Renewed concerns about students who use tablets for reading have surfaced as experts now fear the “bells and whistles” approach to enhanced ebooks are actually stunting student comprehension. At last week’s American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, researchers Heather Ruetschlin Schugar and Jordan T. Schugar presented their findings from a study that pitted middle school students with print and digital books. The results of the subsequent testing showed a higher level of comprehension when the students read print books.
The books, created with iBooks author software, may have contained too many features like hyperlinks, images, and embedded video, leading the students to try to garner enough information about the story from the extras rather than interacting with the actual text. Other features often found in children’s ebooks include games, tactile interactions like the ability to manipulate the background, and even audio sounds that play while the student reads.
Other researchers have already concluded that some students actually comprehend better when multimedia enhancements are offered alongside the text. A study reported on last week from Booktrack demonstrated that adults and older students retain more of what they read when music that fits the story plays in the background. Also, sound effects that coincide with troublesome or unfamiliar vocabulary can help language learners, such as a car horn beeping as the new word “honked” is introduced.
What researchers are now starting to notice is that there is no one-size-fits-all method for reading fluency and comprehension. Students learn in different ways, a fact that has been known among educators for decades. Features that enhance learning for one student can easily hinder it for another, so curricular decisions and opportunities need to be made available in a wide variety of formats.