Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Importance of Context, First and Second Readings

In his blog, Knowledge Jolt with Jack, Jack Vinson wrote "I was reading something today that just clicked for me. Context provides a frame of reference to what you are reading or hearing. The better I understand the particular frame of reference (context), the better I can understand what this information or knowledge means." (Knowledge Jolt with Jack, May 12, 2008)

I had a similar thought this week, only slightly reversed. I didn't read something and realized how much it suddenly made sense. I read something and realized that I wasn't getting as much out of it as I would have hoped to.

Being in a new job, with a new organization and now working with individuals in technical fields that are totally new to me, I am coming across written materials that are difficult for me to absorb. I don't think I need to acquire a degree in these technical fields in order to understand the materials but I suspect that I need extended intensive exposure to these materials and the people who write them in order to start truly understanding. Right now I understand them on a very superficial level. I'm missing at least 50% of the meaning they are intended to convey.

Related thoughts
1. Whatever I am reading now and not fully understanding, I should read again in six month or a year to "get" more of it because by then I will have a greater understanding of the context.

2. When writing a technical document, keep in mind that audiences with different levels of contextual knowledge will be reading it. For example, someone who hasn't been breathing and living development literature would probably not get a full understanding of a discussion around "sustainability" because so much contextual knowledge would be assumed rather than clearly articulated.

3. At times, even within our own field of expertise, it is useful to reread a text after a few years. Experience acquired in between the two readings of the same text will influence how we understand the text and how we are able to make connections based on these recent experiences.

4. My daughter's teacher thinks that making the kids reread a short text 15 to 20 times (once a day for a couple of weeks) increases their comprehension -- and fluency. That may be but it sure irritates me and it gets really boring for my daughter!!

1 comment:

Jack Vinson said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. This is an entertaining topic, and I appreciate your thoughts here too. Context changes so many things - it is always entertaining when context jumps from the background to the foreground.