The Effectiveness of Digital Reading Devices in a College Setting

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1 The Effectiveness of Digital Reading Devices in a College Setting Christopher J. Midberry This paper was completed and submitted in partial fulfillment of the Master Teacher Program, a 2-year faculty professional development program conducted by the Center for Teaching Excellence, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, Abstract. The purpose of this paper is to assess the current literature with respect to the usability and effectiveness of using digital reading devices in a college setting. Over the last few years, the number of digital reading platforms has greatly increased. The capabilities and features have also greatly increased with the development of these devices. Platforms like the Amazon Kindle DX and the Apple ipad have greatly changed the field of handheld, multi-media devices. Many colleges and universities have begun to explore the use of these devices in the classroom as a supplement or even as a replacement to traditional books and hard-copy articles. There are certainly immediate cost and resource benefits to reducing the number printed hard copy pages at a college or university but the question is whether these devices are actually an effective alternative to traditional books and hard copy articles. This paper will attempt to answer this question of effectiveness by through an analysis of the most recent literature on this topic. Digital Reading Devices Defined. Henke (2001) classified electronic books into two categories: a hardware and software device used to read content and the content itself. One can read digital books or articles on a physical device used primarily for that purpose such as the Amazon Kindle DX or Apple Ipad or one can read digital articles on one s laptop or personal desk top computer. This paper will solely focus on the effectiveness of using physical devices such as the Kindle and Ipad and not focus on the use of using one s laptop or personal computer for the same purpose.

2 The Benefits of Using Digital Reading Devices in a College Setting There are numerous benefits to using digital reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle DX or the Apple ipad as a supplement or substitute for reading in an academic setting. The obvious benefit is to reduce the amount of printing and photocopying needed as result of the use of these devices. The aggregate amount of paper and therefore money saved in an academic course, department, or school can be staggering. When Princeton University conducted a pilot program using electronic readers in a classroom setting in 2009, pilot participants printed just over half the amount of sheets than control groups who did not use e- readers (Princeton E-reader final report, 2010). The compounding effect of this savings in paper and photocopying can have a significant effect on academic institutions during a time of limited resources and budget constraints. Another advantage or benefit to using digital reading devices is the ability to carry significantly more material in an extremely reduced package or device. Instead of carrying multiple books and resources, one can carry an ipad and have access to all the information that would have taken a car to carry. Many now prefer using a single electronic device in place of a backpack of box of books and reading materials (Reese, 2011). E-reader devices were shown to have numerous other advantages. One study found that e-reader devices resulted in enhanced flexibility in curriculum delivery to meet mobility demands; better use of time; new study strategies, and a cost savings for students. (M.Nie et al, 2011). An interesting finding was found in one study looking at the effects of Kindles on teacher reading habits and attitudes toward teaching reading. This study found an increase in the participants desire to read from online or digital devices (Manarino-Leggett, (2009). The potential implication is that as people use digital reading devices that they will in fact become more interested in reading or at least in reading online or from their devices. Summary of Benefits to using digital reading devices: -Reduction in printing/photocopying -Ease of carrying massive amounts of reading material

3 -Enhanced flexibility in curriculum delivery -Allows for better use of time -New Study strategies -Cost savings to the student -The use of e-reader devices potentially increases the desire to read The Negative Effects of Using Digital Reading Devices in a College Setting The general consensus among the current literature is that using e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle DX or the Apple ipad do in fact have limited specialized advantages in an academic setting when used solely as a substitute for traditional hard copy or book reading. However, the overall consensus is that the classroom experience was somewhat worsened by using e- readers (Princeton E-reader final report, 2010). The literature supports the notion that ereader technology is not suitable for university students to use as a textbook replacement (Tees, 2010). A large study involving 26 online textbooks and involving over 50,000 participants found that the overall convenience of ebooks was compromised by poor usability (JISC Collections, 2009). A common concern is the difficulty to read from the screen. Another concern was the concern of consumer licensing issues and copyright issues. In some cases, there were new fees involved with purchasing, downloading, and scanning books and documents into the ipads (Reese, 2011). Another major concern with digital e-readers is the inability to make in-text notes and to navigate pages easily (Behler, 2009). Difficulty highlighting is another common complaint as well as overall ability to make annotations (Damast, 2010; Princeton E-reader final report, 2010). The combination of the above issues and concerns is best described as, for the time being, the use of electronic reading devices in an academic setting is somehow limited due to content availability and licensing issues, graphic display capabilities, organizational issues, and its prohibitive cost (Chou et al., 2010) The literature generally overwhelmingly indicates that e-reader technology is not suitable for academic purposes. It also suggests that the best use for e-readers is for reading fiction or recreational reading. (Tees, 2010; Chou et al., 2010).

4 Summary of the negative effects of using digital reading devices: -Difficulty reading from the screen -New fees to purchase, download, scan, etc. - Inability to make in-text notes or navigate pages easily -Insufficient ability to highlight and make annotations - Limited Content availability Recommendations for Improving the Use of Digital Reading Devices in a College Setting Addressing the issues noted above would be the first steps necessary to increase the usefulness and effectiveness of a digital e-reader in an academic setting. One of the most noted inhibitors of a digital e-reader s effectiveness is the ability to highlight, annotate, and make text bold, italic, or underlined. (Princeton E-reader final report, 2010). Any device that wants to truly serve as substitute or even attempt to serve as a viable supplement to reading traditional books and hard copy articles must master this note-taking process and have this as a usable feature. In addition, the ability to write on the text or draw diagrams, stars, etc. both in the text and in the margin of the text would be a very welcomed improvement to the next generation of e- reader devices. Having connectivity to the internet in a Wi-Fi manner would greatly increase the applicability and functionality of the device by allowing the user the immediate access to online dictionaries, thesaurus, foreign language dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the entire limitless supply of information the internet has to offer. Summary of recommendations: -Improved ability to highlight; annotate; make text bold, italic, underlined -Ability to write or draw both in the text and in the margins - E-reader devices must have an ability to connect to the internet

5 Conclusion With the release of more updated and advanced e-reader platforms and multi-function tablets such as the Apple ipad and the many comparable tablet devices, innovative ways to use these devices in conjunction with reading and in the classroom have already begun. True innovation is not merely the digital textbook, but when you can get together with other people around the content, and when we begin to think about learning as being participatory and social (Kantor, 2010). This feature being described is the social highlighting feature available using the Kindle app on an ipad. Innovations like this allow users to see the passages in the books that others have highlighted and thought were important. Feature like this can allow discussion to exist along with the content of the material. The digital world of reading is developing at a rapid pace and the benefits and uses of this technology in an academic setting are still being uncovered. The current literature claims that e-readers and the use of digital reading devices is not quite an acceptable substitute for reading traditional academic books and hard copy articles. Even with the current limitations of these devices in an academic setting, there are certainly many positive outcomes associated with the use of these devices. The future is very promising in this field and it is the author s prediction that very soon digital devices will not only be an adequate substitute for reading in an academic setting, but they will be a significant enhancement to the traditional classroom learning. These devices are poised to be as necessary as the desk in a classroom.

6 References Behler (2009). E-readers in action. American Libraries. 40 (10): Cantor, K., (2010) Vision: Experts Forecast What the Digital Revolution will bring next. The Journal. Chou, S. et al, (2010). Toward a Computer-Based Learning: A Taxonomy of Ebook Readers nd International Conference on Computing Engineering & Technology. Damast, A. (2010). Ebook readers bomb university campuses. Business Week, June html?x=0&.v=1&.pf=college-education&mod=pf-college-education. Henke, H. (2001). Electronic books and epublishing: a practical guide for authors. London. Springer. JISC Collections JISC national e-books observatory project: Key findings and recommendations. Final report November Manarino-Leggett, P. The Effects of Kindles on Teachers Reading Habits and Attitudes Toward Teaching Reading (2009). Fayetteville State University Nie, Ming, Armellini, Alejandro, Witthaus, Gabi and Barklamb, Kelly(2011) 'How do e-book readersenhance learning opportunities for distance work-based learners?', Research in Learning Technology, 19: 1, Princeton University (2010). The E-reader pilot at Princeton, Final Report (Executive Summary); (accessed April 6, 2011). Reese, D. (2011). War College evaluates electronic readers effectiveness for students. Naval War College Public Affairs. Tees, T. (2010). Ereaders in academic libraries: a literature review. Australian Library Journal, vol 59 (4). Valstad, H.(2010). ipad as a Pedagogical Device. TDT4520, Program and Information Systems, Specialization Project. Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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