Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Technology Combined with Digital Dieting

A friend messaged this article by Joahann Hari to me via Facebook and I found it interesting:

I am beginning to feel like a bit of a dinosaur when I go in public and pull a cold, hard book out of my purse. But I still prefer it. I've tried the electronic formats and found them lacking. Not that I mind other people using electronic gadgets to read.

To be perfectly honest, I dabble on my Smart phone or flip through a magazine while motionless in a waiting room. That's just logistically-correct since when one is waiting you aren't aware of the hour or minute in which you will be called out of your revery. I don't care to get too indebt or reflective in waiting rooms only to be snatched out of my comfort zone.

My husband has discussed with me the gift of a Kindle or Nook for the readers in our family. We've discussed the pros and cons. He has researched both brands. I have inspected those of my friends with interest.

I do love technology. But...

(There's always a "but", isn't there?) night when I peek inside my girls' bedroom to say goodnight, it is only my college-aged daughter who has a cold, hard book in her hands and a stack of them near her bed or in her laundry basket. It doesn't look cold and hard at all. It looks warm and cozy and comforting and more alive than the little beeps of light I see in the hands of my other two girls who...

...will fervently proclaim that they are not playing a game, not chatting, not Facebooking, not surfing but are indeed reading. My thirteen year old most probably is. She is the most absorbed reader of the three girls. I know she reads...lots. Her father showed her the art of downloading books onto her Ipod and she loves the candy craze of that feature.

And I trust that she is reading. I know she is. This child is as rabid as I am in a bookstore.

But while she reads I also know that with one click she can skip over to Facebook and check for new messages (because I do) and then she can hop to her chatbox and chat with five friends at one time (this is totally not me, but my children do love to chat) and still she can pop over to Google to look up information (which is kind of cool), all the while her phone is next to her with text messages beeping every five seconds or so. Her finger is snatching parts of information. Her brain is clicking along invisible lines of words.

This is in relation to what the above article says:

"In his gorgeous little book The Lost Art of Reading – Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the critic David Ulin admits to a strange feeling. All his life, he had taken reading as for granted as eating – but then, a few years ago, he 'became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read'. He would sit down to do it at night, as he always had, and read a few paragraphs, then find his mind was wandering, imploring him to check his email, or Twitter, or Facebook. 'What I'm struggling with,' he writes, 'is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there's something out there that merits my attention.'

"I think most of us have this sense today, if we are honest. If you read a book with your laptop thrumming on the other side of the room, it can be like trying to read in the middle of a party, where everyone is shouting to each other. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That's getting harder to find."

In self-defense, Johann Hari writes:

"No, don't misunderstand me. I adore the web, and they will have to wrench my Twitter feed from my cold dead hands. This isn't going to turn into an antedeluvian rant against the glories of our wired world. But there's a reason why that word – 'wired' – means both 'connected to the internet' and 'high, frantic, unable to concentrate'.

"In the age of the internet, physical paper books are a technology we need more, not less.


"Most humans don't just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals."

Like Joann Hari, I love technology and, as it is here to stay, there is no sense in trying to ignore it. But, as with all things, there has got to be a balance in our lives.

My daughter is correct when she tells me she is reading. I know she is. She isn't lying. But it's shiftless reading. There has got to be a balance. Johann Hari recommends digital dieting becoming vogue:

"The idea of keeping yourself on a digital diet will, I suspect, become mainstream soon. Just as I've learned not to stock my fridge with tempting carbs, I've learned to limit my exposure to the web – and to love it in the limited window I allow myself. I have installed the programme 'Freedom' on my laptop: it will disconnect you from the web for however long you tell it to. It's the Ritalin I need for my web-induced ADHD. I make sure I activate it so I can dive into the more permanent world of the printed page for at least two hours a day, or I find myself with a sense of endless online connection that leaves you oddly disconnected from yourself. "
So, in a feeble attempt to go on a "digital diet" if you will, here goes my plan for a new school year. One in which I have looked over our summertime reading practices and refocused on how we do things. While public schools are upping their relationship with the ditigal word, our small homeschool will be dieting (a bit). Not dieting from words or The Word, but from digital words, the kind that make you hop, skip, and pop all over the place. I'm looking for meaningful focus here.

I don't want to downsize the reality here. I am a writer, a director of religious education, and a homeschool mother; I need my laptop. When I'm away from my kids I need my cell phone. And I refuse to be a hypocritcal mother. If I demand that they diet from digital then I should set the example. So this is a rather slippery slope for me to even begin to crawl up.

Since our homeschooling lifestyle consists of a rather large amount of "unschooling" which is learning at all times in the world-at-large and our actual "school time" (I prefer to call it "table time") is rather small, I think it is important to use that table time to develop the true function of books which is:

"--the paper book that doesn't beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once – does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: 'Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.... It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.' "

The "plan" is...the "ideal" is to...

  • at proclaimed bedtime hour all electronical devices will be handed over to Daddy and placed in a designated spot where only Mommy has permission to retrieve
  • on early morn any child who does not arise when he/she is supposed to will not regain use of personal electronical devise for the day
  • children are expected to rise, get ready and dressed, eat breakfast, do chores, and get on with their school work
  • Mornings are not for television or electronic devises...if a child is up at the break-of-day and finishes their work early they may continue with their reading, do another math lesson, draw/paint, or go outside
  • When school work is done (and the hour hand is past lunch) electronic devises will be give out by the writer of this policy (except to those who slept too late). Children will have them before and after their afternoon activities until Daddy repossesses them for the night.
Check back with me in September for the reality version and the "weigh-in" on our digital diet. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great, sensible plan! I will love to hear how it plays out.


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