makes people smarter. Finding the answer to virtually (no pun intended) any questions takes literally minutes. It's no longer takes a trip to the library or an appointment with an expert to find the answer to a miscellaneous question. Just recently a student asked me if there were palm trees in Australia. Normally I would have answered "I don't know" and left it at that, but with a google search we found an answer instantly. We both learned that palm trees do in fact grow in Australia. I don't see any harm in using such powerful tools such as google to answer our many random curiousities. The only real disadvantage that I have observed is society's inability to use OTHER/ALTERNATIVE resources that are non-internet related. However, in a society that is increasingly becoming paperless, internet based research may be the only means of obtaining information in the future.

Amy said...

Is Google Making Us Stupid? I do not believe so in fact I feel as though it is helping us gain quick and easy access to the challenging questions or unsure thoughts. What I mean here is that how many times have you been either playing say a card game or sitting around having coffee and a discussion comes up that no one knows the answer to. In today's world, most people quickly jump to the internet to find the answer. It is a place that has "all" the answers. A place where people can surf the net to find those deep dark secrets you are too embarrassed to ask, such as the correct way to do something, etc. Though I do understand that our brain's are shifting towards a more multitasking performance and that we need our answers immediately and quick, quick, quick!! It also can raise another discussion about how we teach our children; we are teaching our children through differentiated instruction. With this said, we should then be able to do so for adults. We as adults learn through different ways and therefore should be taught to this extent. Technology is not going anywhere and so it should be incorporated in our daily lives and not be condemned for it s use.

Meg Newkirk said...

I found this to be a very interesting article that really got me thinking. I agree with Lilly and Amy that google is making people smarting by being able to access answers faster, yet is making us less proficient in finding books in the library.
Going back to the article, I don't think that the internet has changed the way I read a book, the newspaper, or a magazine. I fing that I still have the attention span to sit through a good book or an interesting article. I decided to try to look up Nicholas Carr (the author of the article) because I was curious if age makes a difference. I have practically grown up with the internet, perhaps that is the reason I don't seem to notice a change in my reading skills. Carr appears to be middle aged, meaning he did not grow up with the internet. I was intrigued by the study done by the university, but I'm curious of the ages of the participants.

Gina said...

I did not grow up with the Internet and I do not find that my Internet use has changed how I read or my ability to read. I have always been an avid reader and I read everything:books, papers, magazines, websites, etc. I have taken to reading books on the the kindle app for the iphone and love that too. The single line that stood out for me though is when the author said that he felt like he was on a jet ski, skimming the top of the water. Therein lies the danger. A quick outreach to the Internet does not birth an expert. The Internet is really a compilation of many sources and we still need the brainpower to analyze the sources, sift through the garbage and draw a conclusion. The beauty of the Internet is that all people have a voice: good authors do not have to wait for publication, artists do not have to wait to be discovered, businesss can be born with little capital. That is also the curse of the Internet: you do not have to have worthy things to say, have talent or be an expert. And we as consumers of that Internet knowledge need to not be on a jet ski but armed with our scuba gear.

kimdemc said...

I laughed when I read this as I remembered spending hours upon hours upon days researching as a psychology major undergrad in the 'stacks' of the university library. I lived that research. However, today I can research online. I believe there are some pros and cons to both. The 'stacks' days made me feel a great sense of accomplishment, like I had found the treasure by following the Dewey decimal system's map. I am sometimes frustrated by researching online due to the awesome amount of information out there. There is a commercial in which people are talking like the results of a google search. i.e. strange associations. I think that this does have an effect, however not on the reading skills but instead on the impulsivity and impatience of the generation who only knows online research,ipods and text messaging. I don't think it is dumbing down people. Libraries, and large chain bookstores are still quite busy. The greatest negative effect of this technology is the depersonalization of society. People are sitting next to each other, not talking. Instead they are online or texting or plugged into their ipods. On the positive side, the access to the vast amount of information is invigorating. You can challenge any and every student as well as assist every student with the tools of the internet.

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