Editor’s note: STEM News is provided on Local Tech Wire through a collaborative effort with the NC STEM Community Collaborative, MCNC, and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Center (SMT Center). To submit story ideas, please email LTW Editor Rick Smith rsmith@wral.com or Noah Garrett noah@thinkngc.com.)

By Noah Garrett, LTW/STEM News Editor

OTTAWA, Ontario – Take your time reading this. That’s the point.

Not all education can be performed online; sometimes it is important to turn off the computer and pick up a book, says author and IBMer John Miedema.

Today’s world moves at a much faster pace, but that doesn’t mean learning has to follow suit – especially when it involves complex ideas in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Miedema is an IT architect at IBM (NYSE: IBM) in Ottawa, Ontario, whose 2009 book "Slow Reading" explores the movement.

In a phone interview with Local Tech Wire, he explains that it’s not just about students reading as slowly as possible, but there comes a time when you deeply want to comprehend a subject, especially complex subjects such as STEM, that you really need to go offline and read more slowly.

“Print books are still the better technology for long-form reading,” he notes, but also saying the Web has its place in the mix. “A student or an employee trying to understand a complex idea will benefit on the whole by picking up a print book that allows them to read without distraction.”

Miedema recently finished his graduate work in the Library and Information Sciences program at the University of Western Ontario and is well aware of the difficulties of consuming large amounts of information in a short period of time.

He spoke at the (FLICC) Forum at the Library Congress last year and said it is often useful and necessary to read quickly, but that reading slowly aids to comprehension when deciphering complex text and may even involve arguing with a text, so to speak, or seeking out additional materials to add context.

“In an age of information overload, an increasing number of people are choosing to slow down and enjoy reading again,” he said during his presentation in October 2009.

At a time when people spend much of their time skimming Web sites, text messages and e-mails, a recent article by The Associated Press points out students who say they’ve become so accustomed from flitting from page to page online that they have trouble concentrating while reading printed books. One student said when he was reading a regular book and would come to a word that would almost act like a hyperlink and trigger his mind to some other thing.

“E-books are metadata for print books,” Miedema reiterates. “Books are not being replaced by digital technology. Instead of reading online, Web sites are increasingly offering online services to enhance the experience of reading print books.”

Little formal research has been done on slow reading, other than studies on physical conditions such as dyslexia and eye disorders. But, the movement is gaining ground, and certainly has a valid connection to STEM education, which requires slowness, experimentation, memorization, and precision.

“Slow reading definitely can be a benefit in STEM,” Miedema adds.

More and more segments of our society – farmers, factory workers, doctors, professors – have been urged to speed things up in order to produce more and faster. This idea of slowing down certainly has impacts in education as well as daily workforce demands – especially in technical fields where complex ideas can’t simply be reduced to snippets.

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(Mark Ezzell at NC STEM and The Associated Press contributed to this story)