Tagged: research

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Recommended Reading: “Another Defensive Post About e-reading”

favicon E-readers are getting really bad press lately, thanks mainly to a small study coming out of Europe and today’s announcement that the Los Angeles Unified School District is suspending its iPad program.

The news tidbits may sour people’s interest in e-readers and cause teachers and schools not to invest in them to promote independent reading.

I hope not. Research is just beginning about the effects of e-readers vs. physical books on student reading comprehension and engagement. There is conflicting evidence, which I plan to investigate more in coming months.

The truth is, in my mind, the real problem with reading in schools isn’t e-readers. The problem is that there isn’t enough reading in general, and students don’t get to choose their books, and there isn’t very much access to high-interest books, and middle school and high school teachers don’t have training or experience in reading instruction.

I’m happy that Patrick Larkin may share a similar sentiment. An assistant superintendent in Burlington, MA, Mr. Larkin is leery of research findings that categorically denigrate e-readers. In “Another Defensive Post About e-Reading,” he makes clear that the recent European study has a sample size of just 50 people, which I wrote about in my own post. But Mr. Larkin goes one step further: Only 2 of the 50 students had previous experience using an e-reader. Maybe that’s why the students’ comprehension was inferior!

Please check out Mr. Larkin’s quick post and let me know what you think in the comments!

“Disclaimer: As an administrator in a district where we have provided iPads for all students, I always feel a bit defensive about articles and research studies that are quick to dismiss e-reading in lieu of traditional books. This is especially true when I am quoted in one of the articles.”

Source: http://j.mp/1lxqqrd (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Are physical books better than e-books?

Research on e-readers in schools (#2)

Kindle Deckfavicon My good friend Pete sent me this article last week, which summarizes a forthcoming study that suggests that students reading on Kindles comprehend less than those reading on paper.

This debate has been a fiery one ever since e-readers first emerged in 2007. I think it’s an important debate.

But I also think it’s important to look at what the latest study does and doesn’t say. New York Times reporter Stephen Heyman’s “Reading Literature on Screen: A Price for Convenience” does a good job getting down to details.

Some background:
+ The study involved 50 graduate students from Norway and Sweden,
+ The students read a 28-page short story,
+ The students read on a Kindle DX. (Do those still exist?)

Some findings:
+ Students reading on Kindles had similar emotional responses as students reading on paper,
+ There was no significant difference among the students on questions involving the short story’s setting, characters, and plot,
+ Students reading on Kindles did significantly worse reconstructing the order of major plot events. Students reading on paper did much better.

Based on this study, lead researcher Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger in Norway believes that there is something about the tactile experience of handling paper that helps the brain keep track of plot:

When you read on paper, you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.

Though her study included just 50 students, and those students were 20+ years old, Prof. Mangen might be right. It’s altogether possible that reading on paper is superior to reading on E Ink, especially when it comes down to high-level reading comprehension. By no means do I think that we should eradicate physical books in schools.

But I also think it’s crucial not to go crazy and call for the immediate destruction of all Kindles.

If you’re an English teacher, and you want students to do a close read of a challenging text, the Kindle is not for you.

On the other hand, if you’re an English teacher, and you want your students to read voluminously, and to like reading, and to choose their own books, and to build an independent reading program, and to help struggling readers find their place, I’m pretty certain that it doesn’t matter if you choose Kindles or physical books.

As I’ve emphasized many times, I’m not particularly interested in any debate that has an either-or answer. If the question is, Should students read on Kindles or on paper, I say, Both. favicon

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Research on e-readers in schools (#1)

research-paperfavicon Recently I rediscovered the excellent electronic databases at the San Francisco Public Library, which means I can get access to JSTOR and do other nerdy things.

(Not unrelated: I’m working on getting a library card from the Library at UC Berkeley. Can’t wait.)

Anyway, I got searching on JSTOR, and there are tons and tons of articles about e-readers and their effects in students, so I figured I should read some and tell you about them, because hey, the Kindle Classroom Project is working for a reason, right?

So here’s the first installment in a sometimes-series that I’m going to call “Research on E-Readers in Schools.”

E-Readers: Powering Up for Engagement
By Twyla Miranda, Kary A. Johnson and Dara Rossi-Williams
Educational Leadership, June 2012

The authors conducted a study of 199 middle school students in an urban public school in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. They found that students, especially boys, had more motivation to read during the school’s Sustained Silent Reading period if they had the opportunity to choose an e-reader in addition to physical books.

It’s not a surprise that the researchers noted that boys found e-readers exciting. I see the same thing, anecdotally, with my students. Latino boys in particular — especially those who are significantly below grade level — like reading on Kindles. It’s as if the Kindle gives them another chance to get excited about reading again.

The authors did not go into any specifics about whether e-readers helped improve students’ reading skills. My preliminary (but unscientific!) research suggests that it does. Kindlers in Oakland last year rose 1.9 grade levels, 73 percent more than their non-Kindler peers. This year, the effect is similar: Kindlers have grown 75 percent more.

(Naturally, I recognize my data’s limitations. There are many. But it’s clear that something special is happening with students who read on Kindles.)

Finally, the note many benefits to using e-readers to promote reading. All but one are very similar to those I’ve experienced. For example, students in the study reported that there is no gap between finishing one book and starting another. The e-reader allows different font sizes, and some students liked using text-to-speech. My students say the same thing.

The only difference is that the middle schoolers in Dallas-Fort Worth also liked highlighting and annotating their books. I haven’t seen my students do much of that, though they do like making their own collections. It might be a good idea to introduce my students to that feature (along with others) in our monthly Kindle meetings.

Next up, I’ll try to find some articles that have some hard research on whether Kindle help raise reading scores. Do you think it’s out there? favicon

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Bye, bye, books? Young people prefer screens.

favicon A study from the United Kingdom reports that young people aged 8 to 16 prefer reading text on screens rather than in print.

Does this mean that the book is dead?

And is the Kindle Classroom Project speeding up this process?

The National Literacy Trust surveyed more than 35,000 young people, and 52 percent said they liked reading on screens. Only 32 percent preferred paper, with the remainder having no opinion or stating they didn’t like to read at all. (I wonder what the results would be had the researchers asked American youth.)

The study didn’t investigate whether young people are reading more or less overall. Some say that the rise of Kindles and tablets has led to the demise of books, while others contend that e-readers offer teenagers a chance to reconnect with books.

That debate will no doubt continue, but for the 49 students who participate in the Kindle Classroom Project, the answer is a pretty easy one. On average, students in the program have read 13 books since January (one semester). Last school year (two semesters), before the project, they read an average of five books.

I don’t hope for the destruction of books. But something has changed in this generation. Screens are everywhere. It’s time that we meet young people where they are and invite them to read how they want to. favicon