Reading for the Future

Friday, 25 Jun 2021


I had the privilege of attending the conference for Heads of Independent Coeducational Schools (HICES) in the past week with Daryl Hinton, Dee Fulcher and Tara Waller. It was an event that was strangely intimidating in ways I hadn’t anticipated; not because I was sitting amongst some of the best leaders and educators in progressive, learning-powered schools in NSW, but because most of the keynote speakers were successful women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). I like to think of myself as a progressive, 21st-century educator and human being, but I know my limitations in a conversation with professionals who spend their days immersed in the world of technology. I am a Humanities girl through and through; for the past 30 years of my life, I have been dedicated to the study of literature and history. I assumed that if I met these same speakers at a dinner party, I would have a little in common and struggle to move beyond polite conversational exchanges.

My own well-rehearsed cliches came to haunt me as I realised one should not judge a book by its cover (or by her professional title!)  Dr Catherine Ball, Scientific Futurist, made it clear to the room of experienced educators that, with all the advances being made in the realm of convergent technologies, the way that we must educate our students to be prepared for the rigour of both university study and professional life in cybernetics is for them to… read.

Read frequently.
Read deeply.
Read with growing complexity.

The English teacher in me promptly leapt to internal attention as I recognised that, though Dr. Ball and my professional lives are worlds apart, our deep belief in the power of reading illuminated our convergent thinking.

The need to engage in immersed reading is the best way for our children to develop the neural pathways required for critical thinking, an essential capability for graduates who wish to enter technology related fields. The research strongly indicates that, though the Internet has brought us for more flexibility and opportunity for a quick skip over a high volume of information, it does not encourage readers to dive deeply into the material. How many times have we each been guilty of flicking and scrolling our way through a newsfeed with only a brief immersion into something that sparks our interest?  This ongoing, shallow engagement with reading is stifling our ability to immerse in deep reading to build long chain neural pathways, which is essential for solving complex problems, particularly those in the fields of science and technology.

As we enter this holiday period with the uncertainty of Covid restrictions limiting our flexibility in travel and mobility, we are provided with an exciting opportunity to put a paper copy of a book in the hands of our children. The next three weeks may allow the time and space for students to crack open a novel and launch themselves into a new world where their imagination can be unleashed to interpret the vision of the writer. With the Premier’s Reading Challenge closing in Term Three this is an opportune time for students complete their reading challenge goals. Even if your child identifies as being a more technology and science student than one of literature, be encouraged that developing their perseverance for reading will reap immeasurable rewards for their emergence as scientists and technology leaders of the future.

Linda Hogan
Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning

For further reading how the internet is impacting our reading capacity, I highly recommend The Shallows – How the Internet is changing how we think, read and remember, by Nicholas Carr – “By moving from the depths of thought to the shallows of distraction, the web, it seems, is actually fostering ignorance.”