Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Two of the Three R's - commentary on my own E-reading and -writing


 "In the Age of Screen Time, is Paper Dead?" - This NPR story got me thinking about my own habits

A fascinating story on NPR got me thinking about my own experiences and habits when it comes to my own reading via in paper and electronic formats. Written/recorded by Steve Drummond, "In the Age of Screen Time, is Paper Dead?" fits very well with a regular theme in Jim Lyons Observations since its beginnings well over ten years ago. In his story, Drummond explores the role of print and paper in education, which I might add is appropriate for the back-to-school season.

I will leave it to my readers to get to Drummond's story. I think they will find it to be an interesting summary, including a bit the commercial push for paper. It triggered in me thoughts about my own experiences with both reading in electronic format, and in writing (note-taking specifically), that I wanted to share here.

I have been teaching for University of Phoenix (UOP) for about the same length of time this blog has existed, and we have seemingly ALWAYS used e-books, predating my arrival on the scene. UOP is known for being a pioneer in online higher education, and even when teaching in "ground" environments (what we call their in-person, classroom modality), e-reading, via licensed and DRM-enabled PDF versions of popular textbooks and articles, has been the norm.

However, as a professor ("facilitator" in Phoenix parlance), I am often given access to the hard-copy version of the texts, which I find especially useful for reference during the online discussions which make up much of the learning model at UOP. While nothing beats the electronic version of the text for searching, in contrast, there is nothing to compare to the ability to flip through the traditional hard-bound book, even in a sometimes semi-random fashion, for gaining overall familiarity with the material. So me? I like (and even can say, I need) both formats to do my best work. And I have learned over the years that some students go the same route, buying their own hardcopies even when access to the e-books is provided as part of their student tuition and fees.

As far as my reading - for pleasure, in addition to my avocational and professional reading - I use a combination of the "big screen" (desktop and laptop web browsing), mostly for articles and the like, and my portfolio of Kindles (yes, I own and use several). I have been a Kindle owner since the beginning (even finding myself using the "big screen" version of Amazon's cloud reader from time to time, though rarely if ever using the iPad/iPhone app), I notice that my habits have changed relatively recently.

Have had it since Xmas - thrilled to borrow an ecopy so I can start reading it!
Self-observation (just read a book about that) indicates that I have a growing preference for Kindle when it comes to reading books. Especially in the avocational and professional categories of my must-read list, I enjoy the "highlighting" (and future recall) capability of the Kindle. Combined with a growing comfort with Kindle's user interface (a product, no doubt, of Amazon's ongoing - if not always obvious - software and hardware tweaks, as well as my own Kindle reading experience, which must be going on 10,000 hours), I find myself seeking out the electronic version of traditional books I already own or have borrowed from the local library. It also helps that my library (in conjunction with Overdrive) has enhanced both the size as well as usability of their e-book collection in recent years.

Good old hand-writing in a notebook is great for
note-taking, if I can read my writing later!
Going back to the NPR piece, space is given to the argument, based on studies, about old-fashioned physical writing, as opposed to typing in some form, and it's link to higher rates of learning and retention, at least as confined to note-taking. I can't imagine doing something like this draft in long-hand, having relied on word processing - remember that term? - for decades now. But for short, more spontaneous things, I find myself back to doing more physical writing with words on paper. This is despite the challenge of reading my handwritten notes, following years of underuse of my "scribing" skills! I believe that for me the value in the hand/eye/brain relationship, in synthesizing key themes in something like a lecture, or also, for example, in laying out a plan with its lists and diagrams. Having just acquired a Rocketbook Wave notebook (soon to be the subject of a dedicated blog post), I expect to bring back the physical writing even more.

To recap, for me, my preferred mode is e-reading, up and continuing to go farther up. And as far as note-taking, I feel I am having a bit of a renaissance with the good old-fashioned kind, as long as I remember how to do it!