Dr. Magryta: Are iPads and tablets good learning tools?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2016

This is a hotly debated topic that I continue to ponder. I truly believe that I retain more information when reading from print media because it allows me to annotate, underline and scribble on the page. I have no data to support this theory, only feelings. I always assumed that this was purely because that is how I was trained to learn, and my brain likes it.

In Scientific American Mind this month, Professor Willingham from the psychology department at the University of Virginia looked at the data. He noted that studies have shown that “kids typically understand less and take longer when they are reading from electronic textbooks as compared with print materials.”

The studies showed that children preferred to learn from books and paper reading sources even if they were good at using the digital devices. He noted that digital readers had more eye fatigue, which is an issue when reading lengthy passages.

From Naomi Baron’s research, she noted that “Among American and Japanese subjects, 92 percent reported it was easiest to concentrate when reading in hard copy. (The figure for Germany was 98 percent.)

“For the past five years, I’ve been examining the pros and cons of reading on-screen versus in print. The bottom line is that while digital devices may be fine for reading that we don’t intend to muse over or reread, text that requires what’s been called ‘deep reading’ is nearly always better done in print.”

Other big concerns are that many of the devices provided by schools have capabilities to instant message and switch between applications rapidly. This constant availability of distraction will inhibit some, if not most, children from optimal success in their reading task.

I think that it is asking a lot of a young mind to focus on a screen when a friend may be texting or a favorite game may be on a parallel site that is easily accessible. I find that I have trouble with the same — and I know better! That is truth.

As most schools, thankfully not those of my kids, roll out tablet programs to the masses, be aware of these traps for your kids.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

References: http://www.chronicle.com/article/How-E-Reading-Threatens/147661/

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