Embrace Choices For Learners

This article by Mia Szalavits caught my attention recently –  Do E-Books Make It Harder To Remember What You Just Read?

While I am not an expert on reading or psychology, this article from Time.com certainly leaves me with more questions than answers as this is clearly an area that there is no long-range study to either support or refute the topic. A few of my questions are the following:

Who were the people tested? How many books had they read on an e-reading device prior to the test? What type of test was it? Was it simple recall? What were the books about?
Anyway, here is what the study concluded:

“It took longer and [required] more repeated testing to get into that knowing state [with the computer reading, but] eventually the people who did it on the computer caught up with the people who [were reading] on paper.”

For me, I like the fact that we have more choices for learners with digital devices. Whether they are reading, creating, taking notes, I think that learners need to try different tools and see what works for them.  Personally, I love the fact that highlighting text in an e-book and going back and looking at my highlights and notes is so much easier. I also like the fact that I can share my notes and highlights with others if we are reading the same book.  As we move forward, I would speculate that future learners will read and recall quite easily from e-books because it will be more common place. Maybe the people tested were transitioning from a lifetime of reading from physical books?

Anyway, I agree with the following concluding statement:

“More studies will likely show what material is best suited for learning in a digital format…”

But the one caveat here is that we have to avoid the urge to take the one-size-fits-all approach. There will always be exceptions to the rule and the one place we have to make sure that we accomodate the needs of individuals is in our schools.  To me I hear echoes of “old school” thinking when I see stuff like this.  We need to embrace the choices we have for learners and help them figure out what works best for them.

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  1. Liz said:

    I agree with the second quote you included in this post. While traditional forms of reading offer nostalgia, reading in a digital format allows for more interaction and eventually, I predict, deeper learning. LiveBook is a product that is evidence of that exact sentiment http://www.schoolimprovement.com/products/livebook/. This is just the beginning.

    March 20, 2012
  2. I’m fixin’ to write a bit on this study too, Patrick, mostly because I remember way more efficiently when I’m reading on my Kindle — and that’s largely because I can search the text and my notes and highlights WAY easier than in a traditional text.

    As an example: When I was writing TiG, I KNEW that I’d read something interesting about crafting memorable messages that was connected to urban legends, but I had NO clue where I’d read it. I couldn’t remember the title, the author, or anything more than the fact that it was about urban legends.

    I pulled out my Kindle, searched for urban legends, and instantly found the book, the exact section of the text, and the notes that I had taken when I’d read the book almost 2 years earlier.

    Try that with a paper text.


    Anyway — thanks for this. It’s helping me shape my own thinking about an issue that is going to become more controversial over time.

    Next they’ll be saying that you remember better when you do long division without a calculator or when you write everything in cursive.

    (Wait…we already say those things, don’t we!)

    Rock on,

    April 6, 2012

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