cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “technology”

Bookish Thoughts: Skimming versus Deep Reading


In addition to my monthly posts of Word Nerd Confessions, Reader Round Ups, Why We Say, and Debatables, I’ve decided to chime in thoughts about book issues. This month deals with how electronic text has created the dilemma of skimming.

This is not a post so much about being pro or con towards e-readers, although I always request paper instead of electronic when request a review copy. From that you can surmise my stance.

Dog gone it—my attention span is in the dog house

Instead, I’m more concerned with how electronic reading has transformed overall reading habits. I’m not the only one either.

Maryanne Wolf , the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA, is the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. In an article from The Guardian (8/25/18), Wolf discusses research findings that indicate how the essential skill of “deep reading” might become jeopardized as electronic reading becomes more of the normal. Basically, if we don’t use it, we lose it.

Further studies indicate the increasing reluctance of university students to dive in and tackle older texts due to impatience with sifting through older syntax style and stiff vocabulary of authors from yesteryear. It takes work to read older books. True that. It’s just like losing the ability to climb three flights of stairs if one always takes the elevator.

Wolf‘s research also indicates that the damage to reading deeply can begin as early as fourth grade. This interprets as soon as students begin to read they are at an disadvantage due to the push to put electronics into their hands. Not having the ability to develop an appreciation or skill for deep reading means future readers have the potential of never gaining insights into more complicated texts such as Emerson, Proust, Bronte and a larger cadre of other pre-info bite writers.

Scary.

What is happening is a style of reading known as “skimming” which is scanning sections of texts in a pattern, such as a Z, to absorb information. I’m thinking of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course I had to take in summer school once upon a junior high year. Speed reading is what it went by in most circles. It admittedly came in handy. Skimming seems to be the rebrand.

Skimming does not sound like something Wolf promotes. She admits her attention span for reading complicated texts has diminished. With some personal introspection I realize I rarely sit and study a text or read a book like I used to. I still read a lot of books but solidly with deep satisfying comprehension? Not so much. This blog is an example. I put aside a really great book to write up these thoughts. Why?

I think issue of distractable reading has evolved as a deplorable habit. I bounce in and out of newsfeeds and sound bite updates and have lost sustainable attention span.

Solution?

For one, I will become more conscious of how long I read and keep my phone across the room. Reading and texting are not companionable. Distracted reading is not life threatening but it is concerning.

Skimming. Anyone else found this to be an issue in their reading habits?

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Why We Say: A Twist on Past Words


Language is fluid. It can start out with one meaning and morph into another definition over time. Here’s a batch of words that have come into their own meaning through the advent of social media:

Tagging, traffic, fan, wall, hacking, search, viral, link, ping, feed, alert, tweet, are just a few. Here are a few others that have changed:

Troll

Past: a large nasty creature who hung out under bridges. Sometimes a word used with fishing.

Now: Someone who pokes around online and stirs up responses.

Spam

Past: pinkish spongy mystery meat squished into a can.

Now: Unwanted, annoying messages that arrive through email or even as texts.

Friend

Past: a chosen companion who shared common interests.

Now: a button-click indicating a degree of superficial commitment.

Like

Past: a preference signifying a degree of indication of favor.

Now: a click response of rating that operates as a indicator of popularity.

Post

Past: to send a written communication through the postal service

Now: a written communication sent through social media most likely as a blog (a neoplasm and a separate post).

What words have you seen come into existence or change due to the influence of social media?

Update, Upweight


Like most iPhoners I pushed through the latest update. For my thanks of being dutiful to serving the needs of technology my smart(ypants) phone informed me this morning I had averaged 13 minutes of screen time last week.

Excuse me?

Hostility bristled with embarrassment at this information, reminding me of the time our garbage can got knocked over and the neighborhood became privy to all we consumed in our household. The garbage can is now housed in the garage and we take our refuse to the dump ourselves, thank you very much. And the screen time feature is now deleted off my phone, thank you very much.

I realize my privacy is not as sacred as it once was, especially since I caved in and switched over from my flip phone to an iPhone. I would probably still have a flip phone if one of the progeny hadn’t convinced me to sign up to a family plan that included free phones and has a rate so low that nobody, but absolutely nobody can touch. One salesperson thinking he could convince to switch plans, that he improve our rate, paled when he saw how low our plan was and gave me the free earbuds incentive anyway.

I fear we are forever tied to our carrier. On the bright side it gives my kids a reason to talk to me now and then when something comes up about our plan–like can they have the free upgrade. After all, I don’t really use the device. At least not like they do.

‘Tis true.

When I do look over my phone bill I see I hardly use my minutes. I text occasionally. My phone calls involve quick reconnecting: “A couple of errands and then home.” My binge is maybe once a month being on the listening side of a conversation with one of the kids as we catch up on life in one info load, rather than chit chat spread over the days of that month.

My phone is primarily an extension of my laptop. I create lesson plans and school-related documents, grade assignments, correspond, and sometimes write non-school stuff. Like my blog posts.

I am coming to terms with my phone. I resent how it knows so much about me, yet I really like the instantness it provides. Weather, coupons, restaurant locations, definitions, an entertaining YouTube are all a click and thumb swipe away.

There is a constant remiss argument that rumbles within: I do miss flip phones. I do like instant access. However, I do not like how smart alecky my phone has become. Flip phones may not have been that smart but they sure knew how to keep dumb about my business.

I am resigned–I will remain tied to my iPhone, *sigh*–yet, I keep my old flip phone and reminisce. It was so pretty and it had an actually keyboard and didn’t try to autocorrect when I didn’t need it to. It was lighter in so many ways. The weight of the new update is indeed pondersome.

Paper or Plastic?


“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

The Write Sites or Sites for Reader Ayes


Sampling new websites is as delicious as the free tray at the local chocolatier. Hope you discover some new morsels on this tray, or enjoy a familiar flavor. Here are a few sites catering to readers and writers alike.

http://www.bookish.com
A site founded by publishers who blend together industry news, interviews, reviews, and articles. Look for insights about new and favorite books and authors. There are also interesting articles by authors, such as James Dashner’s opinion of what books became the best film adaptations.

http://www.issuu.com
Looking for something to read? Or perhaps looking to publish something you’ve written? Check out this site to read or upload material.

http://www.quora.com
Got a question and can’t find it by Googling? I discovered Quora in this manner. I wanted to find out how many time Jane Eyre mentions “dear reader” to add to my lesson plan about the use of archaic point-of-view. Eventually someone from Quora took up the challrnge and came up with the answer: 37. Since then I’ve gotten involved in answering more questions than asking them. I even have three followers and have earned over 1000 credits. I don’t think Macy’s accepts Quora credits yet.

http://www.goodticklebrain.com
If your thirst for Shakespeare ranges between the serious and the silly–then this site is only a click away. It professes to be “an eclectic collection of mostly Shakespeare-related comics and other miscellany.” It pops out Bard bits on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

http://www.thereadingroom.com
There are scads of sites which provide reading recommendations, reviews, news, and other bibliophilic needs–yet The Reading Room has the best ever quizzes. They are fun, annoying, illuminating and are great blog fillers. Try this one “What Literary Place Are You?”  *disclaimer: results vary with each participant (New York!?! I shudder at living in such a metro place).

Blog Spotlight: Paperback Princess


The Paperback Princess

I read a lot of books

 

I appreciate unabashed Book Boosters. This is one reason I took to following Paperback Princess. She sometimes laments her inability to resist buying books. A recent post of hers highlights that this is indeed a concern she will have to attend to due to bookshelf space. Too many books is not the same thing as having too many shoes. Books never go out of style. Well, maybe Valley of the Dolls, but everyone has their own preferences for reading material.

Dear Princess–adding books to your bulging shelves is an admirable dilemma. It’s enviable. Making room in your life for knowledge, adventure, new friends and old friends is delightful in my perspective. You will never be lonely!

PP also provides wondrous book suggestions and reviews. Plus, she is a conversant commenter, which a blogger always appreciates. I’m taking liberties and borrowing a part of her fabulous TBR <a title="list" href="https:// Read more…

Handily Written: A Lost Art?


Another TBR item has floated up to my attention. This one is dated December 2012 from the Wall Street Journal. Actually, I did read it, but kept it because it so resonated with me. “The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note.”

a handwritten letter is indeed becoming a rare commodity image: jppi/morguefile

 

I remember my elementary day struggle of learning to write cursive, and to this day my cursive is problematic. My students are continually asking me, “What does this word say?” when I hand back their work. I wish I could tell them.

Cursive is getting kicked to the curb these days. I wish it wouldn’t. I wish I had lovely handwriting. My mother has beautiful handwriting and it hasn’t changed in its precise simplicity in all the years I’ve known her. She laments, though, how she approaches her late eighties that she can’t write like she used to, blaming it on various ailments like arthritis and eyesight. I encourage her to keep up on her keyboarding. Emails and texts are great for instant communication, and yet I still appreciate receiving her snail mail as there is something truly lovely about receiving a handwritten letter.

The article’s author, Philip Hensher, starts out asking a rather private question: how many Christmas letters did I send out and how many did I receive. The MEPA keeps track of those statistics, and lets me know each year we receive less, so he sends out less. We usually get into a bit of a discussion of “Well, maybe we should keep sending them out in good faith” versus “Cross ’em off.” There are no easy answers or solutions on the Christmas card questions, which is not the point of Hensher’s opening lines. He simply is nudging the reader to remember the last time receiving an actual letter that contained a handwritten missive in a personally addressed envelope. Hmm, I’ll have to ponder on that. Beyond Mom, the only actual mail I receive at the PO box are bills or ad flyers. None are handwritten..

Hensher briefly covers the practice of handwriting and its implications for career placement and personality detection, along with its ability to bridge direct and intimate communications between people. A pause. Here I reflect on those moments in books and film where a letter plays an important part of the plot. Cyrano’s letters to Roxane are practically one of the leading characters of Rostand’s play. What about William’s group letter to his lovely “mark” in Knight’s Tale? Perhaps this is why tomes of correspondence remain popular reading items. Although I think it’s only polite to read someone’s letters if deemed permissible. I did turn away from reading Willa Cather’s letters, once I found out she never wanted them published. It seemed voyeuristic.

I have inherited a hefty box of letters from my great aunt, affectionately known as Auntie. These represent her time spent in New York when she attended the Julliard Institute on scholarship back in the heydays of the twenties. She wrote once, sometimes twice, a day to her mother back in Seattle. No handy telephone calls and definitely no Twitter communique in the twenties. She later traveled all around Europe on tour and penned her insights and reflections upon the changes the Fuhrer created upon the landscape. I began the arduous process of typing out her letters with the idea of creating a memoir of New York in the days of yesteryear since she gave such amazing detail. This might become a retirement project. Her handwriting is so fine and spidery it wears on my eyes and fingers to decipher them. There is also the fact that something is lost when transforming them from the loops and scrawls to the neat precision of typing. Now and then I will peruse them. Mostly I derive pleasure they are sitting in the box on my closet shelf. They are a bit of history and a bit of treasure.

 

Readers: Do you have a few treasured handwritten letters? What makes them so special?

 

Writerly Wisdom: V


Scrolling through all my former posts, I rediscovered a forgotten series I started way back when I first began blogging: quotes from writers.

Here is a quote found in Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door, a biography on Harper Lee:

p. 80:

[referring to her lifetime habit of reading, which she traces to her family reading aloud to her when young]

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

This quote encapsulates my philosophy about the learning process. As a teacher, I encourage students to look up information so that they will better remember it. The brain is a muscle and it needs a workout to stay strong and viable. I use both technology and the library stacks, yet I prefer thumbing through books over scrolling screens any day.

A Room Of My Own or a Writer In Woolf’s Clothing


image: amazon.com

While I’m not particularly a fan of Virginia Woolf, I do appreciate her unspoken contributions to women and writing. She once penned an essay discussing the need to have a room to create in, the desire to close out the responsibilities of mother and wife in order to be alone with self and creating. Rather a revolutionary idea in her time.
Though not so confined to the stove of domesticity these days, as a woman and a wife, mother, teacher, library trustee, GiGi–assorted other hat wearer, I too crave a room of my own. Carving out a space for personal creative endeavors has had its own set of challenges involving space and guilt.
We’ve tended on the small side of houses and squeezing out an area for a desk meant getting creative to find a creative corner. A door placed on top of filing cabinets worked for a time, but definitely cramped the bedroom and so we moved it out to the living room.  Still squishy. Ugly to boot.

When I switched to laptops, I got rid of the desk arrangement and I splurged, buying a loveseat the color of eggplant. I eked out a coveted thinking space in the bedroom, approximating nanoseconds of creative corner. The kids loved the idea that my office was purple.
Now, as an empty nester, I’ve commandeered one of the back bedrooms, I forget which progeny actually had it since they switched around so much. None of them can complain I’ve stolen their room. They know my standard reply anyway, “Your room? It was on loan for eighteen years.” My desk is an Ikea chair complimented by matching footstool to accommodate my two laptops (I still like my antiquated Dell, as I am trying to get used to my touch screen Lenovo). I have a rocking chair for when the MEPA wants to pop in and chat and a futon for the occasional overnight guest. This is where the guilt comes in: it feels a bit me-centric to devote one entire room towards my endeavors.

I know, I know–lots of people, lots of women have sewing rooms, craft corners, workshops, man caves and suffer not a twinge of remorse. I, on the other hand, do feel a bit bad about eradicating all traces of the progeny’s room. No beds, posters, old clothes, trophies remain; they truly are a guest when they visit.

Then again, I nudge away those nipping little guilts and conclude I should have no dilemmas about acquiring a room of my own. And this is where I have my moment of truth. Possessing a room of my own means I should make use of it, shouldn’t I? Then why am I writing this in the living room?

Pedestrian Thoughts


I do my best writing while out walking. There is something about the synced coordination of brain and body both exercising at the same time–I now understand the trend towards the new kinetic desks.

After an hour of sitting down at the laptop I get antsy and start moving around, tidying up, doing laundry, futzing and such. Writing in lock down mode doesn’t work well for me. Writers who state they sit down and work office hours have my admiration. This is why I appreciate Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian.”


Set in the future a man is out walking one night, his accustomed habit, when he is pulled over by the metro police–suspicious behavior since no one walks anymore, especially at night. The pedestrian ends up being taken in for “further questioning” when he reveals he is a writer–no one reads anymore either.
Fortunately, my walking habit is not deemed odd in our own days and times. Our little town has a refreshing diversity of walking paths and I do relish my times of walking briskly, revving up the muse and muscles. The exercise unknots plot stoppage, uncramps stiff dialogue passages, and opens up new avenues of thought, like blog posts. This one, matter of fact.

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