There’s no doubt that the experience of reading online is different than reading in print, but does it affect comprehension? While several studies have found student comprehension and retention are lower on digital devices, could it be that students just need to learn the right tools to enhance their digital reading? Maria Konnikova explores the research and theories behind reading in her New Yorker column. She writes:
“Wolf is optimistic that we can learn to navigate online reading just as deeply as we once did print—if we go about it with the necessary thoughtfulness. In a new study, the introduction of an interactive annotation component helped improve comprehension and reading strategy use in a group of fifth graders. It turns out that they could read deeply. They just had to be taught how. Wolf is now working on digital apps to train students in the tools of deep reading, to use the digital world to teach the sorts of skills we tend to associate with quiet contemplation and physical volumes. ‘The same plasticity that allows us to form a reading circuit to begin with, and short-circuit the development of deep reading if we allow it, also allows us to learn how to duplicate deep reading in a new environment,’ she says. ‘We cannot go backwards. As children move more toward an immersion in digital media, we have to figure out ways to read deeply there.'”
Soon after Maryanne Wolf published ” Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand.