Screens Hurt Reading Comprehension

When my kids were in elementary school, there were parents who were insistent that their kids needed to be doing nearly everything on computers. Technology for technology’s sake. I would ask what they wanted their kids to be doing on those computers. What was their desired outcome? It didn’t matter. Technology, technology, technology. Well….because….you know…the 21 century….and technology.

Learning from a screen isn’t inherently good or bad, but if anyone is feeding you the line that everything on a screen is better because….well…. it’s the college and career ready thing to do, take a step back. In time, that is.

A blog by Benjamin Herold in Education Week reviewed a new study that finds “reading from screens harms comprehension.”

Herold writes, “’Reading from screens had a negative effect on reading performance relative to paper,’ according to [Professor Virginia] Clinton’s study, titled ‘Reading From Paper Compared to Screens: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,’ published this year in the Journal of Research in Reading.”

Researchers reviewed “nearly three dozen research studies published over the past decade” and found that reading from paper benefited reading performance, and “readers using paper saw better performance without having to expend more time or effort.” Performance and efficiency are superior when reading from paper rather than reading on screens.

The study focused on “both literal and inferential comprehension,” or the ability for participants to understand what they just read and make “connections based on the text.” The research showed that comprehension when reading from paper was significantly better than when reading from screens.

The research supported another study that showed Massachusetts students scoring lower on state standardized exams when they used computers.

Technology can be a wonderful tool, but for kids in school, it appears that academic reading is best done the old-fashioned way. On paper.

Categories: Editor’s Blog