Snippets, tweets and other desserts

I promise this post will be short.

Perhaps my discontent began with a perfectly innocent study, claiming student satisfaction with short video lectures. Or perhaps it was when I was cruising through Netvibes reading bits of things. Or maybe it was the student in the corner before class, starting the videos of a guy playing guitar, but only listening to the first 30 seconds of each song.

We live in a world of snippets, soundbytes and little pieces. To me, these are dessert, or spice. I like tweets and status updates sprinkled on my daily knowledge. But, to raise the 1980s cliche, where’s the beef?

I had a student last semester get angry at me because she was failing the class, and didn’t seem to know about it until week 12 of 16. I had been giving everyone feedback every week on every little thing. For her, she had failed almost every quiz, I think because she didn’t understand what she was reading. She only answered a question correctly when it was derived from a short snippet of text.

Yes, we know people don’t read full-length articles as much, that movies are getting shorter, that society is either engendering or catering to what they used to call a “short attention span”. We have studies showing multitasking doesn’t work, but those aren’t the ones that worry me. The ones that worry me show that students love snippets, and that the conclusion is we should provide more snippets.

I think it’s bad for anyone’s diet to have all dessert.

More importantly, we are losing the idea of how to put the snippets together into something with meaning. This makes some practice in digital storytelling an essential skill – we must learn to create narrative if nothing else.

But I digress. Or perhaps I’m just done.

One thought on “Snippets, tweets and other desserts

  1. not just students…not talking just general population here but academic colleagues (ppl who should be trained and ingrained to reading huge chunks of text. I’ve been getting cranky about this and feel the need to take a break from commenting on snippet comments

    Spend time compiling/curating a long news post on a topic of presumed interest (say, academic freedom) and chances are comments will be on the opening image (the one that makes it into FB share).

    I agree about connecting snippets and stringing them into a narrative ~ and do try to but best not too long a one (a habit I have yet master) lest readers stray. Maybe the eyeball grabber (or another) should sit at the end (dessert) instead of the beginning (appetizer?)

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