Does Reading on Computer Screens Affect Student Learning

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Naomi S. Baron is a woman who walked past her campus bookstore and noticed a sign advertising digital-textbook rentals, and started to worry. She is a professor of linguistics at American University and author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. She studies the relationship between technology and language. She believes that students will have a mentality of “I’m studying for a test, and this piece of text is not going to become a part of who I am” when they are reading on a computer or tablet screen. It’s only a matter of convenience and students won’t absorb every word comparatively to a traditional physical text book.

She is not the only professor that is worried about the effects of reading on screens. Other professors such as Michelle Blake, whom is a professor of English at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, noticed her students’ eyes seemed to glide over obvious errors in their papers while reading aloud. She wonders how much of this is an effect of the web and its hindrance of s students’ ability to engage with texts.

A few studies have found that there is little difference between the retention when a student reads on a screen versus in print. However, from the Norway’s University of Stavanger, they did a study that did suggest that high-school students remember less when they read a text digitally. Some evidence exists that when students multitask, their comprehension dips.

What’s even more astonishing is the fact that Ms. Baron had done research that shows that students prefer reading from print (ninety-two percent answered print). From this sample of 429 college students, she believes that her hunch that students have trouble switching into academic-reading mode when the text is on the screen.

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