Effects of Technologies to our Reading Behavior
It is unquestionable that technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Both old and new generation has no choice but to be conventional to its requirements. The Internet has transformed the way we used to carry out certain activities, and this has been experienced in learning institutions, as they continued embracing e-books as opposed to printed copies. Although the research on accessing e-books on computers is uncertain, many students are struggling with comprehension while reading Internet-based manuscript on computers. Technologies have profound effects on individuals’ learning, social development, as well as behaviors. Since some people claimed that technology has caused problems in reading behaviors, the only way we can maximize their positive impact and reduce negative impact would be to endeavor to gain the correct understanding of their role in our lives.
Background of Digital Technology
The availability of e-books, as well as other online texts, in both public and private learning institutions has nowadays become unlimited compared to their availability in the last few years. According to an explanation by Vassiliou and Rowley (2008), an e-book can be defined as “a digital object with textual and/or other content, which arises as a result of integrating the familiar concept of a book with features that can be provided in an electronic environment” (Martin and Quan-Haase 1016). Many schools, especially in the US, have already adopted the use of digital technology and have installed learning software and other tools to facilitate the e-learning. According to Herold, nearly a third of all students, in both public and private schools, have an access to a school-issued mobile computing appliance to facilitate online reading (44).
The sales of digital books have already surpassed the sales of printed books. For the first time, the sales of digital books in Amazon.com for the month of May 2011 exceeded the sales of print books during the same period (Larson 280). Schools are considering both physical and emotional benefits of turning to digital technology, as the number of students continue to flock in the libraries. This is because digital texts have the capacity to increase the reading skills of students, as students are able to read more fluently through manipulating read-text features. Purposeful reading is essential in online studies due to its open and interactive nature while utilizing hypertext, as it enables students to have more control that they used to have in traditional method of reading (Zhang 141).
Many authors have allowed their old books to be digitized while new books are being released to the readers in form of digital copies. This is due to the growing reputation of digitally formatted books and the consumption of digital content through mobile tools (Hyman, Moser, and Segala 36). This has made many people ask whether printed books are obsolete in the contemporary world, or whether technology is making access of books easier. Even though there has been a rapid shift to e-books and electronic documentations, the market is still dictated by the production, costs, and revenue earned from the distribution of desired goods (Lamb and Johnson 58). Moreover, numerous scholars are reluctant to embrace the new technologies, and prefer to read books in printed format, which means printed books cannot be declared obsolete.
However, tension has continued to grow in schools on digital technology’s tendency to promote high engagement while, at the same time, discouraging deeper comprehension among students. E-book industry tends to be more concerned on how to transform printed text into digital resources, rather than concentrating on how to utilize the new technology to enhance learning. Turning to digital technology requires proper understanding of how reading would be made efficient using e-books as opposed to printed text. It is quite hard for a student to read an e-book from the first page to the last without skipping some pages. Some studies have demonstrated that reading continuous text enables the reader to finish the text faster, gain better understanding, and can recall the text than reading a text that have numerous hyperlinks and ads.
To benefit exhaustively from digital technology, educators should endeavor to introduce new means of teaching, rather than using old methods of teaching reading and expect students to produce the same results. This can be achieved through integrating fluency lessons by using digital texts, which include listening to read-alouds, as well as performing Readers Theater, which can reinforce students’ accuracy and speech skills (Thoermer and Williams 445). Readers Theater enables students to take a role in a given script, and perform that role before an audience.
Advantages of Using Digital Technologies
Many people have no doubt that digital technology has transformed learning in both lower and higher institutions, in addition to saving on space. A space that used to place bookshelves can now accommodate several students using desktop computers or laptops. Accessing e-books through desktops, laptops, or any other digital platform enables individuals to manipulate font size, note-taking features, as well as dictionary usage, thus, motivating individuals to learn efficiently (Thoermer and Williams 442). Digital texts that are accessed through computers, iPad, or Android Tablets, can motivate students who have the desire to read, as it incorporates fluency lessons, which students can utilize to enhance their reading skills.
Online reading has the capacity to make learning more efficient through organized delivery of content. It enhances interactivity; ability to search content using hyperlinks; ability to embed multimedia while reading content; as well as enabling readers to obtain necessary background information to support the text (Hooper and Herath 52). Online reading offers more flexibility than print text, which is essential in the promotion of literacy and learning among students, as well as adults. This makes reading more enjoyable, as the reader can access same information in more than one way. Although it is extremely tiring to read an e-book from page to page, it is quite easy to search some words from an e-book than from a printed copy.
Studies have demonstrated that e-books are quite effective in emergent literacy. According to Huang et al., students’ emergent literacy, which included vocabulary, word identification, as well as phonological understanding, was found to be improving after reading with e-books (705). This is because children’s e-books incorporate animated pictures, accompanied by sound effects, which make children to comprehend such readings with ease.
Accessing books online has been termed as an effective method of distribution. Publishers do not necessarily have to transport their books to various destinations, as all they have to do is to make copies of the books available online. E-books are becoming relatively cheap compared to printed books due to cut in production and distribution costs. It is quite easy to by a book online, as what one has to do is to make payment through electronic payment. After payment, the distributor sends the link for the e-book through email, and the customer can automatically download the book through his/her computer. This process takes only a few minutes, and the customer can start reading e-book. By decreasing the cost of accessing books, the demand for the books rises, and this has enabled publishers and authors to earn more revenue from online sales.
For those people who love to read, digital technology has been of great help to them because they can now carry as much book as they can in the CDs, memory cards, laptops, notebooks, and e-book readers. Portable e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Noble Nook, have enabled students to access e-books with ease (Foasberg 108). Students’ reading behavior is deemed to change, as they can access digital books and articles anywhere, as long as they have the tools to read digital texts. On can read while eating, or doing other things, and it is quite easy to carry laptops or Tablets while on a trip, to access e-books and other electronic documents. Thus, students have no excuse of failing examinations for not attending some lessons.
Other than books, newspapers and magazines are extremely useful in passing of knowledge to students. They enhance reading behaviors, in addition to feeding students with real life situations. When it comes to using newspaper articles in the classroom, it becomes difficult to provide every student with one. In addition, more time is required to make preparations to teach using them. Online newspapers and magazines enable students to learn about the world and to enhance their language skills (Thomas 84). With digital technology, teachers can access newspapers and magazine to be used in learning environment, in addition to encouraging further reading.
Disadvantages of Digital Technologies in Learning
Reading on the screen, rather than print copy, encourages skimming behavior, as we tend to scroll down the page, read more quickly without comprehending the text. Online study is the compounded way of dealing with a burden of information. Lazy students can claim to have gone through a given text just by scanning through it in the last minutes. We tend to read in a haste to compensate the lost time, but never stopping to contemplate on what the author is trying to explain. Reading books online does not encourage deep understanding, and is detrimental to our reading patterns (Hooper and Herath 53). New strategies are required to enhance reading and comprehension.
There is a concern that screen reading is affecting the eyes, as more energy is required to stick one’s eyes on the screen that reading a printed text. This is particularly to longer text texts that require total concentration. I think it is quite difficult for me, and many other students to read a 500-page novel on a screen without complaining of weariness of the eyes, yet I can do this on a printed copy. To avoid tiring the eyes, individuals tend to skim through the texts to look for specific information, and end up making their own inferences while abandoning the main strategy for boost comprehension (Herold 45). In addition, hyperlinks usually divert readers’ attention to a given text, thus, affecting his/her readability. This has prompted some readers to print some online texts for easier comprehension.
Our reading behavior has been transformed by digital technology, as we can no longer concentrate on undertaking a single task at a time. A large number of individuals find themselves spending most of their time on computers that are connected to the Internet. They end up in “WILFing”, or “What Was I Looking For?” situation where one engage in online reading for a specific purpose but ends up doing other things that one had not intended to do (Maushart 209). Too many links in an online page divert individuals’ attention, making them forget what they had initially wanted to search. It is quite easy to turn to social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Skype, while still working on an important task online. This is why some people claim that Google has made us stupid because we are all the time searching irrelevant materials while Google owners are benefiting at our expense.
While many people believe that digital technology is beneficial in education, most of these people do not accommodate the issue of costs. In developing countries, e-book reading appliances are undoubtedly more costly compared to printed text. Besides, most of developing countries require adequate connection to power to enhance online study. Lack of power makes learning inaccessible to areas with no power connectivity. In addition, some e-book formats are connected to certain devices, hence, making it difficult to access some books when such devices are declared outdated (Chan et al. 50). Lack of funds to update software products may become a challenge to developing countries, thus, adopting digital technology could remain a mirage.
Historians are too reluctant to accept digital technology in full, as it would interfere with their research. The use of written texts as primary sources while books and journals forming the secondary sources would mean that history would be greatly affected by an entire move to digital technology (Martin and Quan-Haase 1017). A study to ascertain how the undergraduate students make use of e-books, as compared to printed texts, revealed that many students lacked knowledge of using e-books, thus, preferring to undertake their research using printed materials instead of e-books.
Online resources lack evaluation skills, particularly when undertaking scientific research. This makes it hard to promote science learning online because students would not bother to evaluate their source of information. Students have a tendency of going through several website resources without taking time to read the contents. Teachers are normally concerned with teaching students on search skills, but forget to demonstrate to students on critical evaluation of contents and reading skills (Zhang 139). Studies have shown that we are reading more than we used to read before the digital era, although in a different way of comprehension.
Recommendations to Enhance Efficient Learning
The world is being transformed by technology and no one is willing to be left behind. The most fundamental thing is to know what to read and the reason for reading. I still think it is easier to turn pages in a book than to open a page in the Internet. Many people have refused to believe that a day would come when printed books would be in extinct. Since both forms of learning have an effect on reading behavior, they should be conserved according to their benefits. Any effort to develop use of technology should involve both teachers and students to ensure smooth transition. Children are more likely to adapt to e-reading as they grow up than adults while older generations are likely to maintain their reading culture through printed texts. Defining digital technology is almost equated to defining individuals’ attention. E-books and other online materials are taking away people’s attention, and this should not be allowed to continue. There is a need to develop new methods of teaching while using digital materials to replace the old methods of teaching
Authors should realize that some people cannot afford computers or any other gadget for accessing e-books, thus, should not abandon the printing of books to embrace digital technology in full. It is upon individuals to know how they can utilize the digital platform to address issue that affecting them. Scientific research is normally carried efficiently through printed books due to the possibility of evaluation and deep reading. Thus, we cannot afford to interfere with scientific studies due to influx of digital technology. Technology is best suited in supplementing the normal teaching, rather than replacing it. It is quite rational to preserve what we perceive as our best resources as we search for new skills. Since we cannot afford to keep some people away from learning in order to concentrate on the new generation, digital books should be made accessible together with printed books.
Technology has contributed to changing our reading behaviors in a negative way and the only individuals can exploit its benefits and reduce negative impacts would be to understand effectively the role it plays in their lives. Electronic documents are adjustable, searchable, and can be enhanced to suit the students’ needs, thus, transforming their reading behavior. However, digital books and electronic materials have been blamed for distracting individuals’ mind, causing loss of memory. If students are left to learn on themselves using digital technology, their reading behavior may get worse than it was while using printed documents. Whether the benefits of digital technologies outweigh their costs, the most elementary things are the reasons for using the medium, in addition to the outcomes that individuals hope to attain.
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