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Peer Review

Zen and the art of Internet reading (and writing)

by Larry Press


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Jan 20, 2013 by Information Technology Editorial Board
Overview: This is an extremely timely piece for the students and for Internet users in general. As the author states, “The Internet may be changing our brains, making it more difficult for us to concentrate and devote full attention to the task we're working on. But good writing requires careful, focused reading. You should strive to slow down and become a mindful reader.” This material teaches the users how to become truly educated and savvy about working with Internet materials-reading, writing, and critically thinking about using the Internet. On the site, there are over 50 topics about various contents. The materials are offered in several formats: a PowerPoint presentation with author's notes, Word transcript of the presentation, and the video with the author's audio. The material can be used to give a presentation in the classroom or online. All materials on the website include clear assignments and links to external resources, including the author's papers. There are a lot of labels (tags), linked up to different topics. The author's premise is that the Internet and other modern media tools change how we think. Therefore, it is even more important to become a critical consumer of the digital material and it takes a lot of work to become a truly mindful reader. The site itself is in a blog format; anyone can comment on it. Furthermore, there is an option to subscribe to the site updates by email or RSS.
Type of Material: Tutorial and presentation.
Recommended Uses: The material is adaptable to class use or individual self pace work. It can be used in "flipped classroom" format.
Technical Requirements: Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome are suitable browsers to review the web material. Microsoft Office or free Microsoft PowerPoint and Word viewers are needed to view the presentations and transcripts.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The site is an extensive tutorial on becoming a mindful and attentive Internet consumer. The author's goal is to develop the learners' IT literacy. The site's readers are encouraged to concentrate on truly processing and critically thinking about the Internet applications they use. There are also brief tutorials on digital skills such as basic image editing, using Prezi, and creating wikis, using Google docs, social media such as Twitter, collaborative work, and learning the barebones of HTML. Many topics offer hands on assignments and reviews.
Target Student Population: High School, College, Adult Learning.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic Internet browsing experience.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The topic is very important and it is well presented. The author clearly states the importance of mindful reading and direct outcome of a lack of critical thinking skills in the digital age. The material is extremely lucid, presented in formats useful for learners with different learning styles, and allows for self pace or classroom use. Amazing work!
Concerns: The quality of the material is very good. Additional examples and references would make it even more effective.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The author provides stark and relevant examples of poor reading (students not following instructions), and misrepresentation of information in an email which led to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Excellent, relevant graphics and audio makes the modules even more effective. Concepts are reinforced because the learning is provided in 3 formats (presentation, writing, audio). The material is self contained and can be used independently.
Concerns: This module clearly shows how the reading on the Internet affects our information processing. Unfortunately, although the tools to change the behavior are provided, not all students will revise their reading habits on the internet. They will, however, become more conscious of their media consumption and how their concentration is affected. Additional assignments for the students would be helpful to show them what they miss if they don't pay attention. Are there any other reasons students are just skimming the material? Do they need additional tutoring? It would be helpful if the author addressed such possibilities in his course.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: Excellent material and excellent, clear layout. The PowerPoint presentations and websites are designed attractively and professionally. The layout is consistent across the site. The images enhance the site's appearance. The blog format is useful for the students to add their comments. Anyone with basic computer knowledge can use the site.
Concerns: There are some challenges in finding other modules in the course and assignments.

Other Issues and Comments: This material would benefit from a pre-assignment for students to show them how a lack of concentration in reading internet materials would affect them. The author could add a separate session devoted to MOOCs and Open Education. Here is an example from his Google+ page: Instructors may choose to concentrate more on some topics than others, depending on the needs of their classes. The author's Google+ pages are a great addition to the modules. It may be useful to provide additional direction to self-pace individual users.

Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States