5 Words That Can Greatly Improve Your Education
The excerpt below is from Oliver DeMille’s Weekly Mentor. Click here for the full article.
Word One: Screening
Screening is the act of learning from the various screens in our lives—smartphones, tablets, smart watches, computers, televisions, electronic billboards, etc. ((See Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable, 2016, 88-89)
This is actually a warning word. Screening can often distract from experiential learning (really “being present”). It’s one thing to read about Cape Canaveral, or the Jefferson Memorial (apply this to the Parthenon, Pyramids, ocean, etc.), but it’s quite another to be there, to touch the marble, to feel the breeze and look out at the view while the sun beats down and the breeze ruffles your hair.
Sometimes learning is much more effective when we are doing something real. Likewise, visiting Valley Forge is great; visiting in the dead of winter is profound. Try walking barefoot for three minutes.
As author Kevin Kelly put it: “I am happy to read a digital PDF of a book, but sometimes it is luxurious to have the same words printed on white cottony paper bound in leather. Feels so good. Gamers enjoy fighting with their friends online but often crave playing with them in the same room.
People pay thousands of dollars per ticket to attend an event in person that is also streamed live on the net”, often for free. (Ibid., 71) Sometimes really “being there” makes a big difference.
In the Digital Age, “experiential” also means reading in a book, looking at art in a museum where the pieces are original and you can see the depth and contours of oils on the canvas, or attending a play or concert in person. These days we get so much of our input from screens that these more tactile experiences heighten our learning.
As Kelly wrote:
“Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts, and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of tweets, headlines, instagrams, casual texts, and floating first impressions. We should properly call this new activity ‘screening’ rather than reading. Screening includes reading words, but also watching words and reading images….
“Neurological studies show that learning to read changes the brain’s circuitry. Instead of skipping around distractedly gathering bits, when you read you are transported, focused, and immersed…. One can spend hours on the web and never encounter this…. [Online, a person] gets fragments, threads, glimpses.” (Ibid., 88-91)
This kind of immersion, or flow, that can occur while reading books is an essential part of quality education—and it seldom happens while screening. It happens even less with mobile screens than on a fixed television or computer station.
Of course, screening is also an essential skill in the Information Age. But people who learn to truly read—closely, analytically, creatively—can access this skill when they’re screening. They hardly ever learn it by screening, however.
For example, even with all the increased activity on electronic devices over the past two decades, “The literacy rate in the U.S. has remained unchanged in the last 20 years…” (Ibid., 89) Still, “those who can read are reading and writing more.” (Ibid.) If you have a quality reading education, screening is a powerful tool. If you don’t, it hardly ever gives you the thinking, reasoning, or creative skills that are needed.
“Book reading [strengthens] our analytical skills…. Screening encourages rapid pattern making, associating one idea with another…” (Ibid., 104) Both are needed to deal with the many new ideas expressed so frequently in our modern world, and to simultaneously be able to effectively discern, think about, and see the ramifications of such ideas. Fast is good. But wise is crucial.
Quality learning involves both real-life experiences and also reading and writing (which require real thinking), that are removed from screens. Both reading and screening are important. But without moving well beyond screens and classrooms, education will tend to be fairly shallow, narrow, and limited.