Current Issues

Teaching students to read well in the digital environment

There is no question about it. Reading texts in a digital format is commonplace today, including in our schools.  Neither is their much doubt about how convenient digital texts can be, nor that most of our students prefer them over print versions.

A recent article by Tim Walker in neaToday presents an interview with researcher Dr. Patricia Alexander that asks the question we should be asking: “Does digital reading improve student learning?” Dr Alexander’s research suggests that it does not.  In fact, she concludes that students read faster and comprehend less when using a digital compared to a print text.

Does this mean that teachers should abandon digital texts and return to using only print texts?  This would seem like an over-reaction, excluding us from all the access and convenience that the digital world has brought to us. Dr Alexander recommends teaching students to slow down while they are reading digitally to make sure they are processing the words on the screen.

How do you, or could you, do this in your classroom? Have you tried any strategies for increasing student focus and comprehension when reading digital texts? Please share in the comments below so that we may all benefit from your ideas and experience as we try to make the wisest use of the technology God has gifted our generation with.

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  • PaulPaul

    Author Reply

    Reading digital text is definitely a requirement these days! I’ve found that I remember much better what I read if I respond to it in writing. Sometimes this takes the form of a return email that summarizes what someone is telling me and then providing helpful and reflective feedback from my perspective. Sometimes this could be a personal note to myself or a reminder of a task or of a person I should talk to as a result of what I’ve read. Sometimes this is a comment back to the author of the article or the blog post.

    Reflective writing is a skill that is also being lost right alongside the skill of reading comprehension. It really takes work for anyone to develop these skills as well as the skill of processing, critical thinking and reflection. We should be modeling these behaviors for them as well as teaching them how to do it well in our classroom instruction. Do you ask your students to practice reflective writing after reading a passage from a text book? Are there other ways that you ask them to respond to what they have read other than recalling the information in an exam setting, a research paper or a book report?

  • This is a very important point Paul. I use reflective writing a lot in my Bible classes, but my students do not seem to be familiar or comfortable with it. I am still working out how to teach them to do this so that it becomes a habit for them. It would be great to hear any ideas people have about teaching and modeling this for students.