Technology Makes Reading Better. Here’s How.
by Terry Heick
Recently I created a quick list of apps that support close-reading.
In that post, I theorized that “close-reading is the product of a dynamic and deeply personal interaction between the reader and a text. It is an active process characterized by questioning, adjusting reading rate, judgment thinking, and dozens of other “strategies” readers use to make sense of what they’re reading.”
Most teachers know what close-reading is. The part that I found most interesting the seemingly alien idea of technology promoting patient reading. Apps, for example—how on earth can a tablet or an app or an iPad or headphones or some other gadget help with the focus, patience, curiosity, and will to sit with a text and make sense of it? It seems like the opposite would be more likely.
And that’s certainly possible. There is no “truth” here. In one setting with one student in one kind of classroom, technology could overwhelm the fragile interaction between reader and text. In others, it could catalyze the reading process like never before.
But that’s a matter of design. Of strategy. Of context. At one point, books were considered “technology” during a move from oral storytelling to written record. The same with certain kinds of binding, the printing press, and so on. Throughout history, reading has been altered by technology.
Reading is just the communication of ideas through alphanumeric symbols. I’m not sure what this represents such hallowed ground for teachers, but it does. Personally I’d be more concerned with reading habits, reasons for reading, the quality of reading materials, etc. Symbols change, forms change, media change. See the gif animations that demonstrate how a student feels when “bae won’t respond to them.” This is your audience, and these are the symbols they gravitate towards.
In the apps-for-close-reading post, I said that this “interaction” between reader and text during close reading “doesn’t require technology, but can be changed by it.” So it made sense, I thought, to guess at some ways this happens. Or should be happening, anyway.
With more personalization, more access, and more connectivity, we should be creating a generation of close-readers that can’t get enough. So if we’re not, the question is, why isn’t that happening? The pieces are there.
Technology Makes Reading Better. Here’s Exactly How.
1. Social readers are connected readers
Through apps with social components, readers can be connected through texts. Reading groups, reading contests,reasons for reading, book suggestions, building social credibility for the process of reading, and more are possible when reading is, at least on some level, a social act.
2. Adaptive learning algorithms can lead to personalization
With adaptive learning algorithms, readers can have the pace, diversity, complexity, and form of their reading materials personalized instantly.
3. Increased access & choice
Through digital storefronts, free eBooks, RSS feeds, social magazines, and more, there has never been a time where students had more content at their fingertips.
Like this book using an eReader like Kindle or iBooks? Here are 25 just like it. Also, here are 10 other authors that those who liked this book also liked. And here are 750 reviews that you can sift through to get a feel for what other people think. And please, download a free sample of any book you’d like.
And it’s easier than ever to publish, so while that means there’s more garbage out there, there’s also more variety. Fan fiction has exploded. If you can’t find something you like, you’re not trying.
4. Technology can distract, technology can focus
Technology can allow readers to annotate texts and share notes, which is physically interactive and “social.” There are also apps–white noise apps, for example–that can block out class distractions, and more. Before you blame technology for “distracting” students, make sure you’re honest with yourself about how focused they were without the tech.
5. Hyperlinking and digital mashing can diversify a text
Texts can be “layered” with links and supplemental media to compensate for reading levels of background knowledge. This isn’t a distraction–done properly, this can contextualize the text.
6. Analytics can personalize the mechanics of reading
Analytics can be, well, analyzed for the practice of reading—time spent reading, how often readers clicked on certain words, etc. I know, this is vague. I’m not a reading specialist or an app developer. The point is that data can be used to keep all readers in their “literacy sweet spot,” supporting struggling readers, challenging advanced readers, and offering choice to grade-level readers.
7. Texts can have their lexile levels adjusted instantly
Take the data from #6, and you’ve got a powerful combination. This means less or more complex sentence structure, syntax, vocab, etc. Platforms like news-o-matic already do this, as do a variety of apps and desktop programs. And using eReader apps, students can touch a word and get its definition instantly. Not that they necessarily will, mind you–close reading is still a matter of will. But they can.
8. Reading speed is more “visible”
With apps that allow the practice of sight words, others created expressly to increase reading speed, and others that measure time spent reading, words read per minute, and more, more than ever reading speed is visible, and higher reading speeds generally translates to increased comprehension.
(The following excerpt from Types of Nonverbal Communication by Kendra Cherry recently appeared on psychology.about.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
According to experts, a substantial portion of our communication is nonverbal. Every day, we respond to thousands on nonverbal cues and behaviors including postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, and tone of voice. From our handshakes to our hairstyles, nonverbal details reveal who we are and impact how we relate to other people.
Scientific research on nonverbal communication and behavior began with the 1872 publication of Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Since that time, there has been an abundance of research on the types, effects and expressions of unspoken communication and behavior. While these signals are often so subtle that we are not consciously aware of them, research has identified several different types of nonverbal communication.
In many cases, we communicate information in nonverbal ways using groups of behaviors. For example, we might combine a frown with crossed arms and unblinking eye gaze to indicate disapproval.
1. Facial Expression
Facial expressions are responsible for a huge proportion of nonverbal communication. Consider how much information can be conveyed with a smile or a frown. While nonverbal communication and behavior can vary dramatically between cultures, the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger and fear are similar throughout the world.
Deliberate movements and signals are an important way to communicate meaning without words. Common gestures include waving, pointing, and using fingers to indicate numeric amounts. Other gestures are arbitrary and related to culture.
Paralinguistics refers to vocal communication that is separate from actual language. This includes factors such as tone of voice, loudness, inflection and pitch. Consider the powerful effect that tone of voice can have on the meaning of a sentence. When said in a strong tone of voice, listeners might interpret approval and enthusiasm. The same words said in a hesitant tone of voice might convey disapproval and a lack of interest.
4. Body Language and Posture
Posture and movement can also convey a great deal on information. Research on body language has grown significantly since the 1970′s, but popular media have focused on the over-interpretation of defensive postures, arm-crossing, and leg-crossing, especially after the publication of Julius Fast’s book Body Language. While these nonverbal behaviors can indicate feelings and attitudes, research suggests that body language is far more subtle and less definitive that previously believed.
People often refer to their need for “personal space,” which is also an important type of nonverbal communication. The amount of distance we need and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us is influenced by a number of factors including social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics and level of familiarity. For example, the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. On the other hand, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people is around 10 to 12 feet.
6. Eye Gaze
Looking, staring and blinking can also be important nonverbal behaviors. When people encounter people or things that they like, the rate of blinking increases and pupils dilate. Looking at another person can indicate a range of emotions, including hostility, interest and attraction.
Communicating through touch is another important nonverbal behavior. There has been a substantial amount of research on the importance of touch in infancy and early childhood. Harry Harlow’s classic monkey study demonstrated how the deprivation of touch and contact impedes development. Baby monkeys raised by wire mothers experienced permanent deficits in behavior and social interaction. Touch can be used to communicate affection, familiarity, sympathy and other emotions.
Our choice of color, clothing, hairstyles and other factors affecting appearance are also considered a means of nonverbal communication. Research on color psychology has demonstrated that different colors can evoke different moods. Appearance can also alter physiological reactions, judgments and interpretations. Just think of all the subtle judgements you quickly make about someone based on his or her appearance. These first impressions are important, which is why experts suggest that job seekers dress appropriately for interviews with potential employers.
(The following excerpt from iPhone 6 Knockoff Runs Like the Real Thing in Hands-On Video by Jacob Kleinman recently appeared on technobuffalo.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
The iPhone 6 isn’t even official yet, but one Chinese company has already whipped up a functioning clone of Apple’s rumored smartphone. A hands-on video with an iPhone 6 knockoff called the Wico i6 was uploaded to YouTube today, offering a peak at what the real thing may look like when it hits the market later this year.
The plastic iPhone knockoff seen here looks pretty much identical to the dummy units floating around. The only difference is that this one also appears to be a working smartphone, and it’s running a pretty impressive copy of Apple’s own mobile operating system. The design is clearly based on leaked iPhone 6 schematics, though recent reports suggest the official version will replace those white stripes on the back panel with another material.
The actual iPhone 6 is expected to launch this fall, probably in September. Rumor has it Apple will release a 4.7-inch model first, followed by a larger 5.5-inch phablet. Beyond a bigger screen, the upcoming device will likely offer a faster processor, a sharper display and hopefully a larger battery. We’ll let you know as soon as we learn anything new about the iPhone 6, though for now you can check out the knockoff Wico i6 in the link below.
(The following excerpt from Two Special Generations: The Millennials and the Boomers recently appeared on ncoc.net. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
The Baby-Boomers and the Millennials are both worthy of special attention. They are large groups: there are 77 million Boomers and 82 million Millennials. Millennials are showing strong interest in civic participation and reversing some of the declines observed among youth since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the Boomers are reaching the period of life when typically we see the highest levels of civic engagement, thanks in part to resources such as savings, networks, community ties, and knowledge that accumulate over time. The two generations are linked in that most of the Millennials’ parents are Boomers.
The Millennials so far appear to be considerably more civically engaged than their immediate predecessors, “Generation X.” The voting turnout of young adults (ages 18-29) almost doubled in the 2008 primaries and caucuses compared to the most recent comparable year (2000).21 There were also substantial youth turnout increases in 2004 and 2006. Youth volunteering rates are higher in the 2000s than they were in the 1990s.
Compared to the Baby Boomers when they were young adults, Millennials are somewhat more likely to volunteer. They are less likely to vote and to participate in face- to-face civil society, as reflected by questions about attending meetings, belonging to groups, and attending religious services.22 Declines in face-to-face engagement occurred before the widespread use of the Internet; but clearly, today’s youth have new opportunities for online interaction. Overall, if we compare Millennials to previous generations when they were young, the Millennials appear more engaged than Generation X and engaged in different ways from the Boomers.
Comparing today’s levels of engagement for the Millennials and the Baby Boomer Generation reveals that more Boomers are engaged in demanding ways. Thirty-eight percent of the Boomers, versus 15% of the Millennials, are classified as “involved in several ways.” More Boomers are performing service activities, although the Millennials include more people who are only involved in service (“service specialists”). This may reflect the expansion of community service opportunities available to younger citizens through high school and college over the past decade, and the lack of connection between this service and other forms of engagement (such as voting or local problem solving).
This difference is consistent with other studies and with developmental theory, which presumes that people accumulate civic skills and connections as they grow older. But people develop more or fewer skills depending on how many opportunities they have to practice active citizenship. That is why it is crucial to provide opportunities for the Millennials today.
People who are now between the ages of 25 and 29 are not as involved as their younger peers are. Half as many of them are excited about the campaign (15% versus 29%), they are much less likely to report being contacted about voting (35% versus 62%), and they are less likely to attend meetings or work on community problems. They may not have any less interest in civic and political issues, but rather may temporarily lack networks and institutions in which to participate. Many have left school and college but have not yet started their own families. They are eligible for very few programs that involve civic experiences or civic education—a gap that deserves more attention.
Among Millennials, gaps in civic engagement by race and ethnicity are typically small. For instance, the volunteering rate is exactly the same for White and non-White Millennials, at 56%. There is only a three-point difference in rates of attending meetings between Whites and non-Whites. Recent Census surveys have found virtually equal voting rates between young Whites and young African Americans (although young Latinos lag behind).23 In contrast, there are rather substantial differences in civic engagement by race and ethnicity for older generations.
Democratic Millennials tend not to have any friends who are Republicans, whereas Republican Millennials often do have Democratic friends. In part, the reason may be a relative shortage of younger Republicans: they represented only 22% of the Millennials in our sample (including both strong Republicans and those who leaned to that party). Democratic Boomers were also unlikely to have Republican friends, even though Boomer Democrats outnumbered Boomer Republicans by only six points (34% to 28%).
On other measures, the Boomers’ attitudes, behaviors, and feelings almost always fall between those of the younger (Gen-X and Millennials) and the older (Seniors) generations. But Baby Boomers are a diverse or evenly divided group whose opinions, attitudes, and behaviors differ by background.
Female Boomers and male Boomers were deeply divided in their support for various policies that are related to civic engagement. For example, 72% of female Boomers strongly supported a proposal for high school service-learning requirement, while only 47% of male Boomers showed the same level of support. Similarly, 60% of female Boomers strongly favored a proposal to require high school students to pass a new civic test, while 49% of male Boomers expressed this opinion. Seventy-three percent of female Boomers strongly supported National Deliberation while only 60% of male Boomers did. On other hand, Boomer males were slightly more likely to support the expansion of overseas programs; 32% of male Boomers and 25% of female Boomers expressed strong support for this proposal.
Some of the deepest divides between racial groups were observed among the Boomers. For example, 64% of White Boomers reported volunteering while only 42% of non-White Boomers did. This finding is especially striking considering that there was no difference at all for Millennials (56% for both). Findings are similar for group membership. Seventy-seven percent of White Boomers and 48% of non-white Boomers reported belonging to some sort of volunteering or community group.
Finally, we want to emphasize that traditional polling techniques may misrepresent Millennials, especially when surveys are used to compare them to other generations. In the 2004 National Exit Polls, 20 percent of voters under the age of 30 said that they had cell phones only, compared to one percent of those aged 75 or older.24 People who only use mobile phones are virtually impossible to reach in telephone polls; but people who rarely or never use the Internet are hard to recruit for online panels.
Peter D. Hart and Associates conducted our 2008 survey using both methods. The online sample produced higher estimates of civic engagement for the Millennials and often put them ahead of other generations that they trailed in the phone survey. When we compared Millennials to other generations, discrepancies between the two samples were greater than in other aspects of this survey.
Volunteering and community projects:
In the telephone sample, 56% of Millennials reported volunteering in the past year—almost the same as the average (59%) for the whole sample. Nineteen percent had worked on a community project, less than the 33% rate in the whole population. In the online sample, however, the Millennials were, by a substantial margin, the most likely to volunteer and also ahead of the other generations in community projects. Presuming that they actually are more involved in these ways, part of the explanation may be opportunities provided by schools and colleges.
Local advocacy: 27% of Millennials had tried to change local policies, slightly more than the 24% for the population as a whole. In the online sample, they were by far most likely to change local policies than other generations.
Discussing the election: According to the telephone sample, rates of talking about the election were fairly even for all generations. According to the web sample, Millennials were more likely than any group except Seniors to talk about the election.