Monday, May 13, 2013

Reading..Connectivity..Technology and Attention

I have been the owner of an Apple IPad since they were released. I have found it to be my go to technology tool for consuming information such as emails, news, web searches, blogs, and audio and video content. I have utilized services such as Pocket and Delicious to tag and categorize resources that I discover online. Flipboard and Zite curate news and information from my most trusted sources and provide a simple and dynamic reading experience.  Checking emails, sharing content and conducting web searches are efficient and productive when using a tablet like the IPAD.

The long standing argument regarding tablets is that they are devices designed to consume content. While this may be a strength it is by far not the only use of the device. The ability to link text, embed videos and audio, link to discussion and commenting features, annotate text, and share are interactive features that allow for active consumption. An example of this is the app Subtext which allows for the creation of social community within the pages of a text. The app allows the teacher to layer in enrichment materials, quizzes and assignments as well.

The opportunity to take a passive act of reading and integrate interactivity, multiple means of representation of information and social collaboration extends learning, differentiates, and provides peer sharing and learning opportunities. This has be referred to as "social reading"

21st century information texts cross a variety of platforms. Many of which are social. News is no longer confined to newspapers, magazines and your nightly news anchor. Current events are delivered and discussed on social media using Twitter hash tags, blogs,  video sharing, and various social apps.   Information that is shared online is typically written in hyperlinking form, sometimes referred to 3 dimensional writing. The new information literacy skill requires students to validate text, navigate the hyperlinking trail of information that is contained in published content, curate and evaluate relevant information, make connections, draw conclusions and develop further questions.

Social and interactive reading is not just a required skill, but contributes to student engagement. Utilizing web-based literature circles, book clubs, discussion forums or embedded chatting features in documents and apps provide a collaborative learning environment with 24 hour access.

The development and sharing of podcasts or video tutorials provides a differentiated approach to content delivery and assessment. Students create such content to demonstrate understanding while providing an instructional resource for student who require additional modes of representation of course content.

While a tablet provides a number of advantages with regards to teaching and learning it does pose a problem. Students must learn to maintain attention and focus while  viewing active content.  Justin Reich (Contributor for Mindshift)  cited the work of Howard Rheingold ,by discussing the need for students to to remember their core purpose of reading and not get lost in the network of hyperlinked text.  Teachers, students and parents must employ focus and attention strategies and decide when focused reading or connected reading should be the goal.