E-Reading Effaces Text-Reading

in the Classrooms

Gone are those days when in our schooldays we are gifted books for reading. I remember some marriage ceremonies where people came to attend with some novels and story books. I still recall my heavy bagful of books which I always used to read. The text book was read out loudly in the class and almost we could memorise line by line, word by word. Poem recitation was a compulsion for students and teachers could speak out line after line from the text books without looking at the pages. We used to be mesmerized by the teacher’s ability to memorise textual lines. Gone are those days in this age of E-Reading. The memory chips or pen-drive or CD are now the storehouses of memories. Text concept is becoming obsolete.

A New Generation of Internet–Savvy Teachers

A new generation of Internet savvy teachers know that students are now skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes – or simply not opening the book at all. The faculty members are now no longer clairvoyant nor peering over the shoulders of the students. At best, they can ask you to send an email if any query rises in the mind. Their students’ progress with digital textbooks. In higher education millions of students use their digital materials. Teachers also stress on powerpoint presentation and so on to present material or deliver lecture on a topic. The students also respond to it in this digitalized way. Many institutes of higher education are undertaking the project of overhauling their teaching–learning process. The plan is to introduce the digitalized teaching program. Everyone is elated to hear this. Parents rush to these institutions without thinking even for a split second if the texts are read in those schools or colleges.

Online Availability of Books

Recent studies have shown that students who are apparently doing well are not using the textbooks at all. Books are available online and articles too. So it is now more easy to buy the texts online. But no one is interested in doing this. They go for answers and questions from the text. As five day cricket is squeezed into one–day cricket and 20-20 IPL, in a similar way, a 500 page book is now abridged in copies. Some online sites sell their content and one credit or debit card is enough to get the answers for evading the Texts.. The rest is peace: cut–and–paste and that’s all–my–lord kinda thing. It is one of those aha moments when we see one or two rare students going to open text books who read their texts by burning midnight oil. Students do not see their engagement indexes unless a professor shows them, but they know the books are watching them. For a few, merely hearing the number is a shock. True, many students have no time to read the texts. They study only late at night. So digitalized study materials suffice for them.

Popularity of Text Reading in the Past

In the old days, teachers knew if students understood the course from the expressions on their faces. They used to read from the texts. The authenticity of such texts was a big question. It is unthinkable that anyone misses the Shakespeare classes even in post graduate days. To listen to a teacher reading from Milton’s Paradise Lost, or Shakespeare’s Macbeth or King Lear, is itself a rewarding experience. The text became a visual imagination in our eyes. Desdemona loved Othello by simply listening to the heroic tales of war which Othello used to tell before her father and she fell in love with this man who strangled her. We too used to feel love for the texts in the same way. Lines from Satan’s speeches are so much alive in our ears even 30 years after we have read them in the classroom. We loved the teachers for the text reading. Now teachers are popular for their digitalized presentation of the text and for giving notes on important areas in the text. Text reading is gone. Text analysis is more emphasized. This is the worst face of things.

Virtual Reality of the Classroom and Problems

Now some classes are entirely virtual. Engagement information could give the colleges early warning about which students might flunk out, while more broadly letting teachers know if the whole class is falling behind. Eventually, the data will flow back to the publishers, to help prepare new editions. Academic and popular publishers, as well as some authors, have dreamed for years of such feedback to direct sales and editorial efforts more efficiently. But the decline in text reading has affected such feedback. The pre-digital era, when writers wrote and publishers published without a clue, is now seen as an amazingly ignorant time. CourseSmart textbooks have been introduced now in many developed countries.. Million of students and educators use and are already generating reams of data. Semester systems in the Post Graduate level has discouraged text reading. Life is very fast and semester scoring depends not on text reading but on text synopsis. Short questions are answered and there is no need to carry the burden of huge texts. Is it now thinkable that one reads David Copperfield in the classroom or carries the Collected Plays of Shakespeare to the classroom. But we in our post graduate days have done it with pleasure. Distance, Correspondence and other Bridge courses in the education system served a severe blow to Text reading in the classroom. In the distance education system, teachers meet the students once in a blue moon. So the question of text reading does not arise at all. What is more needed is question–answer package outside the classroom. Materials are available online and this has affected the total teaching–learning system.

Outcome : Pursuit of Secondary of Knowledge

Teachers who are lauded for reading the texts are no longer indispensable for passing the exams. This is one of the reasons why students do not have respect much for their teachers. The teachers have developed their expertise in reading one text in their whole life. I remember one teacher of Calcutta University who was famous for his teaching the text of King Lear and another teacher so popular for reading loud the speeches of Satan in Book I of Paradise Lost. They became almost legendary. But now we have forgotten them and our students do not take care of such insignificant activities in the classroom. Digitization is now the primum mobile. W. B. Yeats wrote: “The Primum Mobile that fashioned us / Has made the very owls in circles move”. We without the texts are like owl in the world of knowledge, because we cannot see even in daytime with our eyes if you do not read the texts, the classical texts of the great authors. Texts are the primary sources of wisdom and without text our pursuit of knowledge is confined to a secondary pursuit.


More by :  Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

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