Notes on: Comprehension and Paper vs. Digital Reading

Some professors and critics of change denounce various e-readers as the enemy. 

In what I would deem a misguided, ill-informed move, some syllabi will “prohibit” students from reading books for said classes on a Kindle, iPad, or similar device. Discussions about the ableism of such policies are important, too. 

A syllabus might say or suggest that retention decreases without a traditional hard copy, for example. Some studies support such notions, but such research is also inherently biased against ereaders. Using an e-reader takes time and adjustment. It took me six or seven years before I was fully comfortable reading books on my iPad using the Kindle App. When studies of retention are done, the researchers assume (in some ways) that reading on paper is a level playing field with not reading on paper. When people participate in studies of comparative comprehension, of course they are going to recall printed material better if that is exclusively what they are accustomed to. It will be decades before any kind of thorough scientific comparison can be completed. 

All forms of reading take life-long practice and training.

And questions about reading comprehension, digitally or analog, are mute insomuch as all reading requires active reading, if retention is the goal.

When professors “prohibit” students from reading on their devices, they are making broad generalizations. Why should it matter how students read, if they are reading and learning? Additionally, such a prohibition is not enforceable; therefore, it simply serves as an exercise in authority, authority people increasingly find disrespectful and irrelevant.

We should focus our attention of increasing the number of readers, not attacking how people read. I saw an article earlier today that suggested 25 percent of adults in the U.S. did not even touch a book last year.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda