If this is how you grew up reading, what would your preference be? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Earlier this week the The Washington Post ran a story titled Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.Every time I see one of these stories it makes me think a bit about why this is the case. It actually amazes me that people are so surprised that "Digital Natives" prefer real books to e-books. The fact of the matter is the in the case of this article, we are talking about college students who have spent more than a decade completing their reading in real books and having educators assign work from real books. Just because they now have access to e-textbooks and/or e-books does not mean that they will choose to abandon the workflow they have used for their entire educational career. Why are we surprised by this?
In Burlington for instance, we handed out iPads four years ago and our current seniors have had iPads for their entire high school careers. Yet, we have not seen a seismic shift in the amount of reading that has moved away from traditional books. Again, is this a shock? Given that these students had done almost all of their reading through eighth grade in a traditional format, I think not. Do I think that our elementary students will feel the same way? No, I think we will start to see more of a split in the choice by students in regards to a preference of reading online vs. reading traditional books.
The Only Way To Get Students Comfortable With E-Reading
The major problem in regards to seeing some of the unique aspects of reading online is to have students guided through the process and shown some of the things a reader can do digitally that they cannot do with a traditional book. Unfortunately, this is still something that many educators are uncomfortable with or unwilling to try. 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. In fact, we have had a pilot in our middle school this year using LightSail (opens in new tab) that has shown some indications of success. (I'll write more about this later).
The point here is that we need to give students access to all of the tools and resources that can help them engage with whatever they are reading and then let them choose what works best for them. The key part of whether students choose to read traditionally or online is choose to read. We need to encourage reading and discussion about reading with our students and help them on a pathway that will help them enjoy this lifelong journey. The only mistake in this whole conversation is to micromanage the decision.
Embrace the Struggle
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.