Reading online: too distracting?

Sandra Bebbington Information Literacy Coordinator-MELS DSCA SAR

In a recent discussion I had with someone about tablets in the school library, it was brought to my attention that some people see tablets has having the potential of distracting people from reading. With all the additional abilities that tablets have such as apps or web access they detract from the e-reader aspect of the device. My response was simply - so??

There is no doubt that a tablet has all kinds of neat apps or the ability to let you quickly google something that's been eating away at the back of your mind. But what of it? Life is filled with distractions and we would only being doing our youth a disservice if we didn't teach them how to deal with this from the start. By simply avoiding the fact, are we not ignoring the elephant sitting in the middle of the room?

But wait, here's another paradigm shift- what if using these apps or surfing the web was actually a good thing? So I have taken a break from reading my book and I am checking out a new app on my tablet, am I still not reading? Am I not assessing the quality of the app and synthesizing the information it is offering? Am I not developing or enhancing reading and comprehension strategies every time I read online? Am I not learning to contribute, collaborate or create?

Not only do students need to learn to regulate their consumption of technology responsibly they need to develop the reading and research skills necessary to become critical thinkers that can function in an information rich and media centered world. Studies have shown that students learn best in participatory, interactive environments; introducing tablets to the library gives you, the information specialist, the ideal opportunity to engage the students in learning these somewhat complicated and at times overwhelming skills and behaviors. I would thoroughly welcome the opportunity to "distract" some students with a tablet. Now, back to my book...

Sandra Bebbington Information Literacy Coordinator-MELS DSCA SAR
Library Technician, Lester B. Pearson School Board