A Rant On Reading Online vs. Reading Paper

A Rant On Reading Online vs. Reading Paper

ebook-vs-libros (Photo credit: melenita2012)
About a week back the Washington Post ran an article titled "Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say." Immediately, I saw a number of tweets from people touting the article as a groundbreaking piece of research. (I'll provide my own hyperbole alert since this is online and the research says readers may just skim over this).

Anyway, just a close reading of the title would have tipped folks off that this article was nothing significant. The keywords of course being "researchers say" in the headline which is a far cry from "researchers prove." As I scanned and skimmed the article numerous times other phrases popped out at me, phrases like the following:

"I worry.."

"comprehension seems better...with paper"

"Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly..."

Why is it that as we seek the best way to accomplish a task, we cling to the false belief that we are going to find one right answer? Personally, I love reading online and the fact that I can click on hyperlinks, bookmark key points/articles, and interact with others interested in the same topic/novel. Am I distracted or adding a level of interaction to this task that was not possible for previous generations of readers?

Of course, the answer here is that sometimes I am distracted and less productive and other times I am able to utilize the online resources in a way that adds greater depth to my experience. My main problem with the alarmists who would prefer that all students read paperbound texts is that they deny these students opportunities to experience the power of Interactive reading, as well as the chance to find their own individual sense of balance in this area. We need to embrace the struggle that is part of this and have meaningful conversations to guide our own learning and the learning of our children.

Denying these opportunities benefits no one!

cross-posted at www.patrickmlarkin.com

Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning of Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA and the former principal of Burlington High. He blogs about education at www.patrickmlarkin.com.