Paper or e-books?

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Paper or e-books

While walking through our year 8 classroom today I came across this interesting image and just had to take the photo. (I guess an advantage of always carrying a smart phone) Paper or e-books? This question is often asked, discussed and for many of us it is a torment.

Many parents struggle with the pros and cons of children reading screens over traditional books. Research tells us that most children perform better in comprehension tests after reading the printed books, but we also know children are more motivated to use electronic forms. The reasons, cause and outcomes are quite interesting:

  • Length of text. We know that longer articles seem to be better read in print. One of the reasons is the motivation we have to flip back and forth between pages, paragraphs and ideas. Research on memory tells us that we learn by connecting new information to previous knowledge. While electronic books can have bookmarks and search facilities, in truth it is much easier to flip manually.
  • Reading speed. Research tells us that students read more quickly on a screen than when reading a physical book. Our concern with speed is that comprehension is sometimes reduced by fast reading. Taking notes and pausing to reflect or discuss different content increases comprehension and retention.
  • An obvious distraction with electronic reading can be notifications. It is very easy to click on an email or a social media notification. We recommend turning off these distractions if your reader has several functions.

So what does this mean for us? How best should we harness the pros and cons so that learning is accelerated?

As adults and as professional educators, we should not just give in to modern trends without analysing the facts and making informed decisions. It is clear that both mediums have a place.

For those who like books, we know there is some nostalgia and comfort in books. There is a preference to ‘own something’ (rather) than just use it.

In my mind the benefits of reading, researching and analysing non-fiction text makes sense in a paper form. It is not just a recreational task. There is a formal purpose to this process and we need to make genuine connections between ideas and topics. This active reading process seems much more convenient in this format.

Personally I enjoy reading news and feature articles in electronic forms.  I most often read novels on an e-reader. I find fiction or light news matches the medium very well as my reading process is much more informal and less interrogative.

With an electronic reader, we can change the font size, adjust colour and background. They are cheaper, environmentally friendly and even have speaking/audio functions. Teenagers are attracted to them because they more closely match the devices they like to spend time on.Clearly electronic readers have many advantages that traditional books cannot replicate. The fact that young people are drawn to this medium tells us that we need to embrace the change, with some parameters and guidelines established.

So in summary, we need to embrace both. There is a time and place for both formats and we need to make informed decisions about what we use and when we use it.

Greg Parry

Greg Parry – Executive Principal and CEO

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines. | | @KingsgateInternationalSchool