The enduring power of print for learning in a digital world



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Patricia A. Alexander, University of Maryland and Lauren M. Singer, University of Maryland

Today’s students see themselves as digital natives, the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology like smartphones, tablets and e-readers.

Teachers, parents and policymakers certainly acknowledge the growing influence of technology and have responded in kind. We’ve seen more investment in classroom technologies, with students now equipped with school-issued iPads and access to e-textbooks. In 2009, California passed a law requiring that all college textbooks be available in electronic form by 2020; in 2011, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public schools to convert their textbooks to digital versions.

Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true.

As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it.

Speed – at a cost

Our work has revealed a significant discrepancy. Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer.

For example, from our review of research done since 1992, we found that students were able to better comprehend information in print for texts that were more than a page in length. This appears to be related to the disruptive effect that scrolling has on comprehension. We were also surprised to learn that few researchers tested different levels of comprehension or documented reading time in their studies of printed and digital texts.

To explore these patterns further, we conducted three studies that explored college students’ ability to comprehend information on paper and from screens.

Students first rated their medium preferences. After reading two passages, one online and one in print, these students then completed three tasks: Describe the main idea of the texts, list key points covered in the readings and provide any other relevant content they could recall. When they were done, we asked them to judge their comprehension performance.

Across the studies, the texts differed in length, and we collected varying data (e.g., reading time). Nonetheless, some key findings emerged that shed new light on the differences between reading printed and digital content:

  • Students overwhelming preferred to read digitally.

  • Reading was significantly faster online than in print.

  • Students judged their comprehension as better online than in print.

  • Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for print versus
    digital reading.

  • The medium didn’t matter for general questions (like understanding the main idea of the text).

  • But when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.

Placing print in perspective

From these findings, there are some lessons that can be conveyed to policymakers, teachers, parents and students about print’s place in an increasingly digital world.

1. Consider the purpose

We all read for many reasons. Sometimes we’re looking for an answer to a very specific question. Other times, we want to browse a newspaper for today’s headlines.

As we’re about to pick up an article or text in a printed or digital format, we should keep in mind why we’re reading. There’s likely to be a difference in which medium works best for which purpose.

In other words, there’s no “one medium fits all” approach.

2. Analyze the task

One of the most consistent findings from our research is that, for some tasks, medium doesn’t seem to matter. If all students are being asked to do is to understand and remember the big idea or gist of what they’re reading, there’s no benefit in selecting one medium over another.

But when the reading assignment demands more engagement or deeper comprehension, students may be better off reading print. Teachers could make students aware that their ability to comprehend the assignment may be influenced by the medium they choose. This awareness could lessen the discrepancy we witnessed in students’ judgments of their performance vis-à-vis how they actually performed.

3. Slow it down

In our third experiment, we were able to create meaningful profiles of college students based on the way they read and comprehended from printed and digital texts.

Among those profiles, we found a select group of undergraduates who actually comprehended better when they moved from print to digital. What distinguished this atypical group was that they actually read slower when the text was on the computer than when it was in a book. In other words, they didn’t take the ease of engaging with the digital text for granted. Using this select group as a model, students could possibly be taught or directed to fight the tendency to glide through online texts.

4. Something that can’t be measured

There may be economic and environmental reasons to go paperless. But there’s clearly something important that would be lost with print’s demise.

In our academic lives, we have books and articles that we regularly return to. The dog-eared pages of these treasured readings contain lines of text etched with questions or reflections. It’s difficult to imagine a similar level of engagement with a digital text. There should probably always be a place for print in students’ academic lives – no matter how technologically savvy they become.

Of course, we realize that the march toward online reading will continue unabated. And we don’t want to downplay the many conveniences of online texts, which include breadth and speed of access.

The ConversationRather, our goal is simply to remind today’s digital natives – and those who shape their educational experiences – that there are significant costs and consequences to discounting the printed word’s value for learning and academic development.

Patricia A. Alexander, Professor of Psychology, University of Maryland and Lauren M. Singer, Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Psychology, University of Maryland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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From Print to Electronic Books


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the transition from printed books to ebooks.

For more visit:
http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/opinion/from-print-books-sadly-but-inevitably/DutwSmb4iMXamcPLRoLPjO/

Children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens



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Children may actually prefer reading books the traditional way.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Margaret Kristin Merga, Murdoch University and Saiyidi Mat Roni, Edith Cowan University

There is a common perception that children are more likely to read if it is on a device such as an iPad or Kindles. But new research shows that this is not necessarily the case. The Conversation

In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading – and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people.

These findings match previous research which looked at how teenagers prefer to read. This research found that while some students enjoyed reading books on devices, the majority of students with access to these technologies did not use them regularly for this purpose. Importantly, the most avid book readers did not frequently read books on screens.

Why do we think children prefer to read on screens?

There is a popular assumption that young people prefer to read on screens. This was mainly driven by education writer Marc Prensky who in 2001 coined the term “digital natives”. This term characterises young people as having high digital literacy and a uniform preference for screen-based reading.

But young people do not have a uniform set of skills, and the contention that screens are preferred is not backed up by research.

Despite this, the myth has already had an impact on book resourcing decisions at school and public libraries, both in Australia and in the US, with some libraries choosing to remove all paper books in response to a perceived greater preference for eBooks.

But by doing this, libraries are actually limiting young people’s access to their preferred reading mode, which in turn could have a detrimental impact on how often they choose to read.

Young people are gaining increasing access to devices through school-promoted programs, and parents face aggressive marketing to stay abreast of educational technologies at home.

Schools are motivated to increase device use, with Information and Communication Technology being marked as a general capability to be demonstrated across every subject area in the Australian Curriculum.

The drivers toward screen-based recreational book reading are strong, but they are not well-founded.

Why are students more likely to prefer paper books?

Reading on devices through an application leaves more room to be distracted, allowing the user to switch between applications.

For students who already experience difficulty with attention, the immediate rewards of playing a game may easily outweigh the potentially longer-term benefits of reading.

Digital literacy could also be an issue. In order to use a device to read books, children need to know how to use their devices for the purpose of reading books.

They need to know how to access free reading material legally through applications such as Overdrive or websites such as Project Gutenburg.

Tips for encouraging your child to read

Research shows that reading books is a more effective way to both improve and retain literacy skills, as opposed to simply reading other types of text. Yet international research suggests that young people are reading fewer and fewer books.

While equipping children with devices that have eReading capability is unlikely to encourage them to read, there are a number of strategies, supported by research, that can help encourage children to pick up a book. These include:

  • Be seen to enjoy reading. This study found that a number of students did not know if their literacy teachers actually liked reading. Teachers who were keen readers inspired some students to read more often and take an interest in a broader range of books.

  • Create (and regularly access) reading-friendly spaces at home and at school. Loud noises, poor lighting and numerous distractions will not help provide an enjoyable reading experience, and are likely to lead to frustration.

  • Encourage regular silent reading of books at school and at home. Giving children time to read at school not only encourages a routine of reading, but it also may be the only opportunity a child has to read self-selected books for pleasure.

  • Teachers and parents should talk about books, sharing ideas and recommendations.

  • Continue to encourage your child and students to read for pleasure. While we know that children tend to become disengaged with books over time, in some cases this can be due to withdrawal of encouragement once children can read on their own. This leads children to falsely assume that reading is no longer important for them. Yet reading remains important for both children an adults to build and retain literacy skills.

  • Find out what your child enjoys reading, and support their access to books at school and at home.

Margaret Kristin Merga, Lecturer and Researcher in Adolescent Literacy, Health Promotion and Education, Murdoch University and Saiyidi Mat Roni, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Ebooks Chosen Because They are Cheaper?


The link below is to an article that asks ‘whether people buy ebooks because they are cheaper that printed books?’

For more visit:
http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/do-readers-choose-ebooks-because-they-are-cheaper

3D-Printed Book Covers


The link below is to an article that takes a look at 3D-printed book covers – is this the way of the future for traditional books?

For more visit:
http://www.teleread.com/books/riverhead-books-creates-3d-printed-book-cover/

Article: Ebooks Vs Printed Books


The link below is to an old article along the ebooks versus traditional books battleline.

For more visit:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html

Article: Oz Pod eBooks


The link below is to an article about a service that gets your book printed or distributed as a Kindle ebook in Australia.

For more visit:
http://www.techlife.net/lifestyle/how-tos/2012/7/going-into-print-with-oz-pod-ebooks/

Article: Toilet Paper Book


The link below is to a story that pushes the boundaries of ‘book.’ It is a report on a horror story novel by Koji Suzuki. The strange thing about the novel is that it is printed on toilet paper rolls by the Hayashi Paper Co.

For more visit:
http://boingboing.net/2012/06/16/toilet-paper-with-a-horror-sto.html