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Scanning & Gisting – Reading on the Web

October 28, 2005

We scan through information and catch the gist. Then, if necessary and/or interested, we can slow down and read a particular piece, or in a particular area, more deeply. Deep and/or close reading and scanning & gisting are separate, though connected skills that can be learned and practiced. The Web and the Information Age requires a broader set of reading skills, in my opinion.

George Siemen’s post, “The Joys of Shallow Thinking” in his Connectivism Blog describes it well:

What happens when we change how we interact with information? We “ramp up” our processing habits. Instead of reading, we skim. Instead of exploring and responding to each item, we try and link it to existing understanding. We move (in regards to most information we encounter) from specific to general thinking…from deep to shallow thinking. Shallow thinking, in this sense, isn’t as negative as its connotations. Shallow thinking (perhaps I need a better phrase) involves exploring many different sources of information without focusing too heavily on one source. Aggregating at this level helps us to stay informed across broad disciplines. So much of education intends to provide “deep learning”. Often, however, “shallow learning is desired” (i.e. we want to know of a concept, but we don’t have time or interest to explore it deeply). All we need at this stage is simply the understanding (awareness?) that it exists. Often, learning is simply about opening a door…

And Bloglines, or other aggregators, facilitate the process.

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