Reading and teaching (was Re: An error in browser design)

From: Jacques Du Pasquier (
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 14:46:15 MST

Simon McClenahan wrote (13.2.2002/12:46) :
> The key to fast reading of screen-rendered text is in the scrolling. A
> "page" at a time is far too much for our meager visual cortex to handle.
> Other speed-reading techniques require more motor control, such as your
> hands, applied to a more manageable 3-D object such as a book.

I don't think manual scrolling is compatible with fast, effortless
reading. All moving of the text brings effort to the brain (mine at
least). It is not the moving of the eye which is an effort, the effort
is not muscular, it is computational.

Automatic scrolling is even worse, as the speed at which you read must
of course adapt to what you're reading. When you get to the middle of
a paragraph and you got the idea and you predict that nothing will be
added in the rest, you go to the next paragraph.

You need the page to stand still if you are to move fast and

I suspect that the automatic scrolling thing is adapted to people for
whom reading means reading aloud without the sound and listening to
the sounds they don't make with their inner ear :-)

Funn(nnnn)ily, reading is one of those things which is actually not
taught. Children are taught to read aloud, and then left to figure out
how to read for themselves. Some find good ways to do it, other don't.
Among the latter, some only learn to switch off the sound. Some
stumble later on a "fast reading" book. It's all left to improvisation
and chance.

That's how teaching now "works" : you test children again and again,
until they figure out a way to pass the test ; you actually never
teach them THAT, and some never learn. The only thing that should be
taught is left to complete improvisation, and that accounts for huge
differences between individuals, because some find great tricks and
meta-tricks with which the readily build feats of cognition, and some
are stuck with unefficient tricks.

A teacher should model his pupil's mind and actually help it to build
itself further. He should suggest useful tricks for the pupil to try,
adopt and combine.

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