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

From: Simon McClenahan (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 12:53:51 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jacques Du Pasquier" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2002 3:46 PM
Subject: Reading and teaching (was Re: An error in browser design)

> 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.

I think of the act of reading as more of a skill. We aren't born with an
instinctual desire to read text, and up to this point in time you have
trained yourself to read in a particular manner at your current efficiency.
If you change your manner, you could very likely lose efficiency, at least
initially, but like any other skill you need to train yourself and adapt to
a new method.

> 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
> comfortably.

If you scroll at paragraph granularity, that would obviously not be
acceptable - unless your brain has addapted to that speed, where some people
can actually read whole pages at a time. It's not impossible, it just
requires training.

> 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 :-)

The "inner ear" vocalization is known as sub-vocal. Some people may even
move their mouths without making sound.

All my (limited) knowledge of speed-reading comes from the canonical book by
Evelyn Wood. There are plenty of sites to Google at, the first one that
looks like an interesting summary is . No
doubt there are many other techniques that an individual could train
themselves with, but I think there is even less computer software available
that would teach or assist in these known techniques or create new
techniques specifically for 2-D non-kinetic and silent reading on a vertical

> 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.

I couldn't agree with you more. The same goes for reasoning and creativity,

> 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.

Such as computer-assisted automatic scrolling software, or manual frequent
periodical (e.g. 1 second) clicking of the mouse or the down arrow key as
they read to help speed them up? ;-)

This type of discussion we are having is more along the lines of should
humans adapt to computers, or computers adapt to humans, or should
"compromises" be performed by both computer and human. My vote will always
go for the latter, but I guess it really is a balancing act.


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