Reading Changes

This article from the New York Times Magazine should give pause to everyone.

I think back to filling my car up with gas as I left the ECOO Conference in Toronto recently. There was an LCD monitor over the top of the pump showing weather, news, and of course, commercials.  I recall thinking that it was the logical successor to the cardboard advertising indicating that you could get a discounted car wash or windshield fluid.  You’re there, for at least $50 worth, as a captive audience so why not use the opportunity to do some advertising.  Your audience isn’t going anywhere until the pumping is done.

Now, all effective advertising needs to be seen to “do good” and so the connection is made that a little advertising is a small price to pay for some on the fly travel advice or the latest news or a weather forecast.

The design of everything that is displayed is obviously carefully thought through.  With one glimpse, I get details that I need.  It’s not small printer; it’s not paragraphs to read; it’s not the next great novel.  It’s what you need and just when you need it.  In the time it took to fill up my car, I had seen all that there was to see and it was starting to loop through again.

It’s quite obvious that the designers had done their research and their homework to get the messages (and commercials) through to the customer.

The New York Times article strikes right to the heart of the matter.  People typically don’t have time for the next epic.  Give them what they need and then move on.  I’ve commented many times during the US Presidential campaign about the YouTube generation.  Like it or not, we need to acknowledge that folks will focus on the 30 second message.  We can watch or read a screen in amazingly quick fashion.

What is the implication to education?  It means that we need to honour this way of spreading the message.  It’s a whole new form of literacy.  More than just reading though, all of us (students and teachers) need to be able to produce this type of succinct content whether it be blog, webpage, printed page, movie video, podcast, letter, …

It’s a difficult skill to master.  I try to do it daily in my own blog posts.  I use what I learned in school with proofreading skills, but most importantly in editing so that the post is straight to the point.

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