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An Original DocumentThe Value of Reading and WritingDown Arrow

By John S Veitch

Learning to Read and Write Again


Each of us has to learn to read again on the Internet. The right way to read most web pages is simply to scan the text. Is this Interesting? Is this useful? Then you need to decide what to do with it. I find the text on most web pages difficult to read. I choose to copy the text and print the pages I'd like to read. But I have a good, low cost printer, most people don't. Few web sites try to create screen readable pages as I try to do here.


After reading you decide if there is something of exceptional value on this page. If there is, how can you best capture that? Printed pages are easy, you can highlight the best parts of the text and file the page. This does create a paper war, but that can be managed.

If you can't easily print, write a note in your diary or journal. The simple act of making a note will help you to remember the key points.


It's easier to tell if some story or data is really useful or not two or three weeks later. In that time much new data crosses your desk and that gives you a better perspective on the old data you collected. The process of sorting and categorising and filing the data helps you both to select the best material, and to learn it if you need too. This sorting process, throwing out a lot of paper, choosing the best, is an important non-trivial task.


When you have good data on a topic that interests you, opportunities will occur to offer your knowledge to others. If you do that in a Local filesocial network or in a www linkToastmasters Club, or in your business network, people will give you feedback on your developing understanding. When your knowledge is new, finding the right words to express it can be difficult. Practice improves this ability.

Primary and Secondary Sources

You have for own www linkPRIMARY experience, and your record of that.  Your record?  Ideally something more reliable than your memory.  Keep a journal, diary or notebook.  Local FileMaintain your own files on topics of interest.  You know you can rely on that, and to the extent that it’s not reliable, you have a feel for that too.  You have your own data on many topics, and that informs you in a powerful way. 

In addition like everyone else you have access to secondary records.  What’s in the press, on the Internet, or in your mailbox?  You can store files, print, read, highlight, learn about, write notes on or discuss this secondary data and in the process you may or may not accept the "information" it’s supposed to contain.  Because of your primary experience, your own knowledge, reinforced by your journal if you have one, you have special tools for detecting propaganda if you care to use them.

If information literacy was widespread in the community, a process of continuous community learning would be possible.  People would become more aware that as you learn, some of your working ideas and ways of behaving need to change, and that this process is desirable and not a form of disloyalty or evidence of a person’s unreliability and bad character.  Information literacy could act like a catalyst that enables social and political change.  Imagine the potential for society to develop if everyone who made a mistake was allowed to learn from it and helped to act differently.  Imagine that politicians and other public figures might be able to learn from experience.  The apparent public insistence that people in positions of responsibility are not permitted to rethink a policy stance is absurd.  Political parties, community leaders, and business leaders need themselves to demonstrate the capacity to change.  It makes no sense for any community to expect unchanging commitments in a changing world.