E-reader vs. Paperback

I recently read an article on Scientific American pertaining to how technology has changed the way we read. With the invention of e-readers such as Kindle, Nook and the iPad, people are forgoing the classic paperback novel and using e-readers. E-readers have many advantages, such as holding multiple books without the bulkiness that comes with paper.

Avid readers may enjoy using e-readers while others prefer paper. There are many who vow to never use an e-reader because it takes away the physical and emotional aspect of reading a paper book. The act of turning pages, annotating in the margins, folding a corner of your favorite part, the smell of fresh pages, etc. are the pleasures of paperbacks.

The evolution of technology has allowed e-books to make up “more than 20% of all books sold to the public.” This increase raises questions as to what will happen to the publication industry. More revenue will be gained by publishing e-books, but what will happen to physical books? When asked this question, some have said that there will still be paperbacks, but we really don’t know what will happen.

Technology has vastly changed the world in many ways. The internet can give you the entire synopsis of a book and you don’t have to pick up the book let alone read it. You can even take classes online. While some of the advantages of technology are great, some take away the physicality of actions. Using an e-reader to find and download a book does not give you the same experience as going into a bookstore or library and using the Dewey Decimal System or just perusing until you find the book you need. Coming across new books when looking for something else is an exciting experience.

It has also been shown that e-readers do not give the mind the same experience as paperbacks. “Despite all the increasingly user-friendly and popular technology, most studies published since the early 1990s confirm earlier conclusions: paper still has advantages over screens as a reading medium. Together laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicate that digital devices prevent people from efficiently navigating long texts, which may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. Whether they realize it or not, people often approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper. And e-readers fail to re-create certain tactile experiences of reading on paper, the absence of which some find unsettling.” With this being said, many students use e-readers to carry their textbooks. If students were to be ‘old school’ and use the physical textbook, there could be a rise in academic performance. The lack of focus when using e-readers leads to just looking at the words on the page as opposed to reading and understanding the text.

As someone who has read on an e-reader, I still prefer paperbacks. There is nothing that an e-reader can have that will persuade me otherwise.

Are you team e-reader or team paperback?

Published in:Lauren McManus |on November 7th, 2013 |No Comments »

Importance of Letters

What has happened to the presence of handwritten letters? Remember when you received a letter from a loved one? Or perhaps a festive invitation to an event with confetti popping out of the envelope? Besides the fact that I was born in the 90s, I do have an old soul. Receiving letters in the mail that do not pertain to a bill or credit card companies claiming you are “pre-approved” to invest in their card, give me excitement. Someone out there took time out of their day to actually sit down and write a letter. That act alone points out how important to that person you are.Whether it be just a short “hi” or a long descriptive letter about an event that happened, handwritten letters provide emotions through words in addition to the reader’s role in that person’s life.

Because of technology, the use of letters has diminished. The joy of receiving mail has dwindled as well. Letters were one of the main ways of communication before the advancement of technology. The individual personality of a letter gave the reader a sense of importance and authenticity. Receiving handwritten letters is a great joy; to receive a letter is a personal act of acknowledgement out of love-whether it be familial, friendship or romantic. Without this form of communication, personal relationships through technology are not as effective. Talking on the telephone is the equivalent to a handwritten letter with the added plus of actually hearing the others’ voice.

Texting is rather vague; the use of emoticons can add personality to the message, but without the use of actual handwriting, the reader cannot know the true meaning behind the message. The punctuation, such as an exclamation point, can be entered without actual reciprocation in the writer’s feelings.

Video chat has improved greatly. This alone can be used to have a real face to face interactionwith another person. However, technology may fail and cause a lapse in video feedback.You could be chatting with a friend when all of a sudden your friend’s video feedback has been frozen. All you’re left with is a hilariously weird face and an unfinished conversation.

While technology is a great advancement, there will come a day when technology will fail due to some outrageous superhuman technological virus that we will be left without a telephone, internet, and video chat. Which will lead to chaos within the internet -dependent community as well as those who communicate via technology. How about we revive the simplicity of writing a letter and sending it to a loved one?

Published in:Lauren McManus |on October 29th, 2013 |No Comments »

Divine technology?

In light of recent advancements in technology and pedagogical attempts at evolving alongside it, consider the following:

If humanity relies on technology, it will cause them to be forgetful; they will stop using their minds because they will rely too much on technology to do the thinking for them, not by their own critical thinking, but by means of algorithms and binary code. What we have discovered is not a recipe for learning and knowing, but for empty exposure to more ideas than we’d ever be able to absorb. It is no real knowledge that you offer your students if you allow technology in your teaching, but only something that seems like knowledge.  It will only seem as though they are learning effectively, while for the most part they learn nothing, and as students filled, not with wisdom but the idea of wisdom, they will be a burden to society.

If you are familiar with Plato, then what I’ve written will sound strikingly similar to Plato’s own words:

“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”

…which we remember because someone wrote it down…

Plato’s lived in an oratory culture.  I myself am constantly exposed to oral tradition through intense memorization of the Qur’an which follows strict rules of recitation.  Speaking through a double lens, straddling ancient tradition and new-age developments, I ask myself – is one really better than the other?

It seems every generation bemoans the next, complaining of some old thing lost and some terrible, useless new thing gained.  Teachers hated erasers when manufactured on the ends of pencils, saying it would cause students to stop thinking about what they write before writing it, ruining their minds. Writing will make us forget, erasers will make us stop thinking.  Technology will make us mindless googly-eyed reading machines?

Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.  It seems that looking through history, any technological advance, including writing itself, was seen as a threat to higher thinking and humanity as a whole.  What we’ve really gained are tools which make learning and thinking easier, not dumber.  I swear if I had to remember everything my professors profess without note-taking, though I try hard, I’d certainly do worse on exams that I already have.

It is said in an Islamic tradition that the first thing created, even before the earth, was the pen and it was ordered to write.  Even Plato believed in to theion, the divine, though more in a ho theos, common noun type of way.   The pen is divine creation, Plato! If we apply this divine logic to present-day, can we say that laptops are divine too?  Because I really don’t know what I’d do without my online thesaurus.

Published in:Rachel Elmalawany, new media, pedagogy |on February 26th, 2013 |No Comments »