Here’s the progression of reading through human history:
- Cave painting
- Stone & wood tablets
- Scribed books
- Printing press
- Modern printing
- Digital books and e-readers
While the next major steps in reading technology are unknown, here a few known results of this progression:
- The progression, like all technology, changes at exponential rates moving forward.
- The tasks associated with reading are increasingly less labor-intense.
- The skills associated with reading change drastically as the medium changes.
- The process of reading is becoming more of a process of thinking with less emphasis on the text and print.
What does this mean for how we teach and emphasize the reading process?
The question is too big for this quick-read, but for certain, we can conclude reading is less and less about the skills and more and more about the content. This means reading in 2035 will certainly be more automated and less about letters, words, and print.
Reading in 2035 will more about what the reader can gain from a text or how the reader can interact with the text.
When humans painted caves, the reader spent incredible amounts of time interpreting the author’s intent. When humans listen to audiobooks that are read by the author, there’s very little cognitive energy spent on interpreting – it’s right there in the author’s tone of voice, pacing, and even in the author’s off-text commentary.
In just the past decade, we’ve made a drastic change to the reading process with audiobooks. And there are differences in the reading processes even between “computerized” readings of audiobooks vs. the author’s reading of a book.
Undoubtedly this shift will impact education. And the next shift will impact our literacy learning systems even more.
If we embrace the shift, we can use the technology to catapult us forward. If we ignore the shift, we will be made as irrelevant as teaching how to use a typewriter or how to balance a checkbook.