Electronic learning

News review

There is a study in Norway which shows that children learn better from paper books than from electronic texts.

This is the layman’s version of the study published in the International Journal of Educational Research last year. The authors used a group of teenagers to determine if they scored different on a reading comprehension test depending on where they saw the text and concluded that, yes, there was a difference.

For the study, students were given narrative and explanatory texts to read, followed by a computer-based multiple choice test. Four weeks later, the students took another test with similar material, but half received printed books and the other half received computer screens.

The results showed that there was little difference between the pretest students, but those who read the texts on screens scored significantly lower in reading comprehension than those who read the printouts.

One of the pillars of the core curriculum is that teaching and learning must be different from what it was in the past. We live in a multimedia world and expanding teaching tools to include video, audio, and other computer-specific additions to plain written text will do a better job of helping children learn. As part of this objective, students will take all required standardized tests on a computer.

But few educators have questioned the idea that computers themselves are the best way to teach children. Access to the cloud, where students can store information, download links with audio and visual illustrations, and work with teams and teachers in real time, is the route many suburban neighborhoods are heading. Last year Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains phased out paper textbooks entirely in favor of tablet computers preloaded with the year’s readings.

The study, carried out by Anne Mangen, Bente R. Walgermo and Kolbjorn Bronnick, concluded that all the bells and whistles on the texts on the screen – the hyperlinks, the embedded audio, the videos – were a distraction; that children had brain overload which meant that they understood less what they were reading. The scrolling also proved to be a distraction as it broke focus. A screen was often a single page, where a printed book allowed the reader to turn the pages knowing how much was left to come.

Electronic screens were also harder on the eyes. After the experiment, a greater number of students who used electronic texts reported being tired.

“The study … raises intriguing questions,” said Rick Palladino, director of libraries at Iona College in New Rochelle. “E-readers have their good points. That being said, I really feel like there is something to be said about the experience of the printed word. I always say to people, ‘The book is not dead. . ‘”

Like many people who work on computers, it often prints something when it needs to read or annotate it, he said. He owns a Nook, but only loads entertainment on it. With something serious, like a study or more complicated text, it will go to a physically printed source.

“Part of it is the conditioning,” he said. “I read physical books and have a Nook and it’s not the same experience. Technology evolves and people evolve. I would be interested to see the study in 10 or 15 years when maybe the students of the elementary and secondary schools “are taught entirely using ebooks.

Aaron Rosenfeld, associate professor of English and managing editor at Iona, also prefers print to electronic texts and prints readings for his students in addition to having them read the online versions.

“I want them to be able to annotate, read, and move around in text without clicking screens and seeing just one page at a time and making it disappear” when a screen changes, he said.

“There is a private relationship between people and (physical) books. The screen is different,” he said. “We think of these ledgers as solid things that actually exist. When they’re digitized, I worry if it’s eroding anything.”

But, he admitted, progress is advancing.

“This is something that is definitely a chorus that comes back. In my own thinking over the past few years, the movement that we are seeing is so huge and it seems so apocalyptic to those of us who see it happening,” Rosenfeld said. “But then I think it was the same shift from oral tradition to written tradition. We move on. It’s a new culture and what’s changing is the world I know. ‘is already produced. “


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