So I feel myself moving back to the whole “How is reading literacy changed by the social creation of highly distributed digital texts on the Web?” question these days which, of course, usually creates a whole ‘nother set of questions. I’m really trying to tap into what I’m doing when I’m reading online these days, what the conversation is in my head, and how different that conversation is from the way it used to be. These days, I read with a writer’s mind, not a reader’s mind. I read for engagement, constantly testing what I’m reading against my own lens and looking for opportunities to become a part of what’s been written. I read to edit, to find strength and weakness in the argument or point, and to improve or even disprove it if I feel capable. I read to get the gist of what’s being said, to quickly find the thesis, the salient points, the conclusions.
In that context, Dan Visel’s post titled “Learning to Read” gave me much to think about. In it, he writes about how “we don’t really know how to read Wikipedia, yet,” how we struggle with knowing whether to read it as an authoritative text given the fact that what we are reading today may well be gone tomorrow. We’re reading these new texts through old lenses, judging them by “what we are used to, and everyone loses.” As Dan says
…we need to learn to read Wikipedia, to read it as a new form that certainly inherits some traits from what we’re used to reading, but one that differs in fundamental ways. That’s a process that’s going to take time.
As educators, however, I wonder how much time we should allow for understanding this shift? Our students who are engaged in these online environments are certainly reading differently (and, many would say, less effectively) than their teachers who for the most part are less engaged in these social texts. If they are reading them in the same way that they are reading a book, isn’t that a problem? Should they be reading to engage the ideas that are being presented? If they continue to read as simple passive consumers of information, to what extent does that compromise their literacy?
And then the bigger(?) question (as one of the commentors on the post asks,) once we’ve figured out how to “read” Wikipedia and blogs and the like, how do learn (and teach) how to write it as well?