Reading Print vs. Reading Online

Reading Print vs. Reading Online


Yesterday, Marcia Conner asked her Facebook friends to "ponder with me the real (vs. folklore) differences between how we learn from reading online and reading print." I'm not sure what she meant by "real" vs. creating our own folklore, but at the risk of doing/continuing the latter, here were some of my comments.

1) Following the old Gestalt principle "nothing has a meaning without its context," reading print is defined by what's there. In the case of books, it can be just the words; diagrams, pictures, even fancy visual layouts are put to the service of the words. Reading online, the context is defined by what's reachable: hyperlinks, the Web/Internet itself. Text-only web pages are rare and boring; visuals often start on equal footing with words; and the learning experience is far less likely to reside at just the words one is looking at + one's thoughts.

2) Just as radio requires more imagination than TV, reading print requires more imagination than reading online (or am I being folkloric now?). Reading print also requires a certain set of advanced cognitive processing skills which I hypothesize are used much less often while reading online, precisely because the learning experience is based more on visual content and interactions (like this one).

3) Is it easier to lose ourselves in our own thoughts when reading print, since that is often all we have at our disposal?

4) The way print is packaged trains us to consume the entire package passively. The way online print is packaged encourages us to construct our own "package." Recently I bought a book online only because I wanted to read one chapter. Even though it only cost $.99 used (+$4 S&H), it feels wasteful to me not to read the rest of the book. Deeply embedded training is hard to overcome entirely...

5) Does this mean that packaged print (books, magazines) help create the illusion that every learner can have the same learning experience? Is such an illusion harder to maintain with reading online, or are online educators doing (too good) a job in maintaining that illusion by how they structure online courses?

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