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Research Suggests Computers Affect Children’s Comprehension

By Nigel Boys

According to a new study from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, although most schools are gearing up to use digital devices in their classrooms, they don’t compare with using the old fashioned printed reading material in terms of helping the students learn.

The study, conducted by the university’s Center for Reading and Language Research showed that, while digital devices offer more attractions to try and entice the student to learn, these same gizmos are distracting students away from what they are supposed to be reading and learning.

Maryanne Wolf, director at the center said that although schools should be moving forward and adapting the new technologies to help students learn, they should also be careful to develop a “bi-literate” brain which is capable of “deep reading” skills.

The problem with digital screens, according to researchers, is that students tend to skip over the main body of the text to find items of special interest. On the other hand, with traditional printed material, students have to read through the entire document and therefore grasp more of the meaning of the lesson.

Other research shows that another problem with digital reading screens is, while they may keep the student amused and interested to learn with various interactive features and animations, these can prove to be distracting for the student in the terms of actual learning.

Some high-tech companies have realized the problems with digital screens and the current software and have started to adapt more user and teacher friendly devices that allow more input from the teachers.

Jason Singer, CEO of Curriculet, one of those companies, said that their new interface helps those who have reading difficulties go back to reread the text they are having problems with.

Curriculet’s product seems to be popular because they have already signed up over 100,000 students and teachers to try out their free digital reading platform, after only 18 months in business.

According to Katherine A. Baker, a high school English teacher for over 15 years, Curriculet’s new platform allows teachers to annotate certain key points of the text as well as insert questions so that they can keep track as to how well the students understand the lesson.
Singer, a former classroom teacher, believes that most studies into the problems of digital reading devices miss the main issue, and that’s to find ways to encourage the students to learn, while avoiding the distractions that prevent them from learning.

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