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Retain more with print
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Retain more with print

Retain more with print

“In a study run over two years during which she collected data from 429 university students, N. Baron gathered that print gave the students a sense of where they were in the book – they could “see” and “feel” where they were in the text.”

I grew up with books – lots of them. All my kids too. Bedtime stories were part of the everyday routine. I am not reading any printed material anymore. I scan screens in overdrive to catch the most important info and news – probably spending 80% of my screen time ignoring what I see on the screen. It might be due to information overload – but I’ll leave that for another day.

How well do I (and my school and varsity kids) learn or remember facts from screens compared to printed material? Over the last 5 months, even my Grade 1 daughter learned to learn online. She can already “cut+paste”, which is probably the greatest advantage of online learning. Completing an assignment is much easier than in the old days. You just search and find all the related facts (or whatever looks like a fact) and rearrange it in a logical structure in a new document – and the job is halfway done.

But what about really learning and remembering facts? Is it important? Why remember anything if you can Google the answer in 5 seconds? Why develop a sense of direction in any neighbourhood if you can simply follow instructions from the voice telling you where to turn. Autodrive cars would anyway soon do the driving for you. That is if you need to drive anywhere, because all human engagement can be done online and everything you need would be delivered to your cocoon.

What will happen to your sense of place or space. We are much closer to living in a virtual/online reality than we think. How many years before we realise and/or decide that we don’t need a body to live. Ok. I am digressing way too far – although learning online/onscreen vs from printed material falls in the same sphere.

My 10-year-old remembers information (facts or fiction) better when he reads it on paper. Like me, he can even recall where “on the left-hand side page” in a book he read something. Is this because mental maps are created when reading printed text?

In a study run over two years during which she collected data from 429 university students, N. Baron gathered that print gave the students a sense of where they were in the book – they could “see” and “feel” where they were in the text. Print was judged to be easier on the eyes and less likely to encourage multitasking that is a distracting temptation resulting from the numerous hyperlinks present in digital text. The nonlinearity of digital media as well as the ease with which its readers can move quickly and repeatedly among several electronic elements leads to a reading experience characterised by “online multitasking and lack of cognitive focus”. When asked on which medium they felt they concentrated best, 92% replied “print.” For long academic readings, 86% favoured print. Participants also reported being more likely to reread academic materials if they were in print.

Maybe the next generation (my kids’ kids) would still be required to learn and remember information. Maybe they will develop a way to do it on screens without the disadvantages. For now, let us not do away with printed textbooks. Let’s do it economically (legally print-on-demand only the parts of textbooks which are required) – like the African Sun Media solution of enhanced course material.

Let’s read on paper – it is still the smartest way to learn.

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