I recently came across a great article about kids and the lack of their use of books in today’s world. (see the article here)
Here is my response:
You are spot on. Being in the teaching profession for over 10 years, I have watched public schooling get rid of libraries altogether. The books that do exist in some classrooms, or old libraries, stink of mildew and have been sitting around since the 1950’s. It’s a shame. (This is not to say that new textbooks don’t exist.)
There is something to be said about the physical connection to holding a book, being able to tag pages and highlight them, and taking notes on the side.
(The note taking is a more organic way of helping information sink in. Think about it, if kids type out the context that they are reading they often are just copy it quickly and many fail to summarize, whereas if they are required to organically write i.e.pencil /paper, they are forced to slow down and have more time for the information to be absorbed. In addition, they are engaging more areas of their brain as they focus on the curves and angles and are creating a more sensual tactile experience to stimulate the brain.)
I think the fix is to make books that interact with the kids on a virtual platform to accommodate the need to keep pace in our technological world. Imagine an online program that require the students to read physically from a book that they hold in their hands or to create organic posters forcing them to engage more of their brain. They no longer can find a quick fix through a search but are forced to read through what they have available to them in their hands.
Our kids learn about materials by handling them and sadly we have been putting more power to learning about these materials online, the kids lose the most valuable way of learning called Experience.
For example, I had a group of students who were stellar at being able to describe Obsidian to me. But when presented with the actual product in real life? I was amazed to see how many had no clue even though they had seen pictures of the rock multiple times prior to seeing it in real life.
Many kids and younger parents are too quick to rely on the internet as the be all, end all of information.
The computer is a great tool, but it can not substitute for the development and engagement of the right and left brain in unison. If we are continuously only using smaller portions of our minds to gather material, what hope do we have that future generations will be able to “think outside the box”. We need to train and promote engagement of the ENTIRE learning process. Not just one method of learning or one subject matter.
States have been trying to push the importance of “real learning” but have focused their attention to harshly on the accountability of regurgitating information and reading test scores (not all kids can do tests but are brilliant on the subject matter) over the true value that reading can provide to our kids otherwise. What is that true value? A well rounded development of the mind and it’s processes. True problem solving and observation skills. The ability to find information if it’s needed to solve problems or to answer deep questions that will help them survive the toils that life will throw at them.
Brain development is just as important as within the learning process as the subject matter that is being learned.
For instance, think about when a kid holds a book.
Here is what I mean:
- *They feel the book, smell the book (if it’s fresh ink).
- *They have to think about turning the page.
- *Their senses take in the sounds of the pages turning.
- *Their senses engage in the feeling of the page and the materials that makes it smooth, rough, heavy or lighter than other objects.
- *They have to worry about using numbers to find the right page.
- *They have to engage in the weight and bulk it has when they carry it around. (In a sense, the information contained in a Biology holds more value because the mass is different that that of the fiction book they read.)
- *They have to care for it and take note when a page is torn or the edges of the bindings have been damaged.
- *They are held to a higher responsibility because they have to keep track of the book.
- *They have to worry about paper cuts which taps into the survival instincts by accessing pain receptors and decision making skills.
- *The book demands attention on the subject matter and jaunts to media and information that is off -subject happens less frequently.
(These a just a few, I’m sure there are more!)
When they don’t hold a book and they have a computer?
- *Their brain engages in more visual learning.
- *Their tactile senses are picking up the feelings of the mouse or keyboard which generally stays the same, so eventually this will be numbed and the brain will be less “fed” in that sense.
- *The smells stay the same. There is no whiff of ink.
- *They hear the sounds of clicking of the keyboard or mouse, which would be the same no matter what “book” they are reading. With books, they all have different aspects to them and are constantly challenging our sensory organs.
- *Most times, kids don’t carry the computers with them so they are not as “present” on the mind as a book might be. For instance, if a student is required to carry around a Biology book through out this day and home for home work it is likely it will be easier to remember over a computer assignment that has no “bulk reminder” attached to it.
- *Student may innocently want to look up something they read on line and then get distracted by a tag, tab or noise that engages their attention elsewhere. This is more prevalent than ever before.
Most online educational platforms are filled with text that students can skim and videos of boring people talking (not all but some). They lack the integration of engaging the senses (as in the past) and the seamless transition to today’s technologically advanced world.
Generally speaking, it’s one or the other. You do it online or you do it offline.
It is rare that I’ve seen an educational program that has effectively tapped into the skills that a kid needs both on and offline. Even more rare, is an online program that promotes that kids/people socialize and work in the physical world for discussion.
I think what scares me most is that the focus for those tests on student reading goes to scanning on what is most important so that they can answer a test question or worksheet answer. The appreciation and value in reading has been denied because of this and student’s rely on social media outlets as their source of “legit” information. They look for quick fixes and are focused on the RIGHT answer rather than the involvement of generating an answer.
Imagine if we could stop the tests that all have a RIGHT answer and shift our focus to the expanding our abilities to problem solve, question, cooperate, communicate IN PERSON.
Being a great leader in today’s world requires the ability to read and assess people at a physical and emotional level.
Focusing kids eyes to the online resources takes this away and where they could be pointing to pages and images, while accessing more tactile senses mentioned above, they are zoned in on the glow from the “all knowing” machines.