In “Too Dumb for Complex Texts,” Mark Bauerlein argues that students’ ability to comprehend complex texts has been diminished by the “digital diversions” that are increasingly a part of their lives. However, faulting technology for students’ inability to read complex texts confuses a tool and its use.
Certainly, technology has the potential to be a distraction from close readings of complex texts, but so can a host of other things. As educators, we must prepare students not only for college-level reading, but also for jobs that will provide a myriad of distractions and tasks to be juggled. A key part of our responsibility is to model and to offer students opportunities to practice ways of interacting with technology without veering into the path of least resistance.
In “Wired for Reflection,” I noted that technology affords students the ability to reexamine and reflect on their work. Digital writing need not be “hastily written and consumed,” as Bauerlein suggests. Digital technology can also be used to enhance reading of complex texts by creating the ability to preserve and extend conversations around the text.
Bauerlein argues that the web reaffirms “the validity of [students’] outlook and the sufficiency of their selves.” The web, however, might just as likely do the opposite. While The Federalist Papers, which Bauerlein cites as an example of a complex text, was once discussed at the local tavern, now it can be debated on a class blog or Ning.
Whether through social bookmarking and annotating or a series of comments following an article posted online, digital technology creates easy access for voices of challenge to a student’s reading of a text from within the class community or across the world.