Does digital text create a cognitive gap?

A study finds electronic text may disrupt learning techniques.

Kindle DX Pilot Project montage.jpgEreaders are changing the face of reading across the board, and experiments in creating more economic-friendly textbooks for students are increasing. The results, however, are not all positive.

As students attempt to incorporate electronic text into their studies, issues with e-textbooks are starting to emerge — and the problems go beyond poor annotation and sharing tools.

A study at the University of Washington and six other universities in the US involving the use of the larger-format Kindle DX indicated a disconnect between digital text and the way students learn. In a post for Fast Company, Ariel Schwartz cited from the study results:

The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.

More results from the study are discussed here and here. All seem to point to an opportunity to create different kinds of ebooks and ereaders for use in academia that better accommodate cognition. If the study results hold, companies creating smartphone apps for e-textbooks may want to rethink their efforts.

Photo: From the University of Washington Kindle DX pilot website.


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