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Online Debate

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DIRECTORY: articles on the good, the bad, and the ugly of reading online.

  • In his insightful Atlantic Monthly cover story, "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?, Nicholas Carr interviews experts on the changing ways in which we now read -- online instead of offline, digital letters versus hardcopy, and finds ominous forecasts in the winds of change.
  • Motoko Rich took the online reading debate to the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, July 27, 2008, a wide-ranging article that ran for more than a full page inside, the kind of space the paper reserves for only its most important subjects. Obviously the editors thought the subject mattered greatly, especially as it affects such bottom-line subjects as future newspaper circulation figures. "Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?"
  • For coverage of PBS-Frontline's study of how the Internet is affecting teenagers in America, see The Rough-and-Tumble Online Universe Traversed by Young Cybernauts.
  • “On the Media,” NPR’s weekly show devoted to all things media, took a hard look ("The Net Effect," April 3, 2009) at how the Web is affecting the print world (books, newspapers, magazines) and what it could be doing to our brains—for better or for worse. It’s a refreshing and thought-provoking show.  
          
    One of the experts interviewed on that show is Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, whose research is certainly the highlight of the show. For an uncut version of his interview, go to: http://audio.wmnc.org/otm/otm04309_extra.mp3.
  • In Jim Trelease's essay, "Reading on the Internet: The news is far from doom and gloom," he describes the ways in which the Web can enhance the world of reading (books, magazines, and newspapers) in ways unheard of before the Web.
  • When researchers asked 25 seventh-graders to look at a web site devoted to a fictitious endangered species, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, all but one of the 25 rated the site as "very credible" and most struggled to prove the web site was false, even after the researchers told them it was. "Researchers find kids need better online academic skills."
  • In the 6th edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease examined the research on two issues: 1) Does a computer in the home translate into higher school scores? and 2) What about all the reading children do online and in PowerPoint presentations they create now for school? See LESSONS.
  • As the Internet grows, so, too, do its abuses. "I saw it on the Internet," therefore it must be true—at least that's how the axiom goes. But sometimes that's a long way from the truth, as NY Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman explains in "When Integrity Goes Missing."
  • NY Times columnist David Brooks ponders the impact of instant directions (GPS) and instant information (GOOGLE) on the human memory glands.
  • NY Times education writer Samuel Friedman considers the impact of the iPod, laptop, and instant messaging on the classroom attention span and sees a giant shadow lurking in the corner named DISTRACTION.
  • For the umpteenth time, the question has arisen: Is Reading on life-support or already dead? As technology takes away more hours, young people gravitate to online games and chat-lines, and newspaper readership at a 20-year low, what does this portend for the future? WNYC (NPR-New York) devoted one show to the subject. First in was historian David McCullough, who is sincerely worried. When a listener calls to lament that when we stop reading we stop educating ourselves, McCullough notes that the most-educated person he ever knew — Paul Horgan, the Pulitzer-winning novelist and biographer — never went to college, but was a voracious reader who opened his converdsations with frtiends by asking, "What're you reading?" Listen to the McCullough interview here:


    Next up was Caleb Cain whose December 24, 2007 New Yorker article, "Twilight of the Books," took stock of a recent National Endowment for the Arts study and declared: doomsday for reading is near. Were they over the top or right on target? Listen to their arguments. In addition, Cain's New Yorker piece can be found at: www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2007/12/24/071224crat_atlarge_crain. Listen to the 20-minute Cain interview here:



    The "online literacy debate" continued with an interview with Elizabeth Birr Moje, professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture in Educational Studies at the University of Michigan, and Sunil Iyengar, director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) (20 mins., Aug. 12, 2008, "The Great Literacy Debate," WNYC-Brian Lehrer Show). Listen below.


    For a look at one of the earliest predictions of Reading's imminent demise, read about the Scribner's essay from 1894 "The End of Books." What caused the furor way back then? Thomas Edison's invention that began the technology revolution.

  • Speaking of inventions, Amazon is now marketing a device that may revolutionize the publishing industry: the Kindle. With a screen that is unparalleled in its clarity (Amazon prefers to call it electronic-paper), it operates independent of a computer and is lighter than a paperback book (10.3 ounces). Buy a book and it's delivered wirelessly in less than one minute and stores 200 volumes. How much of a choice? More than 100,000 books available, including more than 90 of 112 current New York Times bestsellers at $10 each, along with newspapers like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Kindle's cost: $400. Too much? What if the price drops, as it did for the iPhone and the iPods and HD TV? Listen as Tom Ashbrook of NPR's "On Point" surveys experts and callers on how this gadget will or will not affect the reading culture of America at E-READING. (Nov. 20, 2007, 45-mins) at:
          http://archives.onpointradio.org/shows/2007/11/20071120_b_main.asp.
  • Don Tapscott, an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, offers some heady encouragement for parents of Net Geners in his book Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World (McGraw-Hill). Check out a synopsis and review of the book here at NetGen Review.
  • New York Times critic A.O. Scott looked beyond the doom and gloom of the print industry (even as his employer, like most, struggled for profitability amidst the industry's downturn) and saw a spark of hope: Could the brevity of young attention spans and the miniscule viewing space of iPhones and iPods be a boon to the long-ignored American short story? Could the times and short story be made for each other? Think how many short stories could be loaded into an iPhone or Kindle? ("In Praise of the American Short Story" by A. O. Scott, April 4, 2009, NY Times)
       http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/weekinreview/05scott.html
  • With students spending more time online, a commensurate amount of time is spent "writing" online. What does that mean for "cursive" writing and its precipitous decline in and out of the classroom? A Sept. 16, 2009 Associated Press article looks at the national debate.
         http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090919/ap_on_re_us/us_cursive_angst
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