Volume 10 No 2 Spring 2014
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Digital Reading vs Print Reading: Emerging Research

Schools have experienced a huge influx of digital learning tools in recent years, with nearly one in three public and private school students in the US now using a school-issued mobile computing device, such as a laptop or digital tablet. Over the same time period, all but a handful of states have adopted common academic standards that call upon students to master increasingly complex texts.

The convergence of those trends has helped spark renewed interest in decades of study of the merits of reading on a screen versus in print. Researchers now say that while many digital texts do a good job of motivating and engaging young people, such texts also pose a number of problems. The articles below explore this issue and suggest a possible solution.

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

Research suggests that reading on paper still boasts unique advantages. This Scientific American article explains how the brain interprets written language and asks an important question: How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?

Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts. In general, screens are also more cognitively and physically taxing than paper.

Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper's greatest strength may be its simplicity.
Read article

Researchers Voice Concern Over E-Books' Effect on Reading Comprehension

A research team from West Chester University presented two studies as part of the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.

The first study found that a small sample of students comprehended traditional books at "a much higher level" than they comprehended the same material when read on an iPad, said Heather Schugar, an assistant education professor at the university. T
he second study found that while students in 18 classrooms were "highly motivated by their interactions" with interactive e-books created using Apple's iBooks Author software, they "often skipped over text, where the meat of the information was."
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Digital Reading Poses Learning Challenges for Students
There is a need to minimize the distracting bells and whistles that abound in high-tech instructional materials.

The tension between digital reading's tendency to foster increased engagement, but discourage deeper comprehension is presenting a massive new challenge for schools, said Andrew Dillon, the dean of the school of information at the University of Texas at Austin. "There's been this huge push from tech companies to get their stuff into classrooms, but that's purely a commercial venture," he said. "There are real consequences for the types of serious reading people can do in those [digital] environments."

As a result, some observers fear that mobile devices, especially digital tablets as they are now being used in the classroom, are not supporting the kinds of extended, rich interactions with text called for in the Common Core State Standards."People think of technology as the solution, but it's often the cause of the problem," Mr. Dillon said. "It's not the end of reading, but it is the diminution or simplification of reading."
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Tackling the Limits of Touch Screens

Touch screens' flat glass surfaces can hinder close reading and accurate typing. People flipping through electronic pages often retain less of what they read than on printed ones. And typing on a flat surface with no physical keys to guide the fingers requires heightened visual attention to avoid typos, draining concentration from the thoughts being expressed.
Companies are trying to address these problems with new tools adapted from the analog world of three-dimensional typewriter keys, tactile paper pages, and pop quizzes on the blackboard.

Another problem with touch screens’ transitory images is that they don’t help students create a mental map of what they’ve read and what’s to come. To help with this problem, Sangtae Kim, Jaejeung Kim and Soobin Lee of the Institute for Information Technology Convergence at Kaist, a South Korean university, have built a prototype for a touch-screen interface that lets students flip through e-book pages as they would though a paper book. On the left side, students can see all the pages they’ve read; on the right are the pages that remain. Students can hold a page in view while scanning the contents and cross-referencing distant pages.
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Sixty Years After Brown, Latino Students Are Most Segregated, Report Says

Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, are now the most segregated students in public schools, a trend that is especially prominent in large suburban communities that have undergone dramatic demographic change, a new report from civil rights researchers concludes

The report also emphasizes that segregation in public schools now strongly reflects not only racial and ethnic separation, but isolation by family income.
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The Future of Children is a collaboration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. The mission of the Future of Children is to translate the best social science research about children and youth into information that is useful to policymakers, practitioners, grant-makers, advocates, the media, and students of public policy.

The latest volume is entitled Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms and it considers the continuing problem that, despite decades of efforts to give them a leg up through preschool and other early-childhood initiatives, children from poor families still show up for kindergarten far behind children from wealthier families, and they fall further behind during the school years. Many people think that “two-generation” programs, which serve parents and children simultaneously with high-quality interventions, can be more effective (and perhaps more efficient) than programs that serve them individually.

This issue assesses past and current two-generation programs. But it goes much further than that. The editors identified six widely acknowledged mechanisms or pathways through which parents, and the home environment they create, are thought to influence children’s development: stress, education, health, income, employment, and assets.
Future of Children Website

The primary objectives of the Center for Applied Linguistics are to improve the teaching of English as a second or foreign language, to promote the teaching of the less commonly taught languages, and to conduct research that will enhance the educational process.


The CAL website provides a series of "CALdigests," free short reports that synthesize current research andhighlight topics of interest covering a variety of subjects. One of the newest digests looks at using singable books as a simple, cost-effective way to combine the benefits of reading children’s literature aloud and singing. Singable books, picture books that use a song as the text, are inherently interactive and appealing to children. The digest includes a list of recommended books and activities for students in grades pre-K - 12.
Read digest

Founded in 2001, the Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Its mission is to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the entire nation. The Center does not advocate for or take positions on policy issues. It is a project of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" in Washington, DC, that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The Pew Hispanic Center recently published “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and their Views of Identity.” The report was based on a new nationwide survey that found most Hispanics don’t embrace the term “Hispanic.” And even fewer prefer the term “Latino.”
Read report
Pew Hispanic Center Website
Pew Hispanic Center Facebook page

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States. It is the Center's mission to expand the base of public knowledge and understanding of the need for an immigration policy that gives first concern to the broad national interest. The Center is animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.




An online refereed journal that seeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators, Language Learning & Technology focuses on language learning first and considers technology a tool to be used wisely and effectively.

The CMMR is an organized research unit at the University of Southern California, facilitating the research collaboration, dissemination and professional development activities of faculty, students, and others across the School of Education, university community and outside organizations.

The CMMR web site provides dozens of links to current research on topics of interest to ESL educators.