Print vs. Digital Learning

    Posted by Sarah Rutzler on November 21, 2017

    As technology continues to grow and kids prefer reading off screens than books, it is our job to simply remind children how important the print world is for academic and learning development.There has been a never-ending battle between reading print based text and digital based text. Technology has been advancing its way not only into homes, but into the education world. Schools and colleges have implemented various different teaching software programs such as Google classroom, Blackboard, and Cengage to help teachers bring their classrooms online and provide their students with easier and accessible customized programs.

    Tom Vander Ark, an investor in education technology and partner in Getting Smart, says that educational software programs are just starting. "It's taken time to really develop new learning models that take advantage of platforms. But I think what you'll see in the next couple of years is that most schools become part of a platform network. A network that has a common learning model and a shared learning platform and professional learning experiences.”

    In 2013, a UK survey was conducted by the National Literacy Trust that had 34,910 students ages 8 to 16. In the survey, over 52% preferred to read digital compared to 32% of students who preferred print. This is said to be because the kids who preferred digital were more likely exposed to technology. Besides this, according to John Douglas, the National Literacy Trust Director, “those who read only on-screen are also three times less likely to enjoy reading. Those who read using technological devices said they really enjoyed reading less (12 percent) compared to those who preferred books (51 percent).”

    With technology advancing in every way and children preferring to use one over the other, one can wonder if e-readers and online textbooks are better than print. In a study published online in March 2016 in The Journal of Experimental Education , 90 undergraduate students read both print and digital versions of newspaper articles and book excerpts. Before the study, students were asked to state their medium preference (which version they preferred.) Students were given two passages and then asked to complete the following questions: describe the main idea of the texts, list the key points, and describe any other important information from the reading that they could recall. After this, students were asked which medium they understood the best. The results showed that students preferred digital texts vs. print and they predicted better comprehension with digital as well.

    According to the results, “performance was not consistent with students' preferences and outcome predictions. While there were no differences across mediums when students identified the main idea of the text, students recalled key points linked to the main idea and other relevant information better when engaged with print. No differences in reading outcomes or calibration were found for newspaper or book excerpts.”

    According to The Conversation’s article post on the studies findings, print and digital content varied in the students.

    1. Students preferred to read digitally

    2. Students read faster digitally than in print

    3. Students said their comprehension was better online than in print

    4. Overall, students comprehension was better in print than digital (they thought wrong!)

    5. Comprehension was better with printed texts when it came to specific questions

    Overall, technology is continuously growing and it is tough to put a stop to it for many reasons.

    1. Children are being introduced to electronic devices at early ages and are adapting to how to use them.

    2. Students are being taught how to use digital programs and devices in schools. This makes them more susceptible to those devices.

    3. Children are being given cellphones, which lead to online reading and then becomes a preferred tool over reading a magazine, book, or newspaper.

    While the battle continues between print vs. digital, we have to remember where it all started: print based texts. As technology continues to grow and kids prefer reading off screens than books, it is our job to simply remind children how important the print world is for academic and learning development.


    Alexander, Patricia A., and Lauren M. Singer. "The Enduring Power of Print for Learning in a Digital World." The Conversation: In-depth Analysis, Research, News and Ideas from Leading Academics and Researchers. The Conversation, 03 Oct. 2017. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

    Alexander, Patricia A., and Lauren M. Singer. "Reading Across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration." The Journal of Experimental Education 85.1 (2016): 155-72. Web. 23 Oct. 2017.

    Boorstin, Julia. "A Lesson Plan from Tech Giants on How to Transform Education." CNBC .


    CNBC, 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 31 Oct. 2017.

    Niccoli, Anne. "Paper or Tablet? Reading Recall and Comprehension." Home. 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2017.


    Topics: Child Technology, Digital Learning, Print vs Digital, Technological Advances, Importance of Print

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