Two for Tuesday–Video Debut and Thoughts on “Deep Reading”

Some recent ‘Stew posts have highlighted a collaboration between students and teachers at Fern Creek Traditional High School and the Navajo Nation.  I’m proud to present this video produced by Courtney, one of my digital media students, about our journey.  This truly represents a great range of planning, execution,and technical skill inherent in effective digital stories.

On another note, Annie Murphy Paul’s essay on “deep reading” reminds us that it might be foolish to overly embrace digital text consumption, especially if it comes at the cost of forgetting–or not teaching–how to immerse one’s self in a longer, print-based narrative.  In a guest post for, I responded to Paul’s essay after posing this question on Twitter:

Picture 1

I agree with her assertion, to an extent.  But I question how well young people can tap into the power of the digital world, making connections, composing blog posts, etc., without having a foundation in deep reading.  What happens when educators and parents fall victim to an unbalanced approach to literacy, fully embracing all the possibilities of the digital world, bypassing deep, “old-school” reading?

As a teacher, I’d rather have a class full of deep readers than hordes of students hooked to their smart phones.  Students who immerse themselves in narratives and novels generally bring a lot more to the table, so to speak. They often ask more questions, write more effectively, and display greater concentration skills. Yes, these are massive generalizations, but I’ve interacted with hundreds of students over the past nine years…

I don’t know about you, but I feel and think/read differently, especially when it comes to pace and attention span when I read a screen versus a novel or extended non-fiction text on the printed page.  The implications of this massive shift in literacy skills and reading tendencies are still unknown.


  1. If you really want to know something in depth, I doubt that clicking 100 links will de facto offer better insight. I like that is democratizes information and removes false authority. But there is an implicit trust between writer and reader that we’ve busted our humps in return for sustained attention!

  2. I think they will be reading novels. I think that technology will also allow them to read works of literature that would have never been published in paper. As long as there are good stories out there, they will read them. But it is important to get them reading, for sure.

  3. Good morning,
    Annie Murphy Paul argues that if too few adults get swept up in digital technology, then it’ll only be a dying breed (perhaps us English teachers) who can model the power of literature. So it’s not just a matter of will for students, it’s a matter of teaching as well. I wonder how many students will still be reading novels in 10 years from now…hopefully still a bunch!

  4. If you have a foundation in “deep reading” or critical thinking, then I think one is better equipped to deliberately jump from digital space to space, making connections, processing information that might be worth one’s time.
    In the next ten years, it will be fascinating–and hopefully not too scary–to see how capable some young adult minds are if they have rarely attempted sustained reading over their personal and academic life. And who knows what new gadgets will inundate society.

  5. Krashen is right and we have known it for years. Get books in the hands of the kids early on, read to them and tell them stories. The more they are immersed in language, reading speaking and hearing, the better their minds work later on. It really is that simple.

  6. Are you talking about their ability to analyze a text? Or are simply trying to say that in our world of skimming and scanning, students have no will to read a longer narrative?

    What you are saying about students who read/not read is true for me as well. They get how to write, they know how to use words, and they can write a dialogue. They see the nuances of the language that others skim over.

    Stephen Krashen says that the key to higher test scores is reading. He has a statistical study that the larger your school library is, the higher your scores will be. He also has done studies to show that grammar instruction does little to improve construction/grammar. He has seen that by reading at level that is challenging but not too hard, regularly, kids grammar and construction improves.

  7. 🙂

    I think this issue is a really important one which really speaks to the annoying reality of our finite appetite for/capability for paying attention.

    I think many people are now so seduced by tech that they, too, think they have (or should have or should develop or everyone else has) unlimited bandwidth. This, to me, is the underlying issue we rarely address…We have only so many hours in each day to which, ideally, we can devote undivided (key concept) attention to anyone or anything. Tech, by its nature, allows us, and encourages us, to be(come) endlessly distracted, to jump from one thing to another to another because it’s cool and fun. But we are still using up our time, energy, intellect and attention spans.

    A diet of potato chips or a diet of kale? Hopefully both.

    As someone is happiest writing a book (or reading one). i.e. fully immersed in a world of ideas, this is a hugely essential skill we lose at our peril.

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