However, this also brings with it a problem and that is reading off the computer screen. As I began my first module last year, many of my fellow students commented on the forums that they found reading files displayed on their computer screen to be difficult. Common complaints were: getting a headache from staring at the bright screen; stiff neck/back from sitting hunched over a laptop; not being able to highlight/annotate pdfs; being ‘distracted’ by the internet (and Twitter!); and missing the ‘feel’ of paper.
After a narrow escape from the car, poor bunny found himself trapped in a different set of lights.
Image by Toms Baugis
I have to admit, I was among them in the beginning. I was fine with browsing the forums but reading the word doc given with each unit and the various articles was proving tough. I also agreed with those bemoaning their inability to make their mark on the articles themselves – having the file on computer and notes on paper (or a separate file) didn’t seem very efficient. I also found my mouse cursor constantly drifting towards my email client and Firefox (I hadn’t discovered Twitter or blogging back then) when I should have been concentrating on my studies.
And so, I started to print to read.( I should stress at this stage that I’m not one of those who misses the ’feel’ of the stuff. In fact, I find such claims amusing and my favourite retort to those who say they prefer the touch and paper and ink is to say that I’m a traditionalist and I miss quill and parchment! “There’s nothing like sprinkling dust on a document to dry it off – it just doesn’t feel finished otherwise.” ). This seemed like a good idea at first as I cold carry a printout to work with me to read in free lessons rather than lugging my laptop in. In truth, however, printing wasn’t an ideal solution as I was acutely aware of how much paper I was using. I tried printing two pages per sheet but the small print seemed to give me more of a headache than the screen!
I decided I would just have to get used to it. My solution the headache/discomfort problem was to finally heed the advice I heard (but generally ignored) since I was a kid and first got hooked on the Commodore 64: after 45 minutes at the computer, take a break for 15. I found this was also beneficial for clearing my head and taking stock of the notes and articles I’d been reading. Quite often, concepts I’d been struggling with or connections I couldn’t see would come to me while I was having a cuppa or taking in the view from my balcony (not that there are any great views in Ankara!).
“That was never 45 minutes!”
Image by my dad, probably!
As far as scribbling random thoughts, underlining quotes and highlighting paragraphs goes, I was alerted to a great tool by a fellow student on the MA TESOL forums: Foxit Reader. The free version of this programme allows you to highlight, underline and add notes to virtually any pdf. Perfect! Another great little programme I found was Files Lite, an app which allows you to read documents on your iPhone/iTouch (if you’re lucky enough to have one). This proved to be perfect for background reading while out of the house. No need for a laptop or a plastic folder. I just got my iTouch out and started to read. (Of course, the recent iPad would make reading on the go much easier, but if you’ve got one of those, you’re a lucky git!)
I’ve found now that I’m used to reading from the screen. It comes much more easily now than it did last year, that’s for sure. I’m doing my bit environmentally by not printing pages and pages of course unit notes and articles. I’m even making my personal study notes on the computer now as well! I try to stay self-disciplined and make sure study time is study time with no aimless internet browsing unless I’m done for the day or taking a break (although I do have to shut down Tweet Deck - that little pop-up box is too darn distracting!). Anyway, time to get back to studying. Those articles aren’t gonna read themselves!