Two decades, maybe just a decade ago, reading was considered to be the main path to intelligence and academic success. What about now? Some say that nothing has changed and being an avid reader is still the best way to gain knowledge. Others claim that reading is no longer relevant when you’ve got videos, tutorials, educational games, and documentaries, all of which are much more engaging and just as informative.
So, who’s got it right?
As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. There is new research that looks into website usability for teenagers and its conclusion is that teenagers are not as tech savvy as we thought. This research compared online behaviors of teenagers to those of college students and adults, and found that teenagers often fail to extract useful information from the digital world. Which is weird, considering that they are the ones we call digital natives.
What’s up with that?
Turns out, to successfully navigate the world of technology, one has to have skills cultivated by the plain old book reading. Teens struggle formulating search queries, have insufficient reading skills, much lower levels of patience, and difficulty judging source credibility. Due to these reasons, teens make more mistakes, often give up quickly, and complete fewer online tasks. They especially struggle with ‘serious’ sites, like those of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions.
What can be done?
The focus of the research was user experience, so their suggestions have to do with design improvements and meeting the teens half way, maybe even all the way. But it could be awhile before the digital world wholly transforms itself to match the attention spans of younger generation. Meanwhile, a better, albeit an old fashioned solution would be to get your kids reading and developing those crucial skills of processing information.
How do we get our kids reading?
The good news is that it takes just fifteen minutes a day to extract the full benefits of reading, so it’s not much of a commitment to begin with. And while there are dozens of aspects of developing a proper reading habit, it all boils down to the main three. First, lead by example and pick up a book yourself. Second, make reading into a family ritual and repeat it the same time every day no matter what. Lastly, eliminate all other distractions while reading, namely the digital ones. The best way to go about eliminating digital distractions is to install a designated reading app that blocks all other apps until a certain amount of reading is accomplished.
To sum up, modern technology offers a ton of cool learning tools. Unfortunately, using those tools effectively requires the skills developed through the terribly old fashioned process of reading books. So it turns out neither books nor tablets are better educators, but have to be used jointly for the maximum effect. Want your gets to take full advantage of the world of technology? Get them reading!