Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Surfing the internet & browsing in magazines

Yesterday I felt like I finally had a day off and spent the day as a real couch potato.  Most of my day was spent surfing the internet, learning about many random things as I buffed and updated the Portaportal site for my school library. This felt particularly decadent because my college age sons are both at home and I am constantly urging them to get off the computer and do something.  So there I was doing just what I tell them not to do, spending a whole day exploring the internet and digging through the deep web.

My portaportal site is a "link farm" where I keep internet links that I use and that I recommend.  It is by no means an exhaustive list but it still demands a fair amount of grooming so it doesn't become an embarrassment.  The best internet sites aren't static so checking that a link is "live" (Portaportal does this for me automatically) is not enough.  If I plan to use sites with students or recommend them to teachers I have to have an idea how to operate the web site and find what is needed.  

As I explored and poked around at the wonderful world of the internet I thought about what was doing in relation to reading.  Was this a reading activity?  It certainly demanded a fair amount of reading skill.  I scanned and explored sites, entered exploratory searches and reviewed the content returned this way for clarity, grade appropriateness and interest. I certainly read a fair number of words but jumping back and forth across topics, reading only enough to evaluate, checking links to visuals and interactive illustrations, even noting the add-ons necessary to make things work and then moving on - was this really reading? 

The constraints of what "counts" as reading is not a small question.  Students are required to spend a certain amount of time each day "doing independent reading."  So when a child is leafing through a magazine (poring over the ads, checking out the bold face headings and perhaps reading captions for particularly intriguing pictures) it matters to the child, the parents and the teachers if this should be either classified as a waste of time, or counted as homework.

Browsing through a magazine like surfing the internet is a skill that demands a fair amount of reading and thinking skill.  Browsing through a magazine is how many readers find the articles they want to read.  Of course most magazines have tables of contents, some publish indexes, and most are indexed online, but realistically, most people browse to find what they want to read.  Surfing the internet is similar, if a bit more layered and complicated but it also demands reading skill along with others and is one way that a reader can find what they want to read.  Is it reading?  Perhaps that depends on whether you find anything you want to settle in and read.  It is certainly not a waste of time if you find something to pursue further.  As to what I was doing, thank goodness I didn't have to fill out a reading log because I don't think it "counted."

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