Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Kindle improves reading for boys?

This story from SMU Research suggests :-

Middle school boys rated reading more valuable as an activity after two months of using an e-reader, according to a new study.

The findings come from a study of 199 middle school students who struggle with reading and who participated in a reading improvement class that included Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, said one of the study’s authors, Dara Williams-Rossi, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

The study only used a small sample, so not too much should be made of it, but surely this was an interesting observation.

Technology motivated boys; girls appear to prefer actual books
“The technology appeared to motivate the boys to read, while many girls preferred the actual books,” said Williams-Rossi, who is also director of undergraduate programs in Simmons. “The data showing the girls’ preference were statistically significant and particularly intriguing. This is part of a 3-year study and this data came midway through, so we are continuing our investigation and interviewing girls to understand their reaction to the e-readers. It may be that they prefer curling up with actual books and that they enjoy sharing their reading with their friends.”

So boys may need teaching methods which keep up to date with technology, or they need their interest to be aroused via technology? Certainly, my two most memorable and effective teachers used the technology of the day to arouse our interest. From electromagnets to a vacuum discharge, it worked for me fifty years ago. 

Are we missing out on something here - an essential masculine element in teaching? Something specifically to do with techniques of engagement aimed at boys? I don't know because I'm not a teacher, but it's surely an interesting possibility.

Note this comment from Roger on yesterday's Kindle post.

FWIW I know someone who was never a great reader, perfectly intelligent and successful but they could not cope with all those black squiggles on the page. Got given a Kindle and he is now a keen reader. Not the only tale of this kind I have heard - maybe there is something to study here. 


Sam Vega said...

Very interesting points AKH, and as an educator I see a lot of this in action. I agree with the general point about e-technology motivating boys (it also motivates girls, to some extent!) but I'm not sure why. It might just be the transient phenomenon that books are considered dull, and so initial interest is aroused by something new and "untainted". Or it might be deeper.

Another issue is that it is relatively easy to produce e-learning materials that mimic the "hit" of computer games and mobile phones. But that raises the issue of whether the learning is deep and intrinsic, or whether the computer aspect is just a gimmick.

I think most people who have not spent the last 10 years with adolescents would be surprised at the depth of some addictions to IT and applications. In some cases it is really frightening.

Roger said...

I feel there are two things here - is there some physiological reason why Kindle reading suits some people better than paper reading? and is there some pedagogical reason why some people appear to do better with Kindle reading. Remembering that long long ago it was found that brighter lights or music or any change made workers appear to work harder - could just be an artifact.

I hesitate to engage with education, listening to R4 a month or so back on the teaching of reading and the 'Phonetics v Say-and-spell' war made me fear there were zealots (and worse) in that arena. Felt a wish to hit the radio with a brick.

Macheath said...

Having just acquired a Kindle, I'm struck by the 'flat' quality of the screen display which I find very easy to read in any light.

In my work with dyslexic pupils, I find the quality of light and the colour of paper can have a marked effect on reading accuracy and speed; modern fluorescent lights, in particular, can exacerbate a common problem where letters appear to move around - something to think of when pupils have to sit exams under artificial light.

In addition, some 'reluctant readers' prefer larger print, which makes them self-conscious when selecting books; they don't want to be seen to be reading 'childish' books. Kindles offer them the chance to vary the font size - and a sense of achievement that goes with finishing a page quickly.

Some of my pupils have had good results with coloured filters which reduce the contrast. After the holidays, I intend to try them with the Kindle to see whether that produces a similar improvement for them - I'll report back when I do.

A K Haart said...

Sam - is IT addiction similar to the addiction TV introduced into our lives? It's probably more powerful in that stimulus and reward are more intensive.

Roger - I hesitate too engage and for the sames reason! Even so, I agree with Macheath about the physical and psychological impact of the Kindle.

Mac - yes I've wondered about the impact of font size and short pages. I'm sure page size makes books easier and more rewarding to read simply because pages are turned more frequently.

I also find the Kindle easier to read outside on a sunny day - less page glare.

I suspect there are other factors too though and I'll be interested in your experiences.