What is a ‘good’ reader? The speeding surface skimmer or the slower, deep sea diver?  


Of course, the toe-dipper gets the gist of the whole book but misses out on the fine detail, while the skinny-dipper dives in the deep end and gets to savour the meaning of every word.  And, traditionally, it’s the studious skinny-dippers that are seen as the higher achievers while the attention-deficient toe-dippers re perceived as average or below-average achievers.


An interesting thing happened today, which flies in the face of this accepted wisdom: I skimmed through Becta’s 70 odd research publications and reports on Harnessing Technology – (good stuff, though!).  


It seemed at good idea at the time, to:

1) Skim read to organise under headings

2) Read to pull out a plain English summary

3) Share on this blog if useful to others.


4)… and, finally, bask in a pink cloud of feel-good smugness.  (This says more about me than I’d like.)


Dreary and sad as this may sound (it was; I am), I got stuck – the reports didn’t fit neatly into categories – I realised I should have tagged – a rookie mistake in the blogosphere. So I did.  (As you may know, this basically entails identifying keywords so you can search afterwards for all documents/posts/other with the same keyword. Flexible categorising, in effect.)


Have you ever watched yourself as you tag?  I did.  I was using a key critical thinking skill: analysis (breaking down, comparing, classifying and prioritising).


I suppose, to be fair, I wanted to avoid too many tags, and so had to choose the most relevant ones only. So I was being pretty analytical. Bottom line: the initial skim reading and tagging led to a higher order thinking skill.


This was followed by plain, old-fashioned perusal indepth to build a summary = synthesis, another higher order thinking skill.


So …

-The need to tag through skim reading led to analysis.

– The need to summarise through in-depth reading led to synthesis.

– And analysis, synthesis and evaluation represent the highest order of thinking skills according to Bloom’s taxononomy.


So, perhaps we need to change how we think about what is a good reader; they need to both skim and dive.  Next time you ask your pupils to create a blog post, encourage the tagging, and increase the chances of crticial thinking skills, for example, by:

  1. Setting some limits, such as 3 tags max (choose 6 tags and reduce to the 3 most relevant tags) …break down, compare, contrast, prioritise
  2. Pupils to say why … justify, point out, explain, prioritise
  3. Class to decide on best 3 tags … evaluate (summarise, assess, decide, convince, criticise, defend)

Of course, sometimes you’ve just got to tag. But it’s encouraging to discover by accident that a basic social web tool skill, such as tagging, also supports the highest order thinking skills usually only ascribed to Grade A* to C candidates only, isn’t it?