Online Reading Block – Think about your thinking



I’ve tried really hard to be a good online reader. I’m fine with a short piece – maybe up to 5 pages. I often use reader or acrobat for annotations and highlighting which provides a way for me to go back to collect and look at my comments. For the Belshaw book, I forced myself to read online and I feel that my work really suffered. Often when I read a short article online, I’ll read it all the way through and then go back and make my annotations and notes. With this longer format, I didn’t feel like I could do that so I just plowed ahead. I found it very hard to concentrate and felt I kept scrolling back and forth, losing my place, reading things over again multiple times. I didn’t feel like I was making any connections and I didn’t feel like I had the time to slow down and start over.

I feel my responses were disjointed, contradictory, and shallow. I still have a lot of questions, and if I’m able to go back to read the entire work again, I hope that will be beneficial. Like Belshaw said in the introduction, it isn’t a difficult book to read and it isn’t very long. I just feel like I would have absorbed more with something in print. I’m guessing you picked this book for its content, not because it was a long digital document. Because of the format, and that it was a challenge for me, that was another element that added to my thinking about digital literacies.

Future folk: if you also find online documents difficult, do make and attend and stick with it. It will be a good challenge for you. Anticipate spending more time then you might reading a print book. If you’re also taking notes online, it works better if you either have two monitors (one for notes, one for the book) or if you’re using two devices. It is hard to switch back and forth.


  1. I find that I have the same problem- for me, it’s not so much whether or not the article is short/long as it is the subject matter. Since Belshaw’s work had a lot of info that was unfamiliar to me, I definitely had a harder time concentrating! I actually think, too, that having such a large size font made it even more difficult online reading, as moving frequently from one page to the next kept interrupting my train of thought..? Who knows! Have you ever tried using a large monitor and putting the book on one side, and your notes on the other? (So you’re not switching back and forth, but seeing them at the same time). That tends to work best for me. Then I can see my notes and the reading all at the same time, instead of split up between two devices or monitors.

  2. Good suggestion about using a larger monitor and splitting showing the book and notes side by side. I will try that next time. I agree that the large font might have played into it — I only had that problem when I was viewing the book on my iPad. When I was on the laptop I could reduce it.

  3. My own experience is that, while I still generally prefer paper by a good margin, learning to read productively online is a skill I’ve slowly acquired…but (again, for me) that’s a different issue than the annotations issue.

    Perhaps trying something out like can help?

    Doug’s book is available as a PDF, so your normal methods could be used there, of course.

    At any rate, online reading and notetaking is something for which many strategies are available, but all struggle to compete with the predominant modes that most of us have been engaged in for most of our lives. Good advice for future students!

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