For many of us who love to read, and for those who have researched the subject, one thing has become clear over the past decade: you retain more information when you read a printed copy of a book. than when you read on a digital device.

This is why we are urging administrators not only in schools in Ohio County, but across our region to proceed with caution by moving away from printed textbooks for students in certain subjects and using instead “Electronic manuals” which can be read on a computer.

In Ohio County, school officials said the switch earlier this month to digital textbooks for language arts students in Grades 6-12 was in part a way to save money. money and help pay for the Chromebooks students are currently using. Ultimately, however, research on the topic indicates that it could lead to young people who, while they can understand the main points of what they read on their devices, will not go into the most details. purposes and more complex of the text.

Why is that? According to several studies, this is because we are used to using our digital devices to hover over items, and to multitask at the same time. When something is printed, we tend to slow down and consume the text.

A particular study by Lauren Singer and Patricia Alexander of the University of Maryland found these key points about digital understanding versus print:

– “Students overwhelmingly preferred to read digitally.

– “Reading was much faster online than on paper.

– “The pupils judged their comprehension better on line than on paper.

– “Paradoxically, overall comprehension was better for printed reading than for digital reading.

– “The medium was not important for general questions (like understanding the main idea of ​​the text).

“But when it came to specific questions, understanding was much better when participants read printed texts. “

Learning is not just about getting the “main idea” of a particular subject; it’s about understanding the intricate details of the text. And the subject matter that these electronic textbooks will cover – contemporary literature, short stories, poetry and literature – the significance of these works is contained in the intricacies of the text, in many cases with the way certain sentences are written. If students don’t understand this now, how will it serve them in the future?

To be fair, electronic textbooks purchased by Ohio County are considered by professional educators to be the best option available: they allow students to highlight text, and other tools are available to help students understand the subject.

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s this: More screen time for kids isn’t a good thing. We urge education officials in our region to keep this in mind as we move forward.

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