Writing Directly Benefits Reading

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Now there is the study to prove it. The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Carnegie Corporation of New York teamed up and prepared this report (link here) entitled Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. The upshot is that writing improves both reading comprehension and context learning – the more you write about what you are reading and learning, the better your understanding and comprehension of what you are reading. From the Foreword of the report:

Ariel and Will Durant were right when they said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” Putting our current challenges into historical context, it is obvious that if today’s youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they’ve read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they’ve learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential.(In that regard, the etymology of the word forth”—from oneself, for example—is certainly evocative.) Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy of inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity. What that means for all of us is that the essential educative transmissions that have been passed along century after century, generation after generation, are in danger of fading away, or even falling silent.

The authors describes the acts of writing and reading for comprehension “survival skills” for the general population. Even moreso for lawyers who depend heavily on being able to not only read and understand fine points and minutae of statutes, case law and other legal material, but also to effectively write about what they have read in order to shape important outcomes. Writing begets reading, which begets writing.

While the report addresses student learning and recommends strategies for improving reading skills, the information is fascinating and has post-graduate and professional application. Want to better understand your subject matter? Take notes, write essays, create blog posts, memoranda and briefs, distilling what your have read into the written word. And be better prepared to argue your point.

More Free OCR Fun

Last week, I posted about a free Web utility that would allow you to upload scanned documents and apply OCR treatment. Now Google Docs has trotted out a free OCR feature available for on-line docs, per the Google Operating System Blog (link here).

The option appears during the uploading process: Docs users are presented with a clickable link that will run an OCR scan of docs uploaded into user accounts. Those familiar with OCR know that the process extracts characters and inserts them into a new text document. PDFs apparently do better with the process and simply black text on white background yields the best result. 

As far as those results, users report some formatting loss and less than perfect end product. And, you will need to separately load and save the PDF if you want both the original and the OCR’d version of the doc. Still, while it may not be the power tool you are looking for, it does offer a free option for simple scans and searchable saves of images, business cards or simple records.

BarMax iPhone App A Winner!

Remember that $1,000 iPhone app from BarMax (link here) that contains an entire Bar review course on your iDevice? Well, guess what? It’s actually turning a profit (hard not to do – simply sell one or two apps), and BarMax is expanding into New York State. While $1,000 ($999.99 actually) seems a hefty price tag, consider it a megabyte of information for each dollar spent – there is literally half a Gigabyte ton of information packed into the application. Apparently, the app is averaging a 4.5 star rating, which is not too shabby by App Store standards, even without considering the price effect. According to the TechCrunch article, BarMax will be adding Illinois, Texas, and Florida to the mix in the short run and in the slightly longer run, a built-from-the-ground-up iPad version. The great numbers (#6 in What’s Hot, #36 in top grossing) don’t even take into account downloads of the free ethics exam review

So long, BarBri. Hello, BarMax!