After reading Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction I had several thoughts running through my head, some of them were quite conflicting. One conflict was with a young man that had only one reading assignment for his summer vacation, he needed to read “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut. By the time school started he had only read 43 pages. This sounds like a young man I used to know…me. When asked why he hasn’t bothered reading more he genuinely could not rationalize reading the whole novel when he could get a complete summary of the book online in a six minute video. If this were available for me I wouldn’t have cram-read “Fahrenheit 451″ two days before the end of my summer vacation. Here comes the conflict; as a 41 year old teacher, I believe this student is missing the experience of reading a piece of classic literature.
What the digital diet does for so many of us is give us the bottom line in minutes. Want to know about a new car? Look up consumer reports and find out how they rated it. But, numbers, stats, graphs, summaries and bottom lines won’t allow you to experience something. You still need to test drive the car and get a feel for it, experience it. You can read about running through wet grass with bare feet, but until you’ve actually tried it you’ll never really know what it’s like.
I think the young man above is missing the experience of reading “Cat’s Cradle.” I only hope that the teacher assigning this reading project will honor the time spent reading the book and doesn’t simply ask the student to summarize the book. If a summary is asked for, then the student will be rewarded for watching the six minute video and simply restating what another has said about the book. He’ll miss out on the joys and nuances of reading the book from cover to cover.