Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leap into the Deep: A way to encourage deeper reading in 2012

Quite a while ago I told myself I was going to read the book by Nicholas Carr called The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. I never made good on my pledge, but I did manage to find time to listen to this 7 minute piece on NPR about the book. Ever since that story aired over a year and a half ago, I've been obsessed with figuring out a way to get kids to read more deeply while also encouraging use of social media and the full menu of Internet tools. While I can sometimes read with great focus while on a computer, it is more often true that I get distracted and my mind wanders off in several different directions at once. When it comes to students, I rarely see a kid sticking with a long Web page or database article long enough to read it thoroughly. This bothers me. I know it may not be the end of the world, but I strongly believe the most successful of our graduates will be able to read deeply and effectively. What can be done to make more kids into deep readers that do more than scroll, skim and click? Last weekend I thought of a clever campaign. I'm calling it "Leap into the Deep." Since February has an extra day this Leap Year, I figure that gives everyone an extra 24 hours to do something productive such as read deeply on a subject. I also wanted the title to reflect the spontaneous nature of research where reading can be done whenever the inspiration hits and plunge deep into a subject. Hence "Lead into the Deep" is the perfect title for this little program. My school is a special place where Project Based Learning is the norm. Still, the students are often so packed with projects and they work in a fast-paced environment that doesn't always allow enough time to research thoroughly. I wanted to allow students to decide for themselves what to read deeply about and allow the to do so in the context of one of their projects, preferably the one that is most interesting to them. Once a student has identified a project and a set of questions for a research quest, he simply tells the teacher he is read to "Leap into the deep," which means a pass to the library for 30 minutes of intensive research assistance and offline reading. The details of the program are in this short Slideshare presentation. Please look it over and send me feedback. In particular, I'm looking for scaffolding and instructional ideas to help struggling readers.