Print Versus Digital Materials: What the Research Says

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If your district is gearing up for an adoption this year, part of your selection calculation likely will be whether to purchase print or digital/online materials.  An article in the Hechinger Report  titled, “A Textbook Dilemma: Digital or Paper?” may be useful.

The article discusses Patricia Alexander’s review of research on this topic. Ms. Alexander is an educational psychologist and a literacy scholar at the University of Maryland. Despite numerous (878) potentially relevant studies on the topic, Ms. Alexander pointed out that “only 36 [studies] directly compared reading in digital and in print and measured learning in a reliable way.” Despite the need for further research on this topic, Ms. Alexander found that numerous studies affirm the finding that: “if you are reading something lengthy – more than 500 words or more than a page of the book or screen – your comprehension will likely take a hit if you’re using a digital device.” This pertained to college students as well as students in elementary, middle, and high school.    

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