Coming across a blog post a couple of weeks ago which said we’re not reading much online today, threw me a bit. Why?
Because I’m a convert!
I knew that my habits had changed the day I searched for the online copy of an article from a hard copy magazine to which I subscribe. I had the hard copy magazine article open on the side of my desk. After locating the online copy, I realized just a few minutes later I was totally engrossed – online! I actually recollect that moment, because I stopped reading and took notice of the shift that had overcome me. That was over two years ago.
While I have no recollection of consciously or unconsciously acting on my preference for online reading, it is clear that I have indeed made the shift. Somehow or other I have taken control of what was a shocking case of ‘wandering eyes syndrome’ in which I could feel my eyes darting around a web page having no structured approach and seeing no logical path to apply to my frequent foray into the world of online reading!
I recollect becoming exhausted and slightly frustrated trying to engage with online reading. So, what happened? What changed?
I wish I’d taken more notice along the way, because now, when confronted with articles such as this one: How much are people reading online? which states quite emphatically that not many of us are reading online, I feel at a loss to proffer an alternate view.
What I do know though, is that now, I can, given the time, spend quite a few hours a day reading online and I do most certainly prefer reading magazines, which in their standard print version, can be several pages long.
….. my infatuation with online reading still does not encompass reading novels. Nup. I haven’t as yet given up on hard copy books. While I have read a few eBooks – from proverbial cover to cover – my preference remains, as evidenced by the huge pile of books on numerous bookshelves and tables at both home and work, for the good old hard copy novel.
So what is it that has seen the transformation to my preference for online reading of magazine and newspaper articles along with various interest based articles?
- Increased familiarity: As the years have tumbled by, I guess it is clear that my familiarity with the layout of online reading materials has increased. While blogs differ dramatically from each other, the format of them are all quite similar. The same goes for online magazines and newspapers where the format of many are quite similar. The header and footer of most blogs, online magazines and newspapers seem to conform to similar ‘layout rules’. Either that, or I have become conditioned to what they have to offer and how to search within for information. The same applies to websites. While there are huge differences between websites, I’ve learned, or become increasingly familiar, with their layout.
- Ease of use: With familiarity, I’ve developed a set of expectations on how to use various formats that present themselves to me. I’ve come to expect and appreciate the embedded definitions and explanations that regularly appear on websites. No longer do I feel that I’ve lost my train of concentration as I wander off on the random paths of discovery on which these embedded links lead me. In fact, I’m often conscious of how incredibly engrossed I become as I traverse my journey of discovery – especially when I glance at the clock and realize that an hour or more has zipped past.
- Interaction: Navigating online articles and posts provides a way of engaging with text which is unparalleled when reading hard copy text. As one of those diehard ‘pencil in hand while reading’ people, I must say that online reading has liberated me quite dramatically! Over the last ten plus years, I’ve become a paperless reader, who regularly notetakes digitally. Online reading totally lends itself to this routine.
- Engagement: Part of my increased familiarity and ease with online reading must be due to my increased habit of online writing. As a blogger, I regularly engage with the kind of material I write. Without realizing it, I’ve become living proof of the mantra I constantly share with my students: “The more you read, the more you write”.
- Purpose: Reading for interest or reading for information are two very different purposes of online reading. Reading for interest implies an increased engagement with the text, whereas reading for information implies that a rigorous search in underway. While I’m conscious that my eye movements for an information search differ to my regulated controlled reading of text, skimming is an integral part of the reading process. Learning to skim in a methodical way when engaging with online material is as important as learning to skim hard copy material. I’ve found that my skimming of online material has improved over time. Rather than being aware of my eyes darting all over the website, nowadays I’m conscious of skimming from top to bottom over headings, first sentences of paragraphs, bolded words and links which break up the website as well as skimming in a more controlled way across columns and other varied, unordered features which present in many websites.
So ….. should we be teaching our students strategies to increase their ability to engage better with online reading?
I’ll save my thoughts and suggestions for next week though!
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