Technology may be short-changing us

A recent article in The Guardian has had me questioning how I read and my understanding of what I read.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and for several decades on my birthday and at Christmas, my wife would buy me several hard-cover books to read. I eventually succumbed and acquired a Kobo reader that was easier to transport and read at the cabin and on trips (I just had to remember to plug it in nightly).
Coming from a newspaper family, I grew up with the tactile feel of the newspaper in my hand flipping the large pages. Where possible, I would get the New York Times and I regularly picked up the Globe and Mail at newsstands after it no longer was mailed to subscribers.
Technology came along and I began reading national papers online. Between my tablet, cellphone, and computer, I now read almost everything online.
But after reading the article in The Guardian, I wonder how well I understand and feel the words on a page. The article, through a long study, has discovered that reading hard-copy books, newspapers, and magazines actually creates a greater understanding and appreciation for the story.
What the study discovered was that on tablets and cellphones, readers are more likely to skim across text, picking key words as they move through the story or article. Our brain’s ability to read is subtly changing and that change is affecting everyone.
Reading has many benefits, providing opportunities for reasoning, inference, and understanding that has evolved over a great time. Yet the new technologies appear to be short-circuiting our skills that have been developed over that time.
Reading from hard copy allows one to go back and re-read passages to increase understanding. Skimming, on the other hand, reduces the chance that a passage will be re-read or even read completely.
One of the issues being discovered is that our minds often are easily diverted by messages flashing over the text to e-mails, and messages that draw our attention away from the story we are reading. It often results in not fully reading the articles.
This is an issue being faced by educators the world over. The cellphone, the computer, and the tablet allow our attention to be drawn away. These technology gadgets allow us to multi-task, often never completing one job before interrupting that task to divert our attention to a new one.
Teachers across the world have to develop new strategies to encourage students to finish reading an article or completing an essay before diverting to a new task. Often times, students no longer have the patience to read longer pieces of literature or more comprehensive articles in newspapers and magazines.
After reading The Guardian article, which I printed out on paper, I began watching myself to see how much my attention was being diverted. I must admit I skim much more on reading on my tablet, and skim headlines quickly on my computer, when reading the Globe and Mail, National Post, or New York Times.
I often become impatient and rather than finish reading an opinion piece, I will scroll back and grab on to another article.
Technology may be short-changing us.

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