Opinion
Education Opinion

Thumbing Through Some Summer Reading

By Susan Graham — July 12, 2010 1 min read

One of the best things about summer is more time to read. There are books beside my chair. There are newspapers on the kitchen counter. There are magazines on the coffee table. And there is, of course, this screen on my desk. My son keeps telling me I need a Kindle. But while I communicate and publish digitally, I prefer to read off the printed page. As I sat reading my print version of The Washington Post I found a soulmate in Kathleen Parker who maintains that how we access reading has changed how we interact with what we read and write.

The tactile experience of reading is also crucial to my reading pleasure. Holding a book compares to nothing short of a baby's contact with his favorite blankie... We are all part of this immense digital experiment and we know not where it leads. But the tactile vacuum inherent in the medium can't be insignificant.... Reaching out and touching someone has become easier than ever, but we never really make contact. Hunkered over our keyboards, tapping and clicking messages to the vast Other, we have become a universe of lone rangers keeping the company of our own certitude.

Like it or not, how we read is definitely changing. In Smithsonian Magazine’s 40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years issue, I ran across this:

America was founded on the written word....But reading and writing, like all technologies are dynamic....We are people of the screen....Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking... Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time.... Using their thumbs instead of pens, young people in college or at work around the world collectively write 12 billion quips per day from their phones. More screens continue to swell the volume of reading and writing.

It is inevitable that the digitization of information is going to change how we read, how we respond to reading and how we use what we read. It is a necessity that education adapt to technology because, just as surely as the printing press revolutionized the world in the 14th century, screens are changing the world humans live in now. My fellow blogger here at TM, Anthony Mullen, recently attended the International Society of Technology in Education conference. He talks about how he saw the future in the instructional tools presented, but, more compellingly, how he saw the future in real time.

A group of middle school children deftly weaved in and out of the crowded exhibition hall. They were wearing yellow shirts with red stripes and moved with the grace and synchronicity of a school of tropical fish. But the truly amazing feat was how they managed to navigate through the crowd while still performing tasks on their cell phones. It was then that I realized how disconnected I was from their world. The middle school students were living in a world dominated by opposable thumbs and I was living in a world managed by my left and right index fingers. The Age of Opposable Thumbs had usurped the forefingers largely responsible for accessing the Digital Age and I missed this seminal moment.

As educators we must adapt or become irrelevant and we must be given the latitude to make decisions about how to integrate and adapt learning to meet the needs of a changing world. It is both daunting and exhilarating. Here comes the future, ready or not.

Thumbs up--full speed ahead.

The opinions expressed in A Place at the Table are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read