Monday, June 21, 2021

Print Is Better For Reading

Why We Need to Rethink Digital Reading by James M. Lang.


"Publishers and student-success advocates alike have embraced the shift to digital reading. From various corners of the educational world we read that digital texts can provide better access for an increasingly diverse enrollment, and can help students lower their educational costs."

"What the research shows. . . .  When it comes to the kind of focused reading that we ask students to complete in service of understanding and remembering course content, print has a substantial advantage over all the other options."

"That finding seems to be especially true for longer texts and for narrative-based reading, but Baron reports that, in most studies in this area, print is superior to digital reading for learning purposes. In some contexts, the research shows little or no difference between digital and print, but in almost no cases did digital reading prove the better option for learning."

"Print has the edge not only for learning but also in terms of student preferences. Baron has been one of the scholars surveying students about their reading preferences, and the results were a tremendous surprise to me, as I expect they might for most faculty members. If cost were not a factor, 87 percent of surveyed students said they would prefer to read course assignments in print. Why? Because, according to 92 percent of respondents, they concentrate better when they are reading a physical copy."

"Baron provides a comprehensive breakdown of the many dozens of studies on this subject, and readers can judge for themselves whether there is — in the words of one theorist she quotes — a “primacy of print.” Her book leans in that direction, but she also points out the benefits of digital reading and acknowledges that it’s clearly here to stay. Cost, convenience, and access are not issues she dismisses or minimizes, nor should we. And plenty of the reading we assign these days might be available only in digital form."

"If we assign digital reading to students, Baron argues, we must do a better job of helping them grasp it. Reading in print, on screen, and through audio formats are all very different animals — each with its own challenges and capabilities. But most of the reading strategies that students have been taught in their education — highlighting, annotating a book, taking notes separately — were developed with print text in mind, and don’t always translate to digital reading. Much as we teach students to annotate a print copy, Baron writes, "digital-annotation skills need to be taught and nurtured.'"

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: John Edwards)

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