Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I think I should preface this entry by noting that I really enjoyed reading Windows and Mirrors and that I truly appreciate all the hard work and innovation that these digital artists put forth in order to create their pieces. That being said, the chapter on Magic Book really bothered me. While I think the concept of an interactive, virtual reality book is a novel idea (pun intended), I have to ask why there is a need to remediate books? My thought is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. For me, a future where books are no longer made of paper is scary.
I love reading. This could be because I was raised in a family where a huge emphasis was put on reading books from the time when my sisters and I were toddlers. It could also be because I attended a Jesuit high school that had an extremely strong English department and weaker Math and Science departments. For me, part of the fun of reading a book is being able to create images in my head of what the characters look like, sound like, etc. If Magic Book ever became the norm my power of imagination would be greatly debilitated. There would be no more pictures in my head, just pictures to look at while wearing a headset. I think that future generations would lose their ability to imagine. Magic Book almost makes things too easy—reading a book really becomes watching a movie. Again, I think that some of this has to do with individual learning styles. (My sister Tori is a tax attorney who is mathematically inclined so she might love Magic Book while someone like me, who is more verbally inclined, would hate it.)

But just because children have different learning styles does not mean that we should change the way children are taught. I suffered through learning math and science the traditional way in grammar school and high school and I am no worse off because of it. Sure, you can tailor the way you teach subjects to children so that they learn better, but I think it almost cheats children to do this. I learned at a very young age that math and science were not my forte and that reading and writing were. I think tailoring teaching methods to individual learning styles attempts to make every child do perfectly in every subject. It almost creates a world were everyone has the same abilities and I think that a world like that is a very boring place, a place where the future Albert Einsteins and the future John Steinbecks would just turn into people who were mediocre in all subjects.

Also, I read this interesting article in The New York Times last week that reminisces about a simpler time in American social history, a time where everyone knew there neighbors and no one was checking their blackberries every five minutes.


Lance Strate said...

I wonder if you couldn't make the same argument about movies insofar as they are adaptations of books or alternatives to them?

Mary said...

i think you're right--the same argument could be made about movies. They're definitely an alternative to books for many people. And many movies, of course, are adaptations of books. But quite often I'm disappointed when I see the movie version of a book. As much as I loved Renee Zellwegger as Bridget Jones, watching the movie is just not as good as reading the actual book. I wish I could i think of a more weighty piece of literature that had been turned into a disappoitning movie, but my brain is totally fried right now--its way past my bedtime.