That Good Old-Fashioned Reading Stuff

I’m just going to have to say, “Serial” had me on the edge of my seat, but I don’t ever see myself using something similar in my classroom.

This well-produced podcast, about an turn-of-the-century teenage murder case that crossed racial and ethnic boundaries, had me entranced for its entire hour-long pilot episode. And to hold my attention span for an hour, something’s gotta be pretty darn good because I’m from a generation that can’t wait three minutes for microwave mac and cheese to finish cooking.


But seriously, who could wait that long for this ooey gooey goodness? (Photo CC by ?? no publisher given)

The shortened attention span of modern students is part of the reason that I may not end up using digital stories and podcasts in my classroom. In my college classes, I have observed many students who can’t sit down long enough to read a 30-page assignment, and their grades suffer because of this. I mean, not to brag, but 30 pages flies by for me, but I also grew up in a slightly different manner than a lot of my contemporaries. My family did not have cable TV growing up, so we either had the choice of watching PBS, reading, or going outside. (and trust me, the PBS option was only utilized when Sesame Street was on. I mean, what 3-year-old wants to watch some guy construct solid oak towel racks on “This Old House?”) I myself, not being an athletic youth, usually gravitated towards the reading option. I could spend all day curled up on my bed, reading the newest hot literature for children (“Dog House for Sale” was my ultimate favorite) and be perfectly content.

dog house for sale

The first book I taught myself to read. What a classic. (Photo CC from Amazon)

Many people from my generation that had cable TV and gaming systems and all that jazz did not spend their spare time reading. These children were bombarded with 30-second advertisements and nonstop audio and visual entertainment, and this problem is getting worse with every generation. A lot of people (unfortunately, myself included) can’t even leave the house without a tiny screen to stare at, keeping them updated on all the current gossip.

While I think that schools should modify themselves to fit how modern students learn, I also think that schools have the duty to challenge students, and to force them to slow down and look around every once in a while. While I found the “Serial” podcast to be super interesting, and the hour long run time would challenge kids to expand their attention span, the media format is handing all of the information to the listener, whereas with reading, the reader must actively engage in the information-gathering process. Reading, and other traditional forms of education, challenge a student to be an active participant in their learning, and I think this helps students process information better. Most of the time, I hardly remember what I hear, but have a photographic memory for what I have read.

I know that not all students learn best by reading, which is why I think I will use some forms of modern media in my classroom. Podcast series that talk about how science is utilized in the real world would be a great complement to my curriculum, and a digital story about what a student has learned would be a progressive and engaging final project. However, most of the time, I’m going to expect my students to do that good old-fashioned reading stuff.


Books books books books. I love books. (Photo CC by Sunchild57 Photography)

My students may hate me for not modernizing course material, but they’ll thank me once they get to college and have to read 30-page assignments on a nightly basis. Or maybe they’ll still hate me. I honestly don’t care as long as those darn kids STAY OFF MY LAWN.


And take your punk dog with you. (Photo CC)


7 thoughts on “That Good Old-Fashioned Reading Stuff

  1. You bring up many good points here. I also think that students need to be able to read a 30-page assignment and how to use textbooks. However, podcasts could be a great thought-provoking resource for educators. It doesn’t have to be as lengthy as Serial but even the shorter ones are a break up from reading material with educational basis. Great wrap-up here!


    • Yeah I agree! Assigning students to listen to podcasts or something similar on maybe a biweekly basis could break up the monotony of constant reading. Even though I don’t find constant reading to be monotonous, I’m sure some students just don’t enjoy it and would be much more motivated to read if they knew they got a break from it on occasion.


  2. I appreciate how you mention that reading is an engaging activity. It’s important that students don’t just gloss over material and have it go in one ear and out the other. I also appreciate that you’d be willing to accommodate all students by breaking up the monotony of 30 page reading assignments.

    However, as any jazz musician will tell you, listening doesn’t have to be a passive activity. Listening can be just as active as reading. It’s up to the student to dedicate their attention accordingly. If students can sit through hour-long lectures about Christopher Columbus for the 300th time, they can listen to an hour-long podcast.


    • I guess I didn’t think of that. Listening is definitely an engaging form of learning, when we let it be. My family used to listen to books on tape when we went on long trips, and I learned so much from them. And on the other hand, if one just glosses over what they read and don’t retain it, they’re not learning anything! I guess it’s just up to the student to decide if they want to learn or not.


  3. I like how you tackled a tough subject here, and supported your argument. There is the idea that kids can’t handle sitting still, and so the educational system needs to address that behavior by giving them more of the same thing kids do in their free time. I agree with you, kids need to learn the skill of sitting and learning without info being spoon-fed to them in a fancy way. I also like how you also stated that you will use some technology to address the learning needs of all students. I think that digital storytelling will be a great tool and I look forward to using it in my classroom, but I also will be using the “old-fashioned” to teach. Nice post!


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