It seems like everything is about technology these days. Most things we do throughout the day have a tech option and sometimes it doesn’t even seem like an option – using tech is just what we do.
When it comes to learning and our ability to assimilate written information, digital text may seem like the obvious winner. It’s portable, accessible, less expensive (assuming you have a device), and just down right handy. However, when considering that many people’s comprehension levels vary based on authentically interacting with a text, does digital really stand up to print?
The answer really depends on how interactive is the digital text? When addressing what books to order or why digital may be a better fit for a particular assignment, teachers must continually ask themselves “what is the purpose of the reading I am asking students to respond to comprehend?”
The one measure that is extremely important for writing skills is proofing and research does show that when students read aloud and respond to written text they catch proofing errors more readily and can increase their writing abilities. So, printing out a hard copy and proofing it before just hitting send, can make a big difference.
According to Leelanau School English teacher, Tanya Firestone, “Slowing the process is important in both reading and writing, since so much of reading and writing skills form around the act of deliberation. Being deliberate- concise takes time to process.”
However, we need to be realists and understand that teaching and learning are not about just one assignment, one book , or one class. Teachers are preparing students for college and for life after college.
Becca Dymond, Director of the Leelanau School Learning Commons, put it this way: “It’s not really about which is better: print or digital. We need to prepare our students to be literate readers of both print and digital texts in college. The digital text necessitates our attention paid to another important literacy skill. Like so many other student skills, many [students] have not received explicit support and practice for their digital literacy skills. Just like we can’t assume they know how to read a textbook, we can’t assume [students] know how to navigate a digital text.”
The takeaway is that students need the skills to use both digital and print texts, but they also need the self-awareness about when one might be more effective for them to use over the other. If they can gain the dexterity to utilize both types, while also recognizing when one form will better lead to their success, than education has truly been attained.