Long Live Concentration

Whenever I hear something about the end or the continuing life of reading and writing I always try to remember that the kind of reading and writing matters as much as the quantity. That’s why it’s important to look carefully at the ongoing research into literacy reported in the Washington Post piece, “Teens are still reading for fun, say media specialists.” The details matter.

It’s not that Facebook and phones are bad for literacy– in some cases, they can reinforce creative and critical thinking– but that the sustained attention and concentration required in some kinds of reading and writing– novels, essays, memoir, — is important to the personal and intellectual transformations that are a necessary part of being educated and informed.

This is the sort of common sense pedagogical idea that’s beginning to emerge– or to re-emerge– out of all of the fog surrounding new media technology. In effect, the media doesn’t matter as much as the type of reading and writing, as the Frazier International School in Chicago illustrates. Lots of writing and well paid, supported teachers. Who knew that’s the key to a good school?

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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