Unit 1: What's the Difference Between Paper and Screen Reading?


Performance Objective

  • Given standard digital text and a printable version, participants will identify and reflect on the differences between the reading experiences in order to recognize the new challenges of screen-reading (construct knowledge of the issue)

Driving Question

What is the difference between reading online and reading in print? The words are the same, but even when text is provided on the screen, many learners prefer to print the pages for a physical copy. Why does reading on-device change the way we read?

The Voices of Experience

Findings show that online reading may require more mental effort (cognitive load), is perceived as not conducive to serious study, and employs navigational and tactile differences that affect readers (Nichols, 2016). There are benefits to digital reading formats, but if the challenges are not recognized and addressed, then students may not reach their potential as critical readers.

The big question of course is to print or not to print? What does the research say?

Read the following article by Martin L Kutscher M.D. of Psychology Today, 2017:

The Effects of Digital Technology on Reading

View the video for an excellent summary of the differences between print and digital reading:

It is recommended that teachers consider these factors when designing courses and take the time to orient students to online reading practices. These lessons in reading strategies are important even for strong readers who may not have experience with online reading for comprehension (which is very different from quickly scanning sites for information).

Let's Take a Look

Experience the difference for yourself!

Below are two versions of the same text. One is a link to the online research site. The second is a printable PDF.

First, visit this Encyclopedia Britannica site to learn more about Harper Lee, author of the time-honored classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Read the information from the website as if you were researching this author.

Harper Lee

Next, open and print this PDF. Read it on paper as you would any other research article.

File:Harper Lee Printable.pdf

Journal Your Thinking

For this activity, you can keep a personal journal document or become part of the online KNILT learning community by posting your reflections and/or questions of your own.

Here are a few considerations when evaluating the reading experiences:

How are the two text layouts different?

What added features were available with the online version?

What was not present in the printed version?

How did your eyes move across the text on-screen? on paper?

Were you more focused with one version or the other?

Join the conversation and learn about the experiences of other readers by reviewing:

Talk: Unit 1: What's the Difference Between Paper and Screen Reading?

Unit 2: Active Reading for Comprehension


Etap 623

Carrie Kagan Portfolio

Digital Reading for Comprehension

Unit 1: What's the Difference Between Paper and Screen Reading?

Unit 2: Active Reading for Comprehension

Unit 3: Keeping the Focus on Reading


Kutscher, M. (2017). The Effects of Digital Technology on Reading. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-childs-brain-and-behavior/201701/the-effects-digital-technology-reading

Nichols, M. (2016). Reading and Studying on the Screen: An Overview of Literature towards Good Learning Design Practice. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 20(1), 33–43. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.albany.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1112348&site=ehost-live

YouTube. (2018). Retrieved 9 November 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcrVvRSnWC8