Friday, November 30, 2012

A Banner Year for Libraries!

In the year 2000, God placed in my heart a passion for sharing the collection of living books He had given me with others.  It was many years of collecting and preparing before that vision came to fruition but in June of 2008, I officially opened my doors.

2012 marks a banner year for private libraries of living books.  God has opened the floodgates and ignited fires in the hearts of many all over the country to open libraries in their communities.  In June, many of us met in Abingdon, VA at Living  Books Library for the first ever Homeschool Librarians Conference.  For an entire weekend, we discussed books, collecting books, repairing books, sharing books!  This conference was recorded and is now available for purchase.  Also available is a DVD which demonstrates book repair and another featuring a tour of Living Book Library with demonstrations of what living books are.

Even if you are not contemplating opening a library of your own, you may be encouraged by what others are doing and gain a vision to collect the best living books for your family.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Truth...Or Consequences

Truth – I own a computer…actually I own two.  One is not connected to the Internet.  I own an iPhone 4, the kind that will talk to you although I’ve never done that because the idea of that unnerves me but I do have a cute little whistle on it that alerts me to incoming emails.  I don’t have it programmed with numbers and calendars, preferring paper ones.  I own a Kindle that sits forlornly on a shelf.  It never occurs to me to Google a phone number or read an online book on my phone.   But I understand the fascination and, if my brain could wrap itself around how all this “convenient” technology works, I would be head over heels lost in it.

Most of our culture is.  And the consequences?

Please don’t misunderstand.  Our culture’s woes are caused by much more than too much Internet use.  However, because the Internet is so pervasive with rarely a conversation conducted without reference to it, and the consequences to reading, relationships and responsibilities massive, we need to be honest in our evaluations.  The truth is the Internet is changing the way our brains work.  But is it for the better?

As I wrote in the last article, studies have shown that we are losing the ability to read…to read deeply, to ponder, to concentrate, to retain.  This has eternal implications on the written word. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1.  If we lose the ability to read the Word, we lose the ability to have a relationship with the Word. 

O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.  Ps. 119:97.  If we lose the ability to ponder the law, how can we be reconciled to the Lawgiver?

God has chosen to communicate to us through the written Word.  He has commanded us to read, study, meditate, know His Word…HIM. 

We are more than walking computers able to spout off trivial factoids.  We are made for greater things.  Charlotte Mason stressed that the life of the mind is sustained upon ideas.   Before the days of internet, Charlotte wrote:

“A great danger is threatening the country, and even the world. We're losing our faith in ideas. We're replacing guiding principles with mechanical practices. As I've said in previous Letters to the Editor, the trend in popular education these days is to have contempt for knowledge, and for the books that contain the knowledge of mankind.”(from this article)

As a result we think shallow thoughts, have shallow conversations (when we talk at all) and live shallow lives.

What’s the answer?  Read.  Read a lot.  Read deeply from great books written by great minds.  Open the Word of God and meditate upon what He is telling you.  Turn off the screens, go outside and drink in the beauty of creation.  Think.

You will be going against the tide.  But our future depends on it. 

In concluding my series on The Shallows, I’ll end with his ending.

“Of course, in conjuring up a big anti-Net backlash, I may be indulging in a fantasy of my own.  After all, the Internet tide continues to swell.  In the months since I completed The Shallows, Facebook membership has doubled from 300 million to 600 million; the number of text messages processed every month by the typical American teen has jumped from 2,300 to 3,300; sales of e-readers, tablets, and smartphones have skyrocketed; app stores have proliferated; elementary schools have rushed to put iPads in their students’ hands and the time we spend in front of screens has continued its seemingly inexorable rise.  We may be wary of what our devices are doing to us, but we’re using them more than ever.  And yet, history tells us, it’s only against such powerful cultural currents that countercultural movements take shape.

As I said, it’s a small boat.  But there’s still plenty of room inside.  Feel free to grab an oar.”  (pg. 228)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Reconstruction

Charlotte Mason understood…

“We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars.  It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable.  More, habit is inevitable.  If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord.”  (Vol. 6, pg. 101)

As we continue our look at The Shallows:  What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, we need to ask the question:  “What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work?”  The Internet provides sensory and cognitive stimuli that is repetitive, intensive, interactive and addictive, resulting in massive alterations in brain circuits and functions. 

Author Nicholas Carr relates a study done at UCLA of 24 volunteers, half experienced Web users and half novices.  After monitoring brain activity at the beginning of the test they noticed very different responses between the two groups.  The groups spent one hour a day for five days online.  Remarkably after only five hours, the researchers found that the novices’ brains had already been rewired.  (pg. 120-121)

Studies have been done on long-term and working short-term memory.  We rely on our brains to transfer information from our working short-term memory into long-term memory.   When we are reading deeply, we are filling a tub, so to speak, in a steady drip.  We can then transfer much of that information, drop by drop, into our long-term memory.  With the Internet, however, we are turning many faucets on full blast.  We are unable to process all the information thereby suffering from cognitive overload.  Some have attributed ADD/ADHD to the overloading of working memory.  (pg. 125.)

Not only does what we are doing while online have neurological consequences, what we’re not doing has consequences as well.  “Just as neurons that fire together wire together, neurons that don’t fire together don’t wire together.  As the time we spend scanning Web pages crowds out the time we spend reading books, as the time we spend exchanging bite-sized text messages crowds out the time we spend composing sentences and paragraphs, as the time we spend hopping across links crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation, the circuits that support those old intellectual functions and pursuits weaken and begin to break apart.  We gain new skills and perspectives but lose old ones.”  (pg. 120)

But doesn’t the Internet, with thousands of sites, search engines and sound bites increase our efficiency in researching and learning?  A study done by University College London found Internet users exhibiting a form of skimming, hopping from one source to another, not reading in the traditional sense.  Power browsing through titles, content pages and abstracts is more common.  The researchers concluded that, “There is absolutely no question that our brains are engaged less directly and more shallowly in the synthesis of information when we use research strategies that are all about ‘efficiency,’ ‘secondary (and out-of-context) referencing,’ and ‘once over, lightly.’”  (pg. 136-137)

Obviously in a brief blog article, I can only begin to scratch the surface.  I encourage and challenge you to read The Shallows.  As Christians we are called upon to confront the culture.  What will be the impact if we continue on the path of exchanging hyperlinks for ideas?  We’ll conclude next time by examining these issues.