What the Internet is Doing to the Way We Read

Reading is reading.  Surfing the internet is as good for learning as reading a magazine or book, right?  Not according to some researchers.  In a new book to be published next month, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains , Nicholas Carr provides research that continues to demonstrate that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text that is filled with links.  Numerous studies have shown that we start to read faster and less thoroughly as soon as we go online.  Disturbingly, this pattern tends to repeat itself in our brains even when we’re no longer on the computer.  Superficial skimming becomes our dominant mode of thought and our preferred method of learning.  For those interested in exploring Carr’s work, be sure to check out the Atlantic article that previews some of his work, ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid ?’

Is there anything that can be done to mitigate the internet’s tendency to make us distractible and less able to concentrate?  There is a remarkable free tool that can be used while reading online called Readability .  It’s creator, Arc90 Laboratory, says Readability is a “simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.”  Readability functions by transforming online articles to linear text, removing all the distractions – including ads – that usually clutter a typical webpage.  It’s easy to use.  And when you’re done reading you simply click ‘BACK’ to return to the original website.  If you find that online reading disrupts your preferred reading pattern, Readability is worth a look.

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