Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Research Bulletin: Print versus Screen, Is One Superior for Comprehending a Text?

Digital reading devices such as laptops, tablets and ebook readers are progressively replacing traditional printed material. Consumers now have access to a wide variety of digital content, including books, magazines and newspapers that were previously exclusively available in print. Moreover, education is one area where this transition from print to screen is occurring at a notably rapid pace. Students use digital reading devices in order to avoid having to carry heavy textbooks and to have access to notes in one central location. Educators and school boards are increasingly integrating technologies, such as digital reading devices, into school curriculums by making use of interactive educational software and providing access to digital notes and digital textbooks. 

Due to the commercial success of digital reading devices and the rapid digitization process that is occurring in education, there are now questions as to whether reading on screen has an impact on the reading comprehension of students. Anne Mangen and colleagues from the University of Stavanger designed a study in order to determine whether students comprehend texts better when reading the text on paper versus reading the text on screen. In order to conduct this study, the researchers retained 72 tenth graders and split them into two groups. One group (n1 = 25) was asked to read the two texts in print, whereas the second group (n2 = 47) was asked to read the same two texts on a digital screen. After reading the two pieces of text, members of both groups were asked to take reading comprehension tests. Those who read on screen did worse on the reading comprehension tests compared to those who read the texts in print. In other words, there was evidence that reading a text on a screen may impair learning from text compared to reading from paper. It seems that more research and consideration is required to evaluate the effects of transitioning from printed text to digital reading devices. In the meantime school boards should err on the side of caution and not undertake expensive rapid digitization programs when the effects of this digitization are not known.

Post by Amin Khajehnassiri

* For a copy of this article, please contact R. Mar (e-mail in About section).

Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Br√łnnick, K. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61–68.

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1 comment:

Luc P. Beaudoin said...

I have argued on several occasions that the major confound in those studies is that students are not trained to properly use information technology for delving. It's quite difficult to use information technology productively. My experience with teachers and even with many in psychology , and other knowledge workers, is that they themselves are not using IT as productively as they could.
I argued that here for example: https://cogzest.com/2014/07/cognitively-potent-software-is-mightier-than-the-pen-in-the-hands-of-able-motivated-knowledge-builders-response-to-mueller-oppenheimer-2014/

The majority of the following quite large book I wrote is filled with tips for learning with technology:
In Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective.

This shows that there is a lot to learn.

Until we have a study that pits adequately trained IT readers with those who read without technology, we won't have an adequate test. However, there are plenty of a priori reasons to think that if IT is used properly, it will lead to superior comprehension, understanding and recall. For example, research has clearly shown that deliberate practice is a requirement for expertise. Moreover, test-enhanced learning is superior to learning with self-testing. IT can automate mastery of knowledge kit via "productive practice". There's simply no way that a human without software can match the efficiency of properly designed productive practice software.

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