If you haven’t read it yet, take a gander at the 7.27.08 NYTimes article called Literacy Debate: R U Really Reading? The article was a very good summary of the roving opinions on the matter, with a little sprinkling of science in there. I was most dismayed and disappointed by David McCullough (David McCullough!!) sounding so ignorant and old fashioned (…”learning only comes from good books”… come on, David!).
I think the point is that learning comes from good reading – no matter where you read. And “good” reading needs to be taught – like any other skill. Our schools are failing our children by not teaching basic computer literacy – how to read and write to the online community in a productive, intelligent, and insightful fashion. It doesn’t just come naturally as that ridiculous-sounding woman, in the article, from the the National Council of Teachers of English stated – “When kids want to do something, schools don’t have to get involved.” – say what?! We need to help develop a new set of skills – how to locate reliable information quickly and accurately, how to corroborate findings from multiple reference points, how to interpret video and pictures, how to track and organize the things we read, how to seek expert opinion, how to weigh in productively, and how to gain context. We need to show students an appropriate balance between print and digital environments. We need to be teaching online literacy.
The thing that’s so exciting about the online environment is that it’s not just a “read only” place – it’s a read/write environment where the reader is as much a part of the story as the writer. And as the article points out, the standardized tests currently administered by schools in this country do not test for those skills.