Degrees of engagement with my reading

When I was a kid my learning (in India) was mostly writing and repetition. I went to a fairly good school in Bangalore, but it was not exactly the world’s best when it came to creative or unusual thinking. I was taught that the best way to remember things you wanted to was to repeat it (several times), either to others or to yourself and write (as in a paper, or assignment).

As I have grown older I tend to think about how I impart to my kids the value of the writing and repetition, but mindful of the Internet and its ability to deliver something in a second. Even with Google, bookmarking, sharing, blogging and all the other tools available, I still find the writing and repetition to be most valuable to remember things that I have to. This is different from things I just want to keep at the back of the mind or things that are mildly (or temporally interesting). I categorized the 5 levels (not types, but levels) of reading. I think I ought to call it 5 levels of recollection, but lets go with reading for now. They are progressively more valuable for things that I would like to commit to memory.

1. Reading passively or actively (commenting): Just reading means I have forgotten it as soon as I read it in most cases. If I comment I tend to remember 20% since I would likely go back to the page to see counter opinions, etc.

2. Reading then telling someone: Mostly my wife bears the brunt of all my “knowledge I gained from blogs”. From the inane to the weird and from the innocuous to the bizarre, she gets to hear most everything. Sometimes its the kids also and other times my extended circle of friends and family. I think my retention in those items is about 40% since I after I tell them they usually either ask me a question or ask me to clarify.

3. Reading then bookmarking (tagging) or sharing (via email, delicious, etc.). I am not sure this is better than level 2 but I have found that if I tend to tag or email it to an extended set of people, I invariably get comments, notes or questions, which makes me go back and read the article or page and clarify.

4. Reading then linking on my blog. If I write about it on my blog, then I tend to remember it very well. My recollection of items from my blog tends to be higher than items I bookmarked.

5. Reading, internalizing, reading again, then writing about it on my blog (paraphrasing) and relating to my experiences. This is the best retainer and recollection level in my opinion. If you read something, then write it in your own words relating it to your own experiences there’s a sense of internalization. Close to 80% recollection.

When it comes to books – i.e. not online reading I have found similar patterns, but I would replace the bookmarking with the garden variety pencil marks and sticky tape on the side.

I realize most of these things require multiple “readings” of the same content, which in itself might be the point of reinforced learning.

What about you?

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