Everything we do each day involves a digital aspect, whether it be on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, e-reader or desktop computer. Today’s youth see themselves as digital natives, the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology and actively engaging on devices every single day.
More and more schools are investing in classroom technologies, where students are now equipped with school-issued tablets and access to e-textbooks. It is quickly becoming a necessity to convert textbooks to digital versions. But we need to ask ourselves the question - does digital text really stand up to printed text?
Digital text is portable, handy, less expensive (assuming you already have a device) and accessible (this only applies to metropolitan areas).
When it comes to learning and our ability to process written information, digital text may seem like the obvious winner, however when considering that many people’s comprehension levels vary based on how they interact with text, the answer really depends on how interactive the digital text is.
A study done by Lauren M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander from The Journal of Experimental Education
Volume 85, 2017 - Issue 1 Reading Across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration showed that students overwhelming preferred to read digitally and that their reading was significantly faster online than in print. However, the students also judged their overall comprehension of what they had read as better online than in print (understanding the main idea of the text), but this was clearly not the case because when it came to specific questions, comprehension was significantly better when participants read printed texts.
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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.
Consider What You Are Reading and Why, as well as Taking Your Time!
If all students are being asked to do is to understand and remember the big idea 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.
Students comprehend better when they read digital text slower than printed text.
There should probably always be a place for print in students' academic lives no matter how technologically savvy they become. We are not downplaying the many conveniences and importance of online texts, rather, our goal is to highlight that paper and printed text should not be discarded entirely.
There are significant costs and consequences to discounting the printed word's value for learning and academic development.
Students need the skills to use both digital and print texts, but they also need the self-awareness about what method works well for them in certain instances. If they can gain the skill to utilize both types, while also recognizing when one form will better lead to their success, then education has truly been attained.
Below are a few questions and answers regarding Digital Vs Print.
- Are digital devices screens bad for you?
Computer vision syndrome, a temporary condition with symptoms like headaches, fatigue, strained and dry eyes, can be prevented by closing your eyes or looking away from the screen every now and then. Taking regular breaks, shutting off your screen a couple of hours before bedtime or switching your computer to night mode can also help avoid injuries and sleeplessness.
- Is it more difficult to read from digital devices?
Students who read on paper score significantly better than those who read the text digitally. It is easier for those who read on paper to remember what they had read. Touching paper and turning pages aids the memory, making it easier to remember where you read something.
- What is the best format to learn in?
E-books are great, you can access many books without carrying a heavy load, but it is ultimately a direct copy of printed text to digital format. Enhancing the electronic text with video, sound, interactive tests and games, instead of just turning it into a copy of the printed version will help students perform better and score higher in test.
We believe the best possible mediums to use for students in their educational syllabus is to have both print and digital combined. As students clearly learn and retain printed text material better, adding digital interactive content can only enhance the learning experience. Adding an element of fun and personal interaction with the material can increase the level of understanding and comprehension.
We are currently conducting a survey in order to understand the print environment within South African School and would like your input.
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