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Digital Reading Comprehension – from Pisa to Carr

Digital Reading Comprehension - from Pisa to CarrIn the 2009 PISA-survey of student knowledge in various subjects digital reading comprehension was included for the first time. Sixteen OECD-members and three partner-countries took part. The results show no direct relationship between more computer-use and higher digital reading comprehension. However, there is a direct correlation between the skills to navigate to relevant pages on the web and high digital reading comprehension. The study’s authors’ makes the following conclusion:

“Navigation is a key component of digital reading as readers “construct” their text through navigation. Thus, navigational choices directly influence what kind of text is eventually processed. Stronger readers tend to choose strategies that are suited to the demands of the individual tasks. Better readers tend to minimise their visits to irrelevant pages and locate necessary pages efficiently. However, PISA-results show that even when guidance on navigation is explicit, significant numbers of students still cannot locate crucial pages. The digital reading assessment offers powerful evidence that today’s 15-year-olds, the “digital natives”, do not automatically know how to operate effectively in the digital environment, as has sometimes been claimed.”

Navigation is therefore the key according to the study, which requires teachers who can teach how students can effectively use the Web for learning. In order to make Jorge Luis Borges’ dream of a world library in various formats a reality this beyond all trash-sites on the web. In any learning, reading and writing not only consists of text but also interactive and creative arts. This requires training of teachers in order to meet the modern requirements.

In the book “The shallow – What the Internet does to our brain” Nicholas Carr digs deeper into this subject. On the basis of current brain research he highlights the fact that using manual- and intellectual tools changes the neurological brain structure.  This conclusion has already been shown during the 1900th Century by different scientists, but for most of the 2000th Century this was rejected by the scientific community. Finally in the 1990s it was ruled out that the brain never stops adapting and changing. It is constantly looking for better and more efficient methods to replace old inefficient.

The Web is such a revolutionary tool that offers a more efficient method, Carr writes: my brain demanded to be fed in the way web fed it, it was not my reading method that had changed, but my thinking. But despite the fact that the web is an inspiring environment for reading and learning there is a significant problem. In the Carr’s words: “Try reading a book while you solve a crossword puzzle; this is the intellectual environment of the Internet.” Thus, it is an environment full of distractions such as incoming e-mails, tweets, new blog-posts, interactive websites, and junk pages en mass. As noted above, this requires for the school system trained teachers who can teach source analysis and search methods, in short, to teach using the Web as the global open library that it could be.

The future of book publishing in this perspective will be the following according to a promotional film for the Anglo-Saxon publisher Dorling Kindersley. A young voice reads a poem with the title “The Future of Publishing” about tomorrow’s book market:

This is the end of publishing


books are dead and boring

no longer can it be said that

we like to read

my friends and I

When the poem ends the voice changes direction for the reading, and reads from the bottom to the top. Then an entirely different picture appears, please read the lines from bottom to top or read and hear the whole poem below:

Written by LarsGoran Bostrom



Reader’s market, market’s reader – a research anthology SOU 2012:10 Editors Ulla Carlsson and Jenny Johannisson Stockholm 2012

The Shallows. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr 2010

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain “and some implications for Net based learning by Luka Peters elearningeuropa.info March 2011

PISA 2009 Results: Students On Line Digital Technologies and Performance (Volume VI), OECD (2011)


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