Numbers count

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Nadine Bailey’s Informative Flights blog is always worth reading. Her latest post, Resist the list, is as spot-on as ever.  Nadine doesn’t like compiling grade level recommended reading lists for a number of reasons and in this post, she lists some of those reasons.  Her stand is that already-hooked readers don’t need lists (they have other strategies for working out what to read next) and lists don’t work with those who aren’t hooked-on-books.  For them, other techniques and strategies are needed.

Perhaps the only suggestion I’d add to her post is to emphasise more than she does that parents (and teachers) who read are more likely to have kids who read – and that parents who do not read and don’t have a lot of reading matter around the house are less likely to raise readers. Her post is pure Krashen and Cullinan and Trelease and all my other heroes.

I have long since held that reading is a survival skill, that like all skills we get better when we practice and that, unlike many other skills, practice is fun, enjoyable, pleasurable, pain-free – when we read for pleasure.  Reading for work and reading to learn are different, and if our basic reading skills are poor, they can be difficult too.  Reading is FUNdamental. When we find reading pleasurable, when we read for pleasure, we get the practice, we maintain and improve our reading skills at the same time. It’s not just our reading skills which improve with reading – our vocabulary, our comprehension, our understanding, our empathy and more all improve as well; it isn’t just our skills in language which improve, it’s our understanding across disciplines and subjects.  There’s a corollary there too: if reading for pleasure isn’t pleasurable, read something else.

All this is a lead-in to this article on something very different, but it was Nadine’s post which got me here. In the course of her article,  Nadine says

I suspect students spend a lot more time on Youtube for their learning. YouTube publishes some interesting statistics.  Of relevance is “YouTube is technically the second largest search engine in the world.” and “Average Viewing Session – 40 minutes, up 50% year-over-year”.

That gave me pause, I guess I’m a sucker for dubious use of statistics, I just need to take them apart.  There’s the Lake Wobegon effect (from Garrison Keillor’s fictional town where many stories state “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average),”   there’s Joel Best’s deconstruction of “The worst social statistic ever,” and of course climate-change-denier David Bellamy’s claim that 555 out of 625 of the world’s glaciers are getting bigger – probably helped along by an unnoticed mis-keying of the keyboard.

In this case, it is the claim made that the average viewing session on YouTube is 40 minutes and that it is growing by 50% “year-over-year.”  I have to point out that YouTube was not responsible for the data in the page to which Nadine links. The page to which Nadine links, YouTube by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts, is published by the Omnicore Group. It includes data such as the Total Number of Monthly Active YouTube Users, the number of videos shared to date, the number of videos uploaded every minute, and other facts, factoids and figures, including the average viewing session (yes, the claim is “40 minutes, up 50% year-over-year”).

Many of the factoids have a source which sometimes is and sometimes is not YouTube itself. No source is shown for the average viewing session.

That’s not really a surprise.  I might be able to accept that the average viewing session for the year to June 2018 is 40 minutes, and I might just accept that the average viewing session for the year to June 2017 was just under 27 minutes (half of 27 is 13.5 which added to 27 gives the about 40 minutes average viewing session claimed).

But I’m not so sure that the growth has been half-as-much-again year after year after year.  That’s a little wild. It suggests that in 2014, just a few years earlier, the average session was less than 8 minutes, that in 2008 (ten years before the 2018 datum), the average viewing session was about 42 seconds. I doubt it.

Looking to the future, if the trend continues, by 2023 the average viewing session will be more than 5 hours, yikes! And just five years after that, 2028, we’ll be watching 38 hours at a single sitting.  Get a life, people!

Reading for pleasure enhances our literacy. I wonder what’s needed to engage our numeracy?

Don’t stop thinking!





2 thoughts on “Numbers count

  1. Yay! Someone who looks critically at stats and numbers … I also was wondering where the numbers came from (if it was just USA for example), anecdotally based on experience (possibly the worst type of data) of what I’m seeing at schools, it seems that students are substituting books and reading for time on youtube. That covers pleasure reading (as in watching youtubers gaming is their form of relaxing) and for research/inquiry (as in our nonfiction books get completely ignored and our circulation of headphones to watch youtube videos on various topics is THE way of learning things). I just cannot find the data to back up my hunch as all the stats are for the 18+ demographic. So yes, I’ll admit I was a little lazy in getting the numbers.
    And I think 40 minutes a day on YouTube is an under-estimation – at least in the demographic of international school students.

    • Thank you, Nadine.

      You raise some interesting points there – reminding us to look deeply at (especially) surveys: how large was the population studied sampled? how representative of the general population (are we told what population?), might different sub-groups within the surveyed population display different behaviours/ attitudes/ etc? what do we mean by average? How were the data gathered (survey, observation, self-report etc)? What instructions and training were given, to those asking the questions/ observing etc? What instructions were given to those surveyed/sampled? What were the actual questions asked etc etc etc

      The notion that YouTube viewing covers as much ground as “reading” is important too, that we view to learn, view for pleasure, view to be informed, view to appreciate technique and more all counts as viewing (just as the different kinds of reading are counted as reading) and awareness of these differences may yield new insights. (And what about audio-books? They are neither reading nor viewing – but this is another form of literacy…)

      Not to mention Vimeo, TED (talks) and other video platforms (and other platforms on which videos may be shared) – presumably not counted in the YouTube figures, wherever they came from.

      This is a field ripe for research.

      And please don’t let these thoughts distract us from your post on reading; that was just great and I heartily recommend it.

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