Bauerlein’s nightmare: iPad

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Maybe you understand this: when you only have a semester to write a research paper, you’re pretty much guaranteed to skip over some of the quality research in your field – there’s just not enough time. I just finished presenting a literature review on the potential effects of iPad. Of course, because effects research is so broad, and iPad is so new, I had to pick one perspective and run with it.

I chose multitasking and flow research to direct the discussion. One of the sources I used briefly was Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation. However, I missed a pretty key passage, central to his argument about declining literacy now that the “screen” has become the favored medium for the younger generations. Here’s what I missed:

The screen doesn’t involve learning per se, but, as Sweeny says, a particular “learning style,” not literacy in general, but “viewer literacy” (Bomer’s term). It promotes multitasking and discourages single-tasking, hampering the deliberate focus on a single text, a discrete problem. … The model is information retrieval, not knowledge formation, and the material passes from Web to homework paper without lodging in the minds of the students (p. 94).

One of the pieces of research I did cite in full was that conducted by Ophir, Nass, and Wagner (2009) at Stanford. This is an abbreviated version of their work.

When media companies successfully integrate all forms of media into one screen, how will we differentiate between video games and books or television and Web surfing? Will YouTube become as important as a 200-page book or even a 30-page research report?

If you believe that information in books is far too dense to capture in a video, how come kids are saying, “We don’t read anymore”?  If people truly aren’t reading, or are reading short passages with little or no context in addition to the videos they watch, then it stands that the multitasking behavior inherent in the multimedia systems we’ve created for ease of use are changing how we learn.

When I read social critics who advocate for the importance of the book and the learning style it encourages, it seems that few are willing to discuss the possible implications for the future of our country.

What happens when the younger generation, who learn without fully digesting the material they learn, become the country’s leaders?

They won’t have the same knowledge of history or civics or foreign cultures that the current leaders do. Some will say that the ability to find information today is vastly superior to what it was even 10 years ago. I agree. But, is there any research to prove that the Internet is being used in this way? Or, are the social critics right, and is the Internet just a place to scan until we get bored, log off, and commence the race car game we started earlier?

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Life in the fast lane: Immediate gratification

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Take a look at this quote from Discoblog’s RSS feed:

new research suggests that ‘we are how we eat’ and that the mere thought of fast food can result in general impatience. Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments in which they showed volunteers logos from several fast-food chains or asked them to recall the last time they’d visited, writes Scientific American. And they found that folks who had thought about fast food would then read faster, even though no one told them to hurry.

There were also a number of other findings present in this study linked with the need for convenience and speed. I wonder, though, what the findings of a similar study might be if researchers substituted fast food with Internet technology and the personal devices capable of utilizing high-speed Wi-Fi. Maybe a study already exists, but what if researchers compared groups of individuals who had access to iPhones, for example, and those who did not and then asked them to access a specific bit of information without the aid of an iPhone.

I have a feeling that iPhone users might get stressed out quicker. But, until the study comes out, I’ll continue to assume that the constant need for ease-of-access in our country is turning us into stressed-out work-aholics who value technology over, well, everything.

Technology overload!

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Being in the book industry, I’m around talk of Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad on a daily basis. And, I must say, the more I hear about these technologies, the crazier I’m becoming about them and the more I must have one. Or two. Or more.

I’ve already discovered that my wireless Apple keyboard should sync up with the iPad, thus eliminating one of it’s downers (lack of content “create-ability”), and I’ve become quite happy with the Kindle and its functions allowing users to mark and make notes on text, thus giving the device a more “book-like” feel.

To satiate my longing for a new piece of technology, I’ve viewed a number of video reviews, tutorials, and tours of the devices, all of which say and film basically the same things. As I started watching the latest review sent to me from my Nashville musician friend Bradley, I actually scoffed at The Wall Street Journal reviewer who claimed to have spent the past week doing nothing but playing with the iPad.

Can anyone tell me which piece of technology in the past 20 years has received the kind of mass interest the e-reader devices have in the last two? Who spends the majority of their time awake (and some of the time they should be sleeping) experimenting with a new toy? And, what kind of toy allows you to experiment all day and night and still surprises you with a handful of undiscovered features the next morning? What we have here is a generation of entirely novel technology paving the way for how we view and act toward personal communication.

All this aside, I have never witnessed the extreme number of individuals so invested in the future of a single genre of devices. And, the number is so high that the more I watch videos and read reviews, the more I feel that yearning, insatiable need to have one of these devices strangely satiated. People may talk a good game about virtual reality being the way of the future, but with so many independent bloggers and forums showing me every in and out of the newest technology, I actually feel as though I’m experiencing the features (dare I say used the device) for myself.

I love getting new backpacks and winter coats. There are new zippers, pockets, and secret compartments to be explored, and I never fail to discover a new key-holder or hood-stasher a month post-purchase. These findings keep me entertained with my purchases, but soon the excitement wanes. I wonder if the same can happen when I watch these iPad and Kindle videos.

Will the excitement of having a new technology be overcome by my viewing of commercials and detailed tutorials?

It sure seems worth an experiment.

The iPad advantage

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I heard a Top-40 radio station DJ going on and on this morning about Apple’s new iPad. At one point, he mentioned how great the device would be especially since it could very easily become a staple e-reader for many “private schools.” He also referenced that Apple had gained fame partly because of its willingness to give away computers to schools.

I’m not sure about the details of that last statement, but it’s slightly disheartening to hear one of the supposed cultural leaders in our mass media praise how an expensive new devise will surely give an advantage to those students who can afford it.

Of course it will.

Media advancements don’t always favor the wealthy. They’re not always out of the price range most people can afford. They don’t always evolve quicker than the population can purchase them. But it seems like they do most of the time.

Instead of watching shows about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, it seems like we’re evolving into a generations star-struck by technology. Just like rich and famous lifestyles, we can grab hold of technology as long as we have the money. And, just like those famous people living famous lifestyles, we’ll soon get sick of our rich and famous technology.

On the other hand, there are millions of individuals who watch television commercials or see others using fancy gadgets and think about how much those devices could help them if they could pay the price. One of the primary differences between the “haves” and “have-nots” is want versus need.

Early technology adopters want the technology. They want to experience it. They want to review it. They want to compare it to other new technologies. They want to tell everyone about the unique advantages of owning the new technology.

Those who are unable to adopt the technology early, often at its highest price, need the functionality. They need to integrate it into their lifestyles, not because of the level of society to which it elevates them, but because they would simply like to function on a level playing field with the rest of society. Sadly, they don’t get to experience the unique advantages heralded by the early adopters.

I say all of this from the perspective of someone who wants new technology, but doesn’t see the current need for it. I don’t know if everyone wants an iPad, but from my vantage point, it sure is getting a lot press.

What are we doing with books?

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In a generation when theory is hotter than action and technological innovations are the rage (as long as their producers keep producing when hot technology goes cold), I find myself stepping back and asking why.

Why did Apple create the iPad? And, why can’t we like it? Why does Amazon seem to care more about money than reading, literacy or making books more accessible?

Talking to some local teachers, I’ve learned that students in under-served schools are not allowed to take their textbooks home. In a public school system that thrives on standardized test scores, how can students be expected learn the test-specific material written into their textbooks (that’s supposed to help them pass these tests) if they’re not allowed to read them outside of the classroom? And, how are teachers supposed to keep their jobs when their students continue to fail these tests?

As far as I know, pay-by-the-chapter e-books can become one of the most affordable ways for people to purchase textbook content when you remove the e-reader platform that everyone is so set on perfecting from the picture. I know putting e-readers in classrooms won’t solve the problem anymore than allowing kids to take home their physical textbooks. I also know that allowing teachers to print out copies of book chapters for their students to take home isn’t yet feasible due to the cost of paper and other printing materials.

But, with technology moving as quickly as it is, why are media giants looking to please big business while allowing those without $900 to spend on technology to be left out? I don’t have the answers, but recently I’ve been trying to figure out how we can change things in the publishing industry.

For the six of you who actually read this blog, it would be great to hear some feedback on this one. Thanks.