Why Boys Can’t Read

This is a cross-post from The Geeky Press, my writing collective.

As the mother of 3 boys aged 9, 12 and 18 I can see direct comparisons with state education here in the UK and the increasing underachievement of our young males. Its my belief, and has been for many years, that young boys are floundering in our political correct schooling system which favours non-competitive sports and teaching methods and exams which inadvertently discriminate against males. — Jane Turley, “Reading Underground: The Question of Male Reading Habits and the Rise of Illiteracy

As I’ve toiled over the opening graphs of this essay about boys and literacy, I found myself sifting through the work on various women writers in order to find a starting place that may mitigate gendered attacks. Theres more than a subtle irony in this fact: I’m a writer, a man, and a trained reading instructor, yet I’ve held off writing about the subject of boys, literacy, and teachingbecause I fear the gendered backlash.

We live in a good, but complex, time in debate. So I write thisaware of two facts:

  1. Whenever a white dude writes that he’s afraid of “gendered attacks,” the assumption is that nothing good is coming; and
  2. It’s possible that backlash will be well-founded.

Still, I’ve found that it’s important to acknowledge all of these forces before writing about a topic that is likely to cause a stir. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to find women writers such as Jane Turley and Allison McDonald who have argued — in various ways — the points I seek to make here.

The fact that so many women are writing about the topic is heartening, but the issue stillfeelslike one that should be taken up by more men.

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As We May Read (the Transmedia and Interactive editions)

In my spare moments away fromTransmedia Indiana, I’m working on a second Masters at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) in Media Arts & Science with a certfificate in Human-Computer Interaction. It’s an intriguing program particularly with my background. I’m one of those dangerous students: just enough knowledge to get me into trouble.

For my thesis, I’ll be exploring how we read and how that process is changing now that we have interactive environments such as touch-screen tablets and mobile phones. I’ve been working on a series of research studies on what we know about reading in these environments, and this is the latest version of my thinking: a 25-page rumination on reading, authorship, and design in interactive and transmedia environments.

It is neither peer reviewed as of yet nor submitted anywhere. There are a few studies I need to include in this; however, it’s my thinking on what authorship means today.

Thesis: We read differently in interactive environments, but we haven’t explored the idea of what interactivity means in a meaningful way.

Abstract: Digital, interactive environments have created a different “expectation literacy”from users. Unlike printed books, for instance, which have a very linear, author-driven format, interactive computer games have ceded much of the decision making to users. This idea of ceded-control and expectation literacy becomes important as society begins the transition from the printed book to the digital, interactive reading environment. This switch is making us consider three basic components of the reading experience: understanding how we read within interactive environments, determining exactly what it means to author a text in an interactive environment, and figuring out how design fits into the authorship process. Once we have answers (or at least once we are moving towards those answers), we can begin to understand how to make indigenous, interactive stories.

As We May Read

I’m going to begin this little essay with the pitch:

I’m working on a two-year research project that will examine how people read, extract what makes the experience pleasurable, and prototype how that experience can be re-created in a digital environment.

There two reasons I’m doing this:

  • I’ve returned to graduate school, both to update my current skill set and to learn new frameworks for thinking, and this project will be the eventual final project for my schooling; and
  • I believe reading — and storytelling — is at the heart of humanity, and as we move into the digital reading age, I want to explore what that means for us.

If you have some time, please take a few minutes to help me understand how you read today.

My hope is to reach 250 people so that I can create a series of personas related to reading. While I will be publishing this work academically, I will be releasing the results of the survey publicly. (Information wants to be free.)

But I’ll also be sharing this journey with my students (and you) in hopes that they begin to see science, creativity, and school in a different way.

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In 1945, Dr. Vannevar Bush — the man who founded the National Science Foundation and revolutionized how Americans perceived science — wrote an amazing think piece in The Atlantic called “As We May Think.”

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