Distractions 1. Reading 0.

6 03 2012

I don’t own an e-reader or a tablet. Nonetheless, this is not news to me:

People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

Why isn’t this news to me? Because every computer user in America (including me) has to fight the urge to open a new tab and read something more fun than what they’re currently looking at every time they read or watch anything online.

Now imagine that you’re a college student taking an online course that you don’t want to be taking. Wouldn’t you have that same feeling nearly all the time? How often do you think you’d give in temptation and check Facebook or Twitter (particularly since nobody is watching you watch your course materials)?

By the way, the people interviewed in that story are experienced readers who, presumably, want to read the e-books they bought and downloaded onto their Kindle Fires and iPads. How do you think the students in your class who don’t want to read what what you’re assigning are going to respond under the same circumstances?


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3 responses

6 03 2012
Leslie M-B

It’s funny–my experiences are just the opposite. I’m completely distracted by my laptop and desktop computers, but my pre-Fire Kindle, since it has such a clunky browser, helps me stay focused. Similarly, I can read books and articles for hours on my iPad via the Kindle, Instapaper, and Dropbox apps–I just make sure to download texts so I can read them even when I don’t have wireless access. I find I’m getting a lot more reading done since carrying the iPad with me, though that could be because the backlit screen keeps me awake longer than I would normally be in the evening. Clearly, though, I’m an outlier.

6 03 2012
Distractions 2. Reading 0. « More or Less Bunk

[…] seem to think this is a brilliant response to the NYT article on reading e-books that I wrote about this morning: We notice when we are distracted by some newfangled app on a Kindle Fire. We do not notice when we […]

7 03 2012
Music for Deckchairs

But I think the point about distraction in online classes is really well put. Ten years ago, students working online were focused on their discussions by the intensity and novelty of the experience. Now we’re taking them into the close proximity of Facebook, and that’s different. It’s like co-locating the library and the bar: some serendipitous conversations and discoveries occur, but there are certainly other losses.

I’m in favour of looking across the curriculum to make sure that opportunities to learn how to work online are balanced by digital detox opportunities. Students need both sets of skills.

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